"All the world is made of faith and trust and pixie dust." – JM Barrie
Sometimes, love is hard and scary. I'm not talking about romantic love, I'm talking about love in every sense of the word, every place in which we are called to be authentic with others and even with ourselves. We open ourselves up, we lay our emotions and our souls bare and hope and pray that our openness and vulnerability will be met with respect and tenderness. The world is not always so kind. Every extended hand demands that we take a leap of faith.
Recently, I recalled something that struck me so hard when it happened, that nearly 20 years later, I am filled with tenderness when I think about it. One ordinary day, I was driving to the grocery store. It was spring. The earth was awakening from its winter slumber. I was noticing signs of new life all around me. Migratory birds were returning to the area, drawn by the numerous woods, ponds, lakes, habitats that our region provided to them. While driving down Emerald Lane, headed to the grocery store on that seemingly ordinary day, a small bird flew into the windshield of my car. The thump was so forceful, it startled me. I didn't see the bird coming, and I wasn't even sure exactly what I had hit. I stopped the car and approached slowly. There in the parkway, lay the trembling bird who had flown into my car. It was a little warbler, and it was hanging in the balance between life and death. I bent down and gently picked it up. It was too injured to try to move. It surrendered to the contact between us. The warbler lay in the palm of my left hand, trembling and gasping for breath. I could see its chest rising with each labored breath. I sat down in the grass and held this dying creature with all the tenderness I could summon. My heart was open and filled with the grace of the moment. I whispered a prayer of sorrow that his life was coming to an end and wished him a safe passage to the other side. A few seconds later, his tiny body stopped trembling. I cried. The great and final Stillness had descended upon him. He was quiet. No more labored breathing, no more uncontrollable shaking, no more fear. I sat motionless, aware of the breath going into my lungs, while his had stopped; aware of the beating of my heart, my on-going consciousness; aware that his spirit had flown away on the humid, spring breeze. I basked in the mystery of this fragile thing we call life, how there are so many tiny yet profound connections that happen along the journey, and how it can be extinguished so quickly.
Mary Oliver says, "I'll take grace... You can have all the other words– chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I'll take grace. I don't know what it is exactly, but I'll take it." Connecting with this warbler, holding him as his heart stopped beating, trusting in the moment, being open to its ripeness and potency... That is what grace feels like to me.
In making photos for my series "Where Love Resides," I am exploring everything that is connected to the notion of love. I cannot separate love from trust or faith or mystery or grace. Grace is like a love letter from the universe, one that is sprinkled with pixie dust and drifts down from the heart of the endless sky. Sometimes it comes like a feather floating on the breeze; other times it's a bird smacking into your windshield on a grey spring day.
Until next time...