Thursday, January 15, 2009
Monday and Me
This is an old snapshot of me and a house sparrow named Monday. I was 13 or so. Monday was blown out of her nest in our Chinese Elm tree when she was a baby, and she never really understood that she was a bird, and not a person. Neither did we. She was a loved member of the family, until the day she died.
We buried a sparrow the other day (my grandson Jacob and I) who somehow laid himself down to die on my doorstep--none the worse, for being dead. Jacob noticed the eyes, still dark and shiny, were open. Did he crash into the window? Was he attacked by bigger birds in an argument over seeds I threw out the night before? Or was he sick, or old? Jake helped me dig a hole where flowers will grow in spring. We covered him with a napkin, Jake said it would "be easy for him to fly out someday, when he comes alive again." I agreed. I said a few words about how Heavenly Father notices the fall of sparrows. I shed a few tears, (sentimental me!), and I thought about a book I am reading called Returning to Earth, by Jim Harrison, which the back cover says is a "moving meditation on life and afterlife," with a "fierce gentle beauty." And I thought about this bird, and all of us. Harrison writes of a mine disaster where, over a period of 20 years, nearly 2,000 men had died: In the dream I finally understood that death and numbers don't cohere. Everyone is "one." An accident report might say that nine men died, four of them in their teens, but each death was "one." Each of six million Jews was "one." With death it is a series of "ones."
Last week we went to see Dr. Gunther von Hagens' BODYWORLDS at The Leonardo Museum downtown featuring "a unique collection of over 200 authentic human specimens, real people, "plastinated." Men, women, babies, a camel, a camel baby.... I am not going to discuss the ethics of the exhibition. It was awesome. It was even inspiring, as they promised it would be. People doing things in death I'm sure they never dreamed they would do, in life--skiing, ballet dancing, ice-skating, balancing beautifully and perfectly in aesthetic displays that invited all of us to contemplate and reflect on the unimaginable complexity and elegance of the human body. Each of the collection of "over 200" in the series was "one." As was the sparrow Jacob and I buried. As we all are.