Not long ago I was asked, “How do you come up with something to write about every week?”
I replied, “As my life unfolds, I write about it.”
From the time I wrote my very first column, I began observing more closely what happened in my life as well as to those around me. The day to day interest led to the discovery that life is never dull and there are ample helpings of food for thought. Hence, some columns just seemed to write themselves. There were, of course, times when the right words didn’t come easily, but there has always been something about which I could write.
But in these recent days that have stunned and numbed the people of the world, I wondered if any words would come to me at all.
As I sat down to write this week’s column. I shook my head in saddened disbelief and vengeful anger. Even the freedom to share my thoughts has been altered. I could not take my pen in hand and write about a trivial subject or even a serious one. Nothing could compare to what took place on Sept. 11, 2001.
Every thought, every word and every deed since has been weighed. We have been affected individually and collectively, and together as a nation have mourned the acts that will be imbedded in our minds forever. Since that morning, nothing has been “as usual.” I wanted to cry out, “Will it ever be?” Laughter has seemed either hollow or insensitive, and the joy of anticipation lost to despair. Even hearing the sound of the first airplane to cross above me after days of a silenced sky sent shivers down my spine. Tears stung my eyes because I knew that no matter what unfolds in the days to come, it will never be quite like it could have been.
With the blank page before me I sat motionless. Then, I heard a loud thump against the kitchen window. When I stepped outside to investigate, lying in the grass beneath the window was a bird, fluttering and screeching. I could hardly bear the sight of its suffering. It was agonizing to realize that I could do nothing to save it. The next moment other birds came to the scene. Their screeching was pitiful and my heart sank further at what I was witnessing. There was nothing they could do, and the high pitched sounds they made as they swooped from branch to branch, from housetop to housetop indicated that they were frantic even to the point of disregarding my presence, something they instinctively avoided.
Within minutes, other birds came. Some landed on the grass at such a close distance to me that for a moment I feared that if they banded together they could attack me. Their bravery was admirable, for I knew that on any other day they would have kept a safer distance. But on this day they chose to be right where they were, supporting one of their own in the only way they could. Though they could do nothing to ease the suffering, they were there. Within minutes, others joined them and the yard was filled with twenty or more birds. In the nearby trees other kinds of birds gathered. The sounds grew even higher pitched as the fallen bird’s cry grew weaker.
Feeling like an intruder, I went inside and shut the door. For the second time that week I was overcome with a swell of helplessness. Tears streamed down my face as a flashback of the terrible events that had taken place washed over me. Listening through my tears, I wished I knew what they were trying to communicate to one another. Would this experience make them wiser? I will never know that, but they stayed, at least fifteen of them, until their fallen fellow drew his last breath.
Then, away they flew.
Perhaps on any other day what I had seen would not have affected me so deeply. In the days ahead I am convinced that others, like me, will have experiences that will affect them in ways that will differ from the way they would if life were going to be like it was before. One day has changed us.
There was, for me, a symbol of significance in what I saw that morning as the birds gathered around their wounded friend. They followed their instincts, being there where they were needed for as long as they need be. Once that time had passed, they were on their way.
A day has changed us, but we cannot allow it to claim us. Like these creatures of nature, we can soar once more.