Saturday, March 8, 2014

4. PERCH

(today's word is PERCH)

Each morning, after I have brushed my teeth and cleansed my skin, I stand at the large window in our bathroom and look out over the woods in the hollow behind our house. Our place sits on a rise, and the view stretches from that private woody spot over the rooftops of houses in our neighborhood, westward past the landscape of earth, and skims the glassy surface of the Great Salt Lake.  On good clear days the Oquirrh Mountains rise up beyond the water and appear to go on and on until the earth curves on the horizon. In an attempt at mindfulness, I pause from the natural tendency to move forward with daily demands.  I make myself breathe deeply, a full bellied inhale, where my chest rises almost painfully toward my chin, followed by a long, slow and purposeful exhale.  The exhale matters as much as the inhale, my body allowing used air to exit completely, making room for fresh air.  I have trained myself to practice this routine daily.  As I breathe I tell myself to let go of yesterday, and to delay the anticipations of today.  I allow my mind to view the trees, the watercolor sky, the water and the distant mountains, imagining myself floating out over all, imagining myself a bird perched on some distant branch of a far off tree, way out there where few human feet have trod. Five breaths.  It only takes five breaths, a small and do-able habit that I have been able to repeat daily.  It’s been rather life changing, this one little habit of mine. Morning mindfulness.

In the early hours of February 26 I stood at my window and inhaled, but the exhale fell in fits against the windowpane.  I pushed the old spent air out, and it splurted in sobs against the cold morning.  The woody bark of the scrub oak trees, finally freed from winter snow, spread lattice-like and barren, unaware of the sorrow on the other side of the glass. Usually, on winter mornings, I will watch as starlings flit in tiny flocks from tree to tree, dancing against the cerulean sky.  But there were no flocks this morning.  Fitting, I thought. I caught myself and requested that I let go of yesterday, but my throbbing heart kept pounding against my lungs.  We would bury our sister, Cindy Gardner, this day.  I told myself that this moment was sacred, that I should cherish it, this time when the air she had breathed was still available to us, where we could inhale and still smell her perfume, and hear the echoes of her voice.  Her presence vibrated in the unseasonal sunlight on that winter morning.  I searched for her, half expecting to see her, somewhere between the woods and the lake. Mourning mindfulness.

At my last breath I watched as one solitary bird flew from the west, straight toward me.  It landed purposefully on the branch of the scrub oak tree closest to my window.  She hopped on the perch and turned to face me, a large red-breasted robin.  Her head bowed, then rose, her steely eyes looking straight into mine, her plump rusty breast puffed out before her.  I stopped my breath, stunned at her presence, surprised that this spring creature would reveal herself so early in the year. “Oh Hello” I whispered, my tears rolling down my cheek and along my neck. The words strangely comforted me, trailing off in a long and calm release. I determined to stand there until she left.  I looked at her the way I look at Dave when I want to send him a message in silence.  I did not hear a voice, nor see anything but an early spring robin, but somehow I felt Cindy’s presence, whether real or remembered. I felt her silently looking at me, calm and whole and at peace with her place.  I saw her free of her cancer ridden body, sensed her satisfaction as she perched there , bobbing in the breeze on the branch of an ancient scrub oak. I heard but did not hear her singing,…all is well…. all is well. 

Inhale.  Exhale.  Time rolled into a ball and hovered like a star, still and twinkling.  I knew, in a flash of a moment, her peace.  And then, just as quickly as she came, she turned her head and flew toward the sun, circling back around as if to say, “I’m ok.  Now get to work!”

I released my last breath, then drew another as I turned. There was work to do.  I had arms that needed to lift and embrace, and songs to sing, and kisses to plant.  I had shoes to tie, and hair to brush, and meals to make and share and she would not have me wallow in my own sadness for too long.  

Cindy continues to come and go, dancing in and out of my consciousness like those flocks of starlings.  But really, she is more an unseasonable presence, a robin in the winter, who comes to perch outside my window when I am still enough to see her. She is peace and calm and comfort, and she is laughter and encouragement.  She understands our tears. But she will not have us weep too long.  That just won’t do.  She will weep with us, and gently nod from her perch, and then she will turn her head to the Son and lift her wings, calling back to us, “Now get to work.”


3 comments:

  1. I was headed back to bed, trying to get ahead on this Daylight Savings thing and I was called back by a small voice to check to see if Cori's writing for today was done, sensing it the perfect way to end my day. Oh, little did I know the real reason...I needed to connect with Cindy, with you, with those I love so very much. You have captured it beautifully and I will, though sometimes a little hesitantly, "get to work". I too am hesitant because I do not want those familiar smells and sounds to leave me. Thank you Sister for capturing those moments so that they can stay with us forever. Oh how this world misses her. Oh how I miss her!!

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    1. Thank you so much. you express my thoughts so beautifully. Love all you wonderful sisters!!! Janet Ferrin

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  2. Thanks for sharing, Cori. I too have thoughts of Cindy coming and going through my consciousness, sometimes ending in a smile, sometimes ending in tears. All in all, however, so grateful for the impact she had on my life, such an inspiration and a shining example of what it means to be truly Christlike and a woman without guile. I will think of her now when I see the birds in my yard.

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