So, it seemed an inconvenient time for something to die.
My Saturday morning was supposed to be filled with life. Free to the expansiveness of availability and time. A slow walk along the river, cooked breakfast with my smalls and a spreadsheet newspaper to be consumed with home-brewed chai. My Saturday morning had been hard earned. Backing off from a full-on week with it’s scheduled appointments and structured order. I needed a break. I needed this morning. I needed some space for me.
As I set off to walk the river with my beautiful old kelpies, we saw a sprawl of black and white feathers along the road. It’s strange to see roadkill in the streets of our town, so much so it made my old kelpies stop still and stare. I sighed at life’s loss as I watched a magpie mourn from above. And then I saw in the body of the broken bird on the road, a blinking eye.
Seeing that the half mangled bird in the middle of the coastal street was still alive, I went to try to shift it’s broken body of the road. It flapped it’s still very much alive wings and dragged it’s frightened wild self away from hands, wedging itself up awkwardly against the curb. Caught up in the wildness of it’s eyes, we began being swooped from above. A warning to move away from what the mourning magpie was protecting. I looked up and saw there were 2 more.
I quickly lifted the bird out of the gutter and onto the grass, leaving it to be loved by it’s own. Meaning that I could walk away. Until I heard the unmistakeable flap of more swooping birds. Who weren’t targeting us at all.
They were targeting the bird that was broken.
I ran and waved my arms up at the swooping team of birds. Now seeing 6 black and white magpies wings across the wires painting the sky. The thing about running after a bird is that with cumbersome legs, you have no hope. They just fly upwards where they sit way out of your reach. And this crew, well they just glared at me while defending their hard-earned territory. From the bird they had attacked and broken. From my old wondering kelpies. And from my confused and bewildered self.
So I picked up the broken bird feeling it circle it’s claws around my fingers as if to hold on. And then I carried it home with my 2 hands held against my chest. I wasn’t sure what I was doing or why I was doing it. Somehow I saw myself in the broken bird and I knew I couldn’t leave it there to be savaged by it’s own. I knew now I wasn’t holding roadkill.
I was holding savaged life.
When I got home, my world was still asleep. I sat outside on a chair for a bit wondering what to do and where I could handball what had been broken. Too early for Jirralingha and the vet would be closed. I began busying in my head about how I might maybe save the waning life. But the more clouds that passed overhead and the longer I held that broken body against my chest, the more I realised this life was not to be saved. That I was in fact holding this broken magpie while it quietly died.
I held the slowing heartbeat for a bit. Wondering if magpies could think and if it was in much pain. Then a bit turned into 15 minutes. Then 15 minutes into half an hour. Then I started to wonder how long it takes a magpie to die. Or even if this bird was ever going to die at all. I saw my precious timeless morning starting to be measured in scheduled structure again. I wanted to stop holding the bird. I wanted to go and do something else. But every time I tried to put it down in a quiet place to die on it’s own, it’s heart rate quickened and it’s eyes flung open wide. So I stayed outside, even though I had a million other things I wanted to do for myself that morning, and sat there with a dying bird across my heart.
And even though I wondered at times how I could quickly euthanise the bird, I held it – albeit sometimes begrudgingly – for the next 2 whole hours. Even though it was inconvenient, so I could somehow comfort it as it died.
I fell into partnership with this bird as I stroked it’s magnificent wings and felt the length of it’s long pointed beak. The rise and fall of my breath like a gentle reminder for it’s heart to keep beat and keep rhythm. Until suddenly, my broken bird became very much alive and very much awake. It wriggled up to put it’s beak under my hair and spread it’s wings like a feathered cuddle across my chest. It’s heart beat rapidly while it began to open and close it’s mouth. It looked like how a baby magpie would ask for food from it’s mother. Then it opened it’s eyes really wide and stretched it’s neck back to look boldly towards the sky. I felt the rapid heartbeat slowly fade as life flew free from my broken magpie.
Leaving me with a lifeless body in my hands and a broken space inside.
Think restorative forward folds, yin hip openers and inversions.
Honouring the passing of life is just as much a part of us as living our lives fully. It asks for your courage, it asks for your patience and it asks for your fullest and deepest heart. Because sometimes the life that you find yourself helping to live fully is not the birth of something new but the release of something broken. Death doesn’t just happen to old bodies. Just like it doesn’t happen only to those we love. It can happen to our ideas and it can happen to our dreams. Sometimes it’s not to be understood why things have to pass, and why we have to become a part of it. Meaning that even through the process of dying it can be uncomfortable, we learn what it is to completely let go. Reminding us to respect the complexity and fragility of life’s tapestries and life’s cycles. And to celebrate the inherit connection we have as a whole.
Nature can be the harshest battlefield. Where the strong will survive and the weak will be crushed. Where bullying is commonplace and the ultimate consequence can swiftly become the ultimate price. While I held my broken bird across my heart, I had time to consider the emotions that I had felt in times when I felt attacked by those I know. I considered what I wanted to move strongly towards and the consequences of what I would have to leave behind. In birthing something new, there needed to be release of something old. I contemplated the luck that we have across our journeys. How often exceptional circumstances can create great teachings, but how seemingly small acts of nature’s can leave you feeling so completely empty inside.
I chanted a prayer as I buried my broken magpie. The first creature I have ever held fully as organic life-force came to a close. My middle red found me out there in the backyard. She sat down next to me where I was having a little cry. We talked about nature. We talked about bullies. We talked about feeling broken and finding love.
As we sat there under the morning drizzle together, she reached out to hold my hand. And I stopped feeling like I was being attacked like my broken magpie.
And I started to feel like I was safely home inside.