My journey began with a bird.
Actually, no… it began with me passing two raccoons eating cat food on a sidewalk in Harlem, and then a bird.
On the day I left New York City (for the foreseeable future), I ran with my luggage from the rainy Midtown streets to seek shelter under a parking garage overhang. As I waited for my bus to Newark Liberty International Airport, I looked down to my feet and saw a bird. It was a small, gray bird and it stood alone and unmoved along the parking garage entrance.
People hurried past the bird, many not even noticing its simple existence. It appeared uninjured. Yet, with exception to occasionally turning its head, the frail creature remained still, making no attempt to fly away.
I watched the bird for some time (I had time to spare, after all, as the bus was over an hour late). I wondered: Was it scared? Could it fly? What could I do to make sure a car didn’t come charging through and kill this bird’s seemingly confused world?
My bus finally came and I rushed to my seat in a panic. It was now Friday rush hour in NYC, and the previous day’s Hoboken train crash had left the city transit (trains and vehicles alike) in disarray. I had exactly 2.5 hours and 17 miles to catch my flight. But, within the first 20 minutes of bus travel we had gone exactly four city blocks.
One hour prior to my departure time, I called the airline. We had made it only to the Lincoln Tunnel (less than two miles from our starting point) and the thought of being airborne anytime that evening became hopeless. I asked the customer service agent my options – no more outgoing flights for two more days. I pressed on.
The bus pulled into the airport at 7:00PM. I pushed my way so quickly to the front that I don’t remember actually exiting. Somehow I made it to the check in-in line. I ran up to the ticketing agent and pleaded for her to let me through for the 7:20 flight. Even if I made it, she said, she wasn’t sure my bag would.
I didn’t care. I took off to security and beyond so fast that I nearly plowed over several children en route. I made it in the end. Panting. Out of breath. Boots unzipped and a messy bun falling off my head. It had taken me four hours to travel from Upper Manhattan to Newark. A smooth trip would have been an hour and a half.
I boarded the plane with minutes to spare, sunk quickly into my seat and read a text message from my friend, Rachel: “this is just another example of how this journey will go.”
Before I boarded the bus, two parking garage attendants came out to look at the bird. I watched as one opened a brown paper bag, preparing to put the bird inside. “What are you going to do with it?” I asked. I couldn’t begin my new journey with the death of a bird. The man replied, “No ma’am, we will not hurt him,” He said.
“We will heal him and help him remember how to fly.”
The man explained that many birds come through NYC’s Midtown skyscrapers and lose their way. They almost go into shock, he said, and forget their bearings. “And then when it rains…” He threw his hands up in a “forget about it” gesture, alluding to how the rain enhances a bird’s internal confusion.
The man explained that placing the bird in a warm, dark, secure space for a couple hours would force the creature to rejuvenate itself. I looked it up, and sure enough, it’s a thing. According to Wild Bird Watching, when a stunned bird is removed from all stimuli there’s a greater chance it will heal from a potentially fatal concussion.
It looked strange – inhumane even. But, also beautiful. Plus, the man seemed quite proud of how many birds he’d saved this way.
My journey started with two crazy raccoons. They symbolize the random events in my life. And, also a bird. As I sat on the plane out west – the plane I was sure would fly away without me – I thought of the bird, confused, trapped, temporarily paralyzed from its internal and external chaos.
And then, by slowing down and becoming present in that unfamiliar bag, it taught itself again what it already knew. The peace and stillness helped it reboot. I like to believe we both flew together that night after losing hope that we’d make it to the sky.
I can’t wait to see what I rediscover about myself as I fly through the beginning of my journey with the spirit of my new friend by my side.
Live by ladybugs.