When I was a little girl I’d fall in love with certain trees and birds. There was one Blue jay when I was five or six who’d return to the yard over and over again, and he became very special to me. I used to stand stock still in the shade of a large oak or sycamore and imagine that I was calling him to me. It was my silence, my propensity for stillness, that made the bird feel safe. I needed to believe this. That I could be anyone’s home.
There is a peace in me, I was saying even then. There is something in me that transcends this place. This is my nature, my soundings.
My father noticed me in the yard. He noticed my patience and my need for solitude and he watched me through the kitchen’s garden window or at brief pauses from his own projects that protected him from the worst of his madness. Then he’d go back to his work.
Look at your sister, he’d sometimes say. Do you see how still she can be. Leave her alone there. Do not chase her bird away because you cannot find one for yourselves.
At such times, after such words, I’d quake inside with tender little hurts. Hurts he’d made that I could feel all at once with great confusion, and sometimes pain that moved me and made me curious about him where before we’d been separated by an impossible distance.
Look at the light changing, the shadows. Do not turn to him. Do not ask for more.
Sometimes that bird would land right in front of me and peck at the earth and turn and go his own kind of still. He’d fly to the branches above me that blocked the sky and disappear so that I could only hear him and not see him. It seems, now, that I spent years in that spot, on that earth, watching him, wanting to be close.
It must have been only a manner of weeks.
Often he wasn’t there. I could sit at the base of the tree there and wait for him and go completely empty in my mind. These were rare, special times when I was a child at my own work.
My brother and sister did chase him off, and made quite a show of it, and my father rebuked them for doing it. But I knew that you couldn’t chase a bird away so easily; I knew he’d gone for other reasons that would always be mysterious to me.