“A melody is formed by a relationship between notes. A single note does not make a melody.” ~ Ted Andrews
The Evening Grosbeak are numerous at the feeders now. This is unusual. Even though they are year round residents to the PNW, springtime and early summer is when I ordinarily see these birds in my own yard. Autumn is generally a very busy time at Echo Lake though with small, medium and large flocks of songbirds moving through, some staying to feed mingling in with the resident species. Others resting briefly and moving on. Migrating waterfowl are a constant this time of year. Most just stopping over for the night, maybe a day or two then on the move again. The numbers vary daily. The Common Merganser arrived last week, they’ll stay and over-winter here, along with a few other species. With the abundance of songbirds, a resident Sharp-shinned Hawk can be seen much more often. The Sharpie is a hawk who hunts birds as well as rodents for her survival. When she is in motion, I’ve seen songbirds scatter in all directions in their frenzied haste to protect themselves. I was awakened yesterday by a female Evening Grosbeak crashing into my kitchen window. She hit hard! Was it the Sharpie?
In the semi-light of a frozen morning I found her face down and breathing hard. I scooped her up, folding her wings into place and cradled her to keep her warm. She was bleeding from the mouth. Beyond this, not a feather was out of place. She was gorgeous. Each bird’s marking are unique. Hers were nearly symmetrical – the palest yellow feathers highlighting bold white patches on her black wings and tail. Heather gray and pale yellow body and head. A patch of white at her throat bordered by black. And as the name suggests, a large yellow beak. The bright red blood startling against the yellow bill and where it dripped into the snow. Her right foot grasped a finger, the left lay limp.
Keeping her covered in my cupped hands and holding her close to my heart, I stepped under the eves of the house onto the bare boards of the deck, out of the snow, my own feet bare. Still bleeding but with clear eyes she slowly looked all around and up into the Big Leaf Maple where the majority of her flock was at the time, their contact calls could be easily heard. And she was looking at me. I began to sing the Heart Song to comfort her. Maybe it is just to comfort myself that I sing to injured birds. I like to think it was succor to her. Her breathing slowed. Is this a good sign or a bad sign?
Élan vital – the vital force of life. Our breathing is an involuntary action in the body and a vital one. As a yoga student I was taught the importance of the breath. As a yoga teacher I emphasize the breath with each movement of the body. Take your breath to any stuck places, visualize the release. Use your breath to heal yourself. As humans we can think this through, create a practice, take our awareness where it is needed. What is the bird thinking? She continues to look around, taking in her surroundings, nestled in my embrace. She knows she is safe, that is obvious to me. We stay this way for many minutes. I’m cold yet continue to hold her and sing.
The Evening Grosbeak has been a bird whose medicine I have worked with for many years. Family of origin work. What are the patterns needing to be broken? What needs the healing salve of love? How am I tied to my family beyond blood? How do I maintain the ties? What must I do to nurture them? I continue with this personal work as it is paramount in my life. At this time though, I feel the Evening Grosbeak are here to bring my attention to the larger family – the Global Family. I live safely in a circle of trees on a beautiful little lake in a ramshackle little house. I am not wealthy monetarily and still my life is rich and abundant. So many go without. So many are at risk. The Grosbeak medicine is about healing the family heart. Their melodious voices are significant. Am I using my voice in a way that serves? Do my earnest intentions heal anyone? Certainly I am healing. As within so without. There is little I can do personally to heal the numerous and monumental crises in the world today – yet I cannot do nothing.
So I hold the little bird in the freezing morning. Her bleeding stops. Both feet holding onto fingers now, still her soft belly resting warm against my palm. My song is a prayer for her healing, for the life force to return to her so she will fly from my hands and live. Which she eventually does. In the Aspen tree of my neighbor’s yard she rests a while longer before moving along to join her flock. I thank her for the life force within her that was able to survive, hoping the best for her and others of her flock.
At its origins, élan vital is the creative force within an organism that is responsible for growth, change, and necessary or desirable adaptations. My prayer today is that this be within the human family – that desirable adaptation and change occur for the greater good of mankind, All Nations and Ina Maka, our Mother Earth. My prayer is for each note of the melody to be heard.
All My Relations ~ Mitakuye Oyasin