The Lesson of the Birds

comments 21

I’m still learning
the lesson of the birds.
The one about
sitting in the cover
of spruce needles
wearing the colors of fire
and not questioning my birdness.
Just letting it happen.
Not questioning
the tides of daylight and nightfall
that inhabit me,
that rinse my memory clean
of silt and jagged edges
and leave me singing
about sitting in the cover
of spruce needles
wearing the colors of fire.
I’m still learning
that lesson from the birds,
just getting started with it, really,
which is why I was surprised
to turn the corner and find myself
face to face with a mountain lion.
The way they prowl,
like water on legs, well…
One step at a time, I was thinking—
and real loud so Hafiz could hear me.
I was broadcasting this thought
like it was a heat wave.
Did he really think I was ready
for the mountain lion
when I still hadn’t even learned
the bird one?
Are we in a rush here, I was thinking—
and I was intensely gritting my teeth
and squeezing my temples together
so my thoughts would find him.

But there was no answer.

And mountain lions, they have
a certain inevitability to them.
Even when they’re still
they look like an air raid
of the first Olympians
compressed into a mask of fur and claws.

So I was running, I think.
Or hopping on one foot, maybe.
Like the world was rolling on its side
and I was on one foot not quite keeping up
with the plot.  About to spill over the side
only you can’t tell what’s the side and what’s up.
But singing like.
Talking to this moment of falling.
Leaning into it.  Like the golfers do.
Body language and practice swings.
Making the mountain lion think twice,
the way I was bouncing in place
like I was about to fall over on my side
for no reason either of us could think of,
and flapping these little wings I had—
did you know we had wings—?
and the way I was rising…
up and up,
up and up and away…!
dipping and swooping through the air,
and singing all these feelings
like they were made for me,
about what a bird sees
when the tide of night comes in
and it dives from one tree
to another, soaring in a sense,
right over a mountain lion.

And Hafiz is there,
this mountain lion,
watching me the whole time.
Watching me fly.
Watching me carry on about
I don’t understand birds
even though I wear the colors of fire
and I nestle into the spruce needles
just right.  Even though.

There he goes now.
Hafiz the mountain lion.
Sauntering off into the trees.


  1. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

    This is so great. I love how you got to fly! It’s so funny. I dreamed about a mountain lion a couple of nights ago, the night before you posted this. It was up on a telephone pole. I was in the back seat of a car as we went by, and I was the only one who saw it. It would have been eye level with a bird. Last night I dreamed of turkeys. I hardly ever remember dreams these days, but I love the synchronicity here.

    I love, “not questioning my birdness.” and”singing all these feelings like they were made for me,about what a bird sees when the tide of night comes in and it dives from one tree
    to another, soaring in a sense, right over a mountain lion.” and how you describe the mountain lion with” a certain inevitability to them.Even when they’re still they look like an air raid of the first Olympians compressed into a mask of fur and claws.”

    I just love how you describe everything, like hopping on one foot, not keeping up with the plot. Brilliant. The whole thing. I could just keep quoting it all. I always find myself wanting to quote it all here, Michael.

    Much love,

    Liked by 8 people

    • Thank you, Mary. I liked the image of your dream. I picture the mountain lion a little uneasy atop that pole. All four feet trying to rest on the same point, feeling quite caged. Not that this was part of your dream of course, I just like the image your description created in me. I also like to think of the mountain lion climbing the pole, tugging its claws out of the wood to take the next step, the way cats are always fighting to get their feet back from the tree trunks they climb…

      We’ve had wild turkeys passing through the yard recently, and I saw a few crossing the road the other day. There were some back in the woods doing their amazing calls to one another, and I tried to participate. We had a few rounds of call and response and then they realized I was either a stoned turkey slurring my warbles, or something else altogether. Either way, they decided to whisper amongst themselves for a little while… 🙂

      Love to you, too–

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I saw this morning on the news a mountain lion sitting on someone’s porch, for twenty minutes….just watching the world…perhaps it was Hafiz, who we know can be anywhere at any time….but to be a bird, in all the birdness and realizing you can fly, it was just something you did, coming naturally Ina fight or flight response to just let go and set fear aside and amazing things then happen. Lovely story Michael, thank you as always….she says as her husband is in the kitchen sautéing up chicken…shhh….I know….a bird going to a higher purpose. Fueling some protein….

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wow, a mountain lion on my porch could be problematic for my adrenal glands… Ha! Because when they’re that close you start to realize a screen door is a pretty flimsy barrier… You’re glad you know that and they don’t!

      Hope you guys enjoyed a nice meal. And that you were content in sharing your birdness… Just to be content in our own birdness… this is the thing… You have taught me much about this…


      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, I don’t think anything would deter something set on a goal….I know for me, I’ve walked into doors running to rescue my dog,etc….perhaps it was just chilling, taking in the view….glad it wasn’t my porch too. Possibly to the Rookery today to see the bird going ons…..always fun and to the beach, and walking, and to town to peruse the pretty things ……hanging with my flock😊🕊🐓
        Thanks Michael,
        Peace and love, K


  3. “Are we in a rush here?”
    I can relate to that topic. It sometimes seems that one lesson is hardly over and the next one is already around the corner. The universe keeps demanding and pushing that we expand. I like your metaphors. First, realize that you have wings and learn to fly, and then become like the mountain lion.
    The imagery reminds me of shamanic shapeshifting.
    Peace and joy,

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Karin! Ha! Yes the universe is pushing her hatchlings out of the next and into the creative skies… Nothing like a good mountain lion or two to keep us moving forward! I liked what you said about shapeshifting because I was trying as I wrote to have the feeling sneak up on you a little… I haven’t shapeshifted before so I can’t say much about it, but living organisms are so complex it must be an automated process, right!? There better not be any steps to it, or recipes, or we’ll be in trouble…! Likewise, I think we shift to Love the same way. We can’t control it, we just realize it’s happening to us… 🙂 The universe is pushing us out of the nest, and towards the sky…

      Much Love

      Liked by 2 people

  4. This is the season of the birds. I swear they are more likely to hang and communicate with us. There were a couple on my walk that seemed new to the beat and they were just hangin’ with me. Ask Hafiz, he’ll give you the 411.
    Now mountain lions, that’s another story entirely.

    I like what Karin says about the speed of lessons. Sometimes I wish I could pause life like on my DVR. That might make a tasty poem 🙂

    Happy flight,

    Liked by 2 people

    • The birds are certainly lovely to spend time with. So free and pure it seems, so communicative with their singing and their color and their vibrancy. Mountain lions are the same I think, just more threatening to you and I! But to mountains, they must seem quite lovely… 🙂

      A pause button would be nice, but there’s something good about being a little out of control as we move through the experiences of this world…


      Liked by 2 people

    • I love the birds. We had a late snowfall today, and the junco’s were coming on the back porch for seeds. The morning doves saw me walk by the window and froze in place. Didn’t move for quite a while. They are amazing… what they know… without knowing they know…

      That may well be the true lesson of birdness!


      Liked by 2 people

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