*Warning: The following may contain subject matter not suitable for the squeamish.
When I planted the ornamental tree sent by the Arbor Day Foundation, I was expecting, y’know, something ornamental: adj., “serving or intended as an ornament; decorative. Noun: a plant or tree grown for its attractive appearance.” What I have is a ridiculously fast growing nightmare which, in order to maintain “its attractive appearance,” has to be trimmed at least twice a year. Think: invasive, gigantic, and chaotic more than “ornamental.”
(That wasn’t the disgusting part. Wait some paragraphs.)
So yesterday morning, Greg optimistically hauled out the small ladder. After minutes of orienting, reorienting, swearing, and cutting branches in order to get access to cutting branches, he went to get the extension ladder. After some more said frustrating navigating, the branches began to come down, me dutifully hauling them away.
There had been (what I thought to be) an empty nest in the tree. Having been made fun of for my (apparently) abnormal interest in our resident wildlife and their goings on, I’d have known if there was a family occupying it. Because I spend a lot of time on our back porch and am reasonably aware of the creatures in proximity to it, I ignored the voice that told me to check for inhabitants. The tree is right behind my favorite chair and I read and write there quietly and often enough that the animals come and go regardless of me being there. What I mean is, I would have noticed bird parent activity. Or so I assumed.
To my abject horror, to my complete sorrow, to my utter despair (I mean it. I think I cried for 15 minutes.) I looked down to find a tiny baby bird, lifeless, on the porch. When the branches had come down, so had the nest, and for all indications, its contents. Upon closer inspection, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, I also found a partially hatched egg and another baby bird on the ground, both lifeless.
As ridiculous as it may sound, I sobbed out there in the rain and repeated a pathetic, grief-laden “I’m so sorry” mantra to the chirping (now they tell me), and what I assume to be, parent birds. Me, the hoper of all things wildlife coming to my yard was now a baby killer. There was no way to make this right. My apologies, though hollow and ridiculous, no less desperate and hopeful too that somehow my repentance meant something.
(Squeamish, avert your eyes.)
So a few hours later the family and I headed to dinner at the in-laws when our car surprised a carrion eating turkey buzzard along the side of the road (I don’t mean “carrion eating” in the general way, I do mean, that at that moment, it was eating a dead animal). Flying right in front of our car, and when eye level with the windshield and not more than 5 or 6 feet away, the bird opened its mouth. A massive stream of eliminated stomach contents flew through the air and with sickening thuds and splats landed on the windshield, top, and side of our car. When I turned my head to look for the bird, there it was. A shockingly baby bird looking mass stuck to my window, slowly rolling down as though to torture me with exposure to its every nuance. And then, as if to complete the full senses assault, there came a blast of reeking noxious stench through the air vents. I rode the remaining 20 minutes of the trip with my hand over my mouth, my stomach in my throat. It was one of the grossest experiences of my entire life (and as the mother of five children, I’ve had a few).
Depending on your persuasion, you might call it karma, or “what goes around comes around”. For me, it looks more like penance. And with that, it feels like – if not exactly – forgiveness. A refreshing – albeit unnerving – payback for a wrong deeply repented of.
Naive? Maybe. Wise to ask forgiveness? I think so. If that’s naive, I’ll take it. Clean slate, second chance, do-over, growing in grace, work in progress. No matter how messy. And redemption? The sweet sound of sorry.