Cardinal at the Pond

Cardinal ready to drink water at the pond

Today is the new moon. This morning I sat near the pond, reading my journal from the date of the last new moon, as is my practice. Then along came this cardinal landing on a rock on the other side of the pond, about 12 feet away from me. After I took this photo, it flew away, but then he came back a little while later, and took a sip of water. We know that having the pond is beneficial to all sorts of wildlife in the yard, but this is the first time I actually observed a bird taking a drink, especially with me sitting right there. I am grateful for this cardinal’s visit, and his acceptance of my presence in his ecosystem.

Some thoughts to remember from the journal: It is good to be claimed by this ecosystem. It is good to listen to the earth, to the plants and all beings, and to the spirits, and to follow their lead about what to do to tend this garden, and when.


A wing and a prayer

A poem & photo reflection from eight years ago that I found again today.  (Photos by Margy Dowzer.)Bird WingI think of the wing of a bird

the wing I found by the side of the road 

          of a bird now dead

the wing so intricate and beautiful

           now in decay

I imagine this–the millions of birds–


           coming into being, fading away

the artist painting a billion paintings

the stories wondrous, tragic

the story of that bird—alive, 

           growing feathers, flying, eating

            alive and then dead,

            and then the materials un-forming

so brief a story, so brief a life


I imagine The Life

creating itself into a billion forms

and then re-creating another billion forms 

          with almost infinite variation

a kaleidoscope of beauty and diversity

and different ways of being conscious of the work

and different ways of participating in creating

              making choices

Can you feel the inner creative energy in each one?


So now I am creating and seeing as Myke

          (and how beautiful I am

            eyes looking out at this world

            heart capable of love

             making changes, healing, choosing)

and I will dissolve and disintegrate too

and I will reform into a new being


The larger I Am –it sounds so static, in a way–

yet it is not static

it is creating, evolving, engaging, weaving, curious

dare I say hopeful?

(Is there a goal to which it strives?)

(Or is it playing to see what happens next?) 

(Am I?)

The stories, billions of stories

Can the stories appreciate the magic

            be full of wonder and gratitude

            enjoy the show?


I am that

I am the bird who grew feathers and died

          and was seen by the Myke

          and was photographed by the Margy

I want to wake up


Holy One,

open my body and emotions and intellect

to be united in awareness with my Larger Self

with the Creator

with the Limitless One

Help me to remember who I Am

          as the I

          as the Myke

Each being is beautiful

We are all one Being

Each story is beautiful

We are all one Story

Bird Wing closeup

Young Cardinal-4 Photos

At first I wondered what a cardinal was doing, hover-flying near a flowering bush, almost like a hummingbird.  The next time I took a walk, I saw him sitting on the grass.  He let me take a photo, and then flew up in short stretches to a wire, another wire, a tree branch, another tree branch, and finally, all the way across the street.  That is when I figured out that he was learning to use his wings. The next day, in a misty rain, there he was again, perched on a white picket fence, before he flew up to a wire.  You go, cardinal! I hope you make it all the way.Young Cardinal 1 – Version 2

Young Cardinal 2Young Cardinal 3Young Cardinal 4

Lessons from a Small Bird


Photo by Margy Dowzer

The cardinal has been the species that has most taught me connection to the earth. It began unexpectedly in the winter of 1985, when I was going through a difficult transition. My marriage had ended at the close of 1984, and I was deep in grief about that loss. One winter afternoon, sunk in sadness, I heard a curious sound outside my window. When I looked out to investigate, I saw the bright red plumage of a male cardinal. Its song was distinctive and joyful, and its color shown brilliant against the gray Chicago snow. My heart was lifted by its melody.

Ever since that moment, the cardinal has signaled for me beauty and hope in the midst of suffering. So you can imagine my chagrin when, early in the summer of 2011, my partner Margy found a dead cardinal beneath one of the windows of our house. We always feel sad when a bird flies into a window—but this was a young female cardinal, and Margy knew I’d be very downhearted about it. I wondered what sort of message it was bringing, or even what bad omen it might portend. I know that sounds superstitious, but after we have associated one of our fellow creatures with a sense of blessing, it is unnerving when something like this happens.

A friend reminded me that death is a part of life. She said, pay attention for the blessing here. So I blessed the cardinal’s small body with incense, and buried it in the composting leaves at the back of our yard. I thanked the cardinal for the joy her species had brought into my life, and wished her well in the great cycle of life. I decided to put hanging streamers around our windows, to help deter future bird accidents.

During this time, I had begun reading Leslie Marmon Silko’s book, The Turquoise Ledge. It was a memoir of her days walking the arroyos near her home in Arizona. I found it a strangely quiet book. She writes about going for walks, and the creatures around her house. She talks about making peace with the creatures who live in the same place she lives—in her case, that included rattlesnakes and grasshoppers. Sometimes creatures died near her house, too, and she felt sad about it, like I felt about the cardinal. In our yard, we have chipmunks and birds and squirrels and toads. Sometimes deer or turkeys wander through, and neighbor cats. One has to slow down and be quiet to notice the creatures of the earth.

It seemed to me that the dead cardinal might be saying: Stop! Stop pushing, stop trying, stop doing, let go. Be still. Be outside. Listen. Everything is a blessing. Everyday you can go out among the trees right here. Stopping is a way to pray.