A Charm of Neighbors
Let’s start with Banjo. Well, actually, his ‘dad’ told me he used to be Banjo but since he lost a leg in a bear trap, he is now known as Tripod. I prefer Banjo for it suits his sleek black hair and wild eyes – he has a bit of gypsy in him, no doubt.
For some unidentified reason, my mailbox is situated a block and a half away and whenever I walk up there to see what charms might be in wait for me, Banjo heaves himself off his front porch and races towards me. It always lifts my heart to see him bounding a mile a minute in my direction, his three legs working double duty.
But my friend is shy. Perhaps he was abused as a pup. When I lean into him and gently stretch my hand towards him, he instinctively recoils. A sharp, jarring movement as if he’s been on the receiving end of violence and hasn’t forgotten it. Watching and feeling that terror always makes me wince too.
Slowly, he has warmed up enough to stand next to my leg and occasionally will rub against my knee. It has taken months to win his confidence.
So it was a true treat the other day, when I was sitting in the garden imbibing the winter sun, and he came romping through the snow, a large, sinewy dog alongside him. His skinny consort had no fear and raced right up to me, laying his head in my lap.
Hiii, I sang to him in delight. Welcome, sweetheart. I’m honored to meet you.
But oh, Banjo was having none of it. I was HIS pal and without a shred of hesitation, he nudged his companion out of the way, and placed his soft head under my hand. I leaned in oh-so slowly and stroked his dark locks. His head was lowered as he drank in the love I’d been longing to share with him, as if he was scared to look up, as if he could not fully trust this might be a kind hand reining down on him.
For almost fifteen minutes, he stood next to me on his three good legs, head bowed, as my fingers ran the length of him. We drank each other in for the first time, all the brutality of the past washing away. His trembling flesh eventually settled and a peace sweeter than trickled honey ushered through us.
Meanwhile, Banjo’s cohort was off sniffing weeds, unperturbed, doing dog things while my new love was letting me tend to the deep bruise in his beautiful soul.
I don’t know if he’ll come close again but those minutes of injured bodies melding in a marriage of trust and even love healed us both. Something deep inside each of us had softened the blows of our past and lured us more fully into the perfect present.
Although it is still February and snow has been draping the land intermittently, a chill still in the air, it doesn’t seem to have deterred the twin hummingbirds. Sitting at the outdoor table one morning this week, they flew in, landing on the pot of sweet pea seeds I planted last fall. They sunned themselves there, their chests a brilliant sheen of shades, rich purple, shimmering emerald. The crown jewels of the avian kingdom in all their royal splendor come for an early visit. I watched in awe as they milked the sun, hopping from one side of the flower pot to the other, then settling a while, before spiraling skywards in an acrobatic duet of love and delight. Oracles of spring dancing on my doorstep.’
It must have been the following morning that I was in the garage talking on the phone to a friend when out of nowhere appeared two birds. They were flapping madly against the window, trying to get back to the freedom of air again. But my car was filling most of the space and they didn’t turn round to find the wide opening of the garage door. The light through the window appeared to be their only escape. But they kept thudding against the glass, helpless.
As I hung up the phone, one of the pair somehow did a U Turn and found his way out. The other was a mad flight of feathers billowing against the glass, flying up off the tiny ledge and back down, racing from one corner of the window to the other. Something told me to approach extremely slowly. Taking tiny, gentle baby steps in the bird’s direction, I began to sing to him. A soft tune I was conjuring as I went, and it had a single lyric, that of my beloved Ramana, the Indian sage to whom birds and animals flocked regularly.
“Ramanaaaaa. Ramanaaaa.” I sang quietly, a faint whisper as I moved closer. “Ramana-ah….”
Still the bird flapped but less frantically. I didn’t try to speak, to tell him I loved him and he was safe. Instead I poured that thought into my song, composed specially for this tiny creature of the air.
I let him feel my palm against his back, tenderly, for a moment before cupping his chattering body between my hands. “Ramanaaaa,” I kept singing the magic word. And amazingly – or not – he came to rest and just sat in my hands as if they were a tree branch. Like this, we came together, Ramana our bridge, as he drank in the kindness and love of that Holy Word. We were a hymn there together in that dark garage, two bodies become one.
I thought of the legend of St. Kevin of Ireland who raised his arms out one morning to the heavens and a bird’s egg landed in his palm. He stayed in that position, afraid to move, until the egg hatched and a little bird rose like a phoenix out of its shell.
Now Ramana was singing through this little bird’s being and he relaxed. We could have been a statue ourselves with only a light song swirling round us, right next to the open door.
And when he was ready, calm and secure, the little creature flew off to his natural home, a whiff of warm, gorgeous air in his wake.