Carried to Freedom
In two hours I had to speak to 300 people at a spiritual retreat…. and I had no idea what I would say. It was an early Fall morning near Santa Cruz, California and I found my way down the road to a local coffee shop. It had the typical feel of a small, but artsy community watering hole- a Harley Davidson motorcycle parked on the side walk outside, all the young girls who were the servers looked like something out of “Granola Grind” magazine- their fashion statements all said, “We don’t look like the ordinary middle-class girls…. we are different.” Of course, they were all dressed alike.
I ordered my coffee, took in the aroma of an old coffee shop, and found a small table by the large plate-glass window next to the front door. I got out my pen and journal and then I put my usual amount of sugar in my coffee, took a few sips….. and began to feel that two hours might be enough to organize what I would say to the people attending the retreat. I wrote a short thought down in my journal…..and then it happened.
A bird flew right in through the open door! She zoomed past me and landed in a small plastic Ficus tree in the middle of the cafe. The bird did not find the flimsy, plastic Ficus sufficiently natural, and made a fast break for the blue sky right above my head! I literally felt her skim over the very hairs of my head on her way to FREEDOM….. and then, of course, I heard the loud ‘thump,’ and felt the window inches from my left ear, vibrate and shake violently as she hit the glass, full speed.
Thrashing through the air, she tried to re-orient herself as she fell. Then she fluttered her wings and gained some control, and immediately took another 360 degree flight around the café (people diving low get out of her flight path) to make another desperate attempt for FREEDOM.
She headed straight for me again. She buzzed my head, while I sat stunned and thinking, “Someone should do something!” My only practical response to her renewed break for FREEDOM was to stoop down over my plate to protect my head from her now suicidal frenzy…. and my bagel from the possibility of its theft at her beak!
But she wasn’t interested in my bagel. It was FREEDOM she wanted.
She hit the window again. It was shocking, stunning, sickening and I jumped up still thinking futilely, “Someone should really do something about this!”
I was striding toward the center of the café vaguely intending ‘to talk to the owner about this ridiculous situation and at the same time condemning myself for not having the courage or the skill to capture this frenzied, flapping friend in my own cupped hands …..and carrying her to that rather narrow doorway and the FREEDOM she was about to die trying to find. Time seemed to stand still and the next few seconds felt as though they occurred in slow motion.
Right then, a young man from the back of the café rose up from his chair and table and strode with confidence and purpose across the center of the café and toward the still frightened and fleeing bird now flying up and down the large glass wall which was keeping her from the blue FREEDOM beyond.
The young man looked like a Greek-god to me.
He was in a white, rippled muscle tee shirt and Khaki shorts. He was lean and had very short buzzed, blond hair.
When he got to the window, he deftly corralled the bird within seconds in his strong, but perfectly gentle hands…. and I noticed that he even worked in such an expert manner that when he clamped down on the bird’s little body (enfolding its wings as he did), he also used his thumbs to quickly, but calmly, come up and over the bird’s head- securing it in such a way that it could not peck him with its beak.
Then the young God-like hero walked calmly to the door and threw the bird with both hands, up toward the Heavens…. and she flew away.
We should have all applauded and cheered, but there was only an awkward silence, punctuated by smiles and nods of heads. The young man look a bit sheepish and returned to his seat walking humbly with his eyes on the floor.
I changed to another table, now thoroughly disgusted with my own cowardice. (Had I really thought to myself in the midst of her nearly fatal attempt to break through to FREEDOM, “Rabies! Rabies!”?) “How pathetic,” I thought…. condemning myself.
Then I slowly turned my thoughts back to the teaching I needed to give at the retreat, and I felt the pang of knowing that I didn’t have much time left. At first, I was irritated about the interruption the bird had brought. And then I found myself wondering if this frightening escape of the bird had significance beyond my own embarrassment. I drew in a breath and looked down at my journal. I saw what I had written on it right before the bird had flown in through the door.
I had actually been pondering a passage that says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!” Now, the futile attempts of our dear bird (as I was now thinking of her) seemed a perfect parable of our own futile and often thwarted attempts to find FREEDOM. We too, keep hitting invisible barriers. We too, panic and try the same route over and over again….. thinking in vain that maybe this time it will be different…. yet it never is.
We too, need a
Focused….. Rescuer and Guide.
We too, need to be saved from ourselves…. and our fatal attempts to find the blue FREEDOM we so desire way down deep in the core of our being. We too, need to surrender to the firm, yet gentle grasp of “a greater Affection.”
to the Wisdom beyond us;
to the death of our failed ideas;
to the FREEDOM of the narrow door.
So when I left the coffee shop and stood before the audience of spiritual seekers, I simply told them about the little bird. And I think some of them have hit fewer plate-glass windows since then. At least I hope so. And, in the meantime, I keep trying to find the door myself.