I was in my office agonizing over whether to submit a piece I wrote or never write again. An odd text arrived from one of my sisters, one about my inner light shining and God filling voids.
I pulled back, feeling hard.
I called her, wanting to know the text’s context. We had an enlightening conversation about Carl Jung, who believed part of midlife is letting the ego die. The ego is about control. My sister encouraged me to let my ego die and look for signs.
Sure. I’ll put that on my to-do list.
I had an appointment with a new therapist. The meeting was awkward, and at one point, I spilled water all over her paperwork and my lap. Driving home wet and annoyed, I stopped to buy a French baguette for dinner. Feeling hungry, I broke the bread and ate it Jesus-style in the car.
I noticed the sky was bright blue and the weather unusually temperate for January. When I pulled into my driveway, there was a box by my door – contributor copies of an anthology that included my work. For someone who was going to quit writing that morning, it felt like...a sign?
Or a coincidence.
I opened my car door to a cacophony of bird chatter. Not a couple of birds, but a couple hundred. Apparently, we live under a migration path. Last fall, I watched thousands of birds amass in the trees like holiday travelers in an airport concourse. On some hidden signal, they would rise and jet in the direction of their journey.
Birds don’t migrate in January, do they?
I bolted from my car, leaving the door open, and scanned the skies. Nothing. Turning, I saw a large, dead bird on my driveway – beautiful with blue-black wings. I hesitated, but the sound was louder.
Circling the garage, I discovered hundreds of blackbirds in my backyard’s maple tree. The sun was behind the tree, sending a blue ray through my vision. My heart started pumping hard. I stood, my black coat flapping open, soaked to the skin, and waited. The Beatles’ “Blackbird” lyrics drifted up from my memory.
“Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these sunken eyes and learn to see...”
The birds rose, circling my house as if hugging the curve of a cloverleaf ramp before zooming west. I felt my soul grow large, unnamed prayers rising with them, Paul McCartney serenading all. I watched them – loud and joyous – until I couldn’t see them anymore.
The world fell silent. Returning to my car, I saw the dead bird.
I drew close, feeling tender.
Are you my ego?
Laughter bubbled up in me. I grabbed a shovel, humming “Blackbird”, and walked to the weedy bed outside my office window. I dug a deep hole. The sun warmed my back. The overturned soil was black, the scent of spring slight. Gently, I placed the bird inside, its lifeless body growing cold. I stroked its blue-black feathers, singing.
“Blackbird fly into the light of the dark black night.”
And I buried it.
What does it mean? What does it matter? It moved me, it moved things in me, and I don’t care to control that.
Humming to myself, I picked up my books and went inside.
Thank you for sharing this story. I have tried quitting writing so many times, but I always end up returning on another platform. I'm happy that it takes one dead blackbird and Paul McCartney for you to continue writing. Next time you feel hanging the towel, a dead fish and Pink Floyd should do -
"We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
What have we found?
The same old fears
Wish you were here"
Thanks for sharing this story. It’s helpful to hear that life isn’t always a clear path for everyone.