A Swallow Named Bill
I was sitting on the deck of a friend's house recently with a group of others. As we were about to get up and get busy, a Swallow slammed headlong with a loud crack into one of the 20' windows of the house overlooking 8,000 acres of wilderness, crashing to the deck with an audible thud. It sat there, head up. Feet underneath, turning its head side to side as if trying to figure out what in the world had just happened.
We all noticed and while the others, showing appropriate compassion and concern, went on about their activities, though I tried to do the same, I couldn't. It was as if an invisible hand gently but firmly pushed me back down into my seat, saying, "Wait right here". "Look".
So, I sat. I looked.
As crazy as it sounds (and is) after a few quiet minutes, it seemed as if the bird was talking to me.
I felt compelled to remember the words I heard. I wrote them down. What follows is what I recorded, pretty much exactly as I heard them. They came out in a poetic form.
As I wrote them I thought they made up a very elementary, infantile, silly non-poem, "poem".
I was to find out later, that perhaps, just perhaps, I underestimated what I was experiencing.
Here are the words that the bird seemingly "needed" for me to write down:
"One moment, I’m unfettered
The full wind's at my back
On my downwind leg
I'm flying free, I'm flying high
In the very next instant
With a dismissive flick of the wrist
I’m suddenly, instantly, permanently
Swept from the sky
I've not been here before,
Not sure what to do
Though I try,
I can’t seem to move
I'm not sure what this means
So totally brand new
Lying here, dazed and confused
Am I dying? Am I flying?
Do I get to choose?
Will they miss me?
Will they mourn me?
Will they even know, that I’m gone?
Oh my lover, oh my baby
What’ll they do, without my song?
I’ll lay here and try to rest
Just for now, my safe place
Serving as my nest
One man noticed my fall
He sits with me now as I lay dying
I see tears in his eyes
It matters to me that he is crying
I see him writing, is that of me?
If so perhaps my death to him,
And to others gathered here,
Can useful be
In the near-full moon
In my own way
In my own time
I’ll make my way
Across that line
And to the man, and the others
Who stayed close by
My gift to you, all of you
Your very own, limitless sky
With my one last breath
I’ll say goodbye
Whispering that universal
Death rattle, with a long last sigh."
After I finished writing, and stood up, my phone rang. The caller ID indicated it was my friend Bill. He never calls me randomly, and a phone call would have interrupted what I was doing, (and I had told others to use their phones as little as possible) so, trying to set a good example, I ignored it figuring is call him back later.
A moment later, I received a text from him asking me to call him as soon as possible, indicating that it was an emergency.
I immediately called imagining something had gone terribly wrong with his wife or son.
Bill didn't answer. His wife did. She simply said "Bill's dead".
I don't know that I've ever been more shocked.
She then told me some of the details, one of which, the time of his death, mysteriously or coincidentally coincided with the Swallow crashing into the window.
Bill was actually supposed to be with us at the house that weekend. We were conducting a retreat focused on our becoming more peaceful and accepting of the transition between this world and the next. A mortality retreat.
There are those who now suggest he did show up. Late. Loud. In true Bill fashion.
One thing Bill feared the most was dying alone. I found out later that his religion teaches that the souls of the departed are carried by the "Winged Ones". If that's true, Bill didn't die alone, I was there. I heard him speak, I cried at the loss. He saw me, and as I re-read the "silly" words I had written it wasn't hard for me to believe that they were Bill's.
That was the first of many mysterious things to happen over the next few days, but each one of those are other stories.