blue jay at my mom's feeder - photo taken by my sister Cynthia Plett

There is not much left of the vitality that once defined my Mom. No tree-climbing with her grandkids, no crazy coast-to-coast-sleeping-in-the-back-of-the-van-like-teenagers adventures with her husband, no baking a million buns and angel food cakes to feed the neighbourhood.

Cancer is taking bite after bite, leaving only her beautiful smile and giant heart to remind us of what once was.

She spends most of her days in bed or on the giant armchair by the window. Just outside the window by the armchair is a line of bird feeders, lovingly filled each week by her husband. A myriad of birds visit her each day – chickadees, sparrows, bluejays, and wood peckers. She sits and watches them, hour after hour, day after day.

Those birds heal her, bit by bit. They can’t take the cancer away, but they give her the simple gift of pleasure that makes it worth getting out of bed every day. They remind her of what it was like to be wild, and what it will be like to be wild again, once she has left behind this failing body.

It was the same for my father-in-law in the months before he died. His gardening tools and beloved tractors sat motionless in the yard. The fire pit – his favourite place to sit – held no more flames. And yet, each day, the birds came to keep him company at his window.

I want to say profound things about the healing power of nature and the travesty of the way our cities have tried to tame the wild out of the earth and out of ourselves, but by now there’s a lump in my throat that is blocking my words. I will let Wendell Berry say it for me…

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And  I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

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