The fledglings have left their nests and are exploring the world around them. As I sat and observed them one morning, I watched as a mother starling brought her young chick to the feeder. The young one landed awkwardly on the top of the feeding station, almost falling off. Mom starling jumped down to the tray, ate a seed, then scooped up another and flew up to the chick, offering the seed to the vocal youngster. She repeated this several more times, then one time she did not bring a seed, but squawked at the chick. The chick demanded a seed – all that was offered was a peck and more squawking. Back and forth they went, the mother bird appearing more and more agitated until, finally, she flew off, leaving the chick to fend for itself. The chick looked around; I could sense its fear, confusion, the alone-ness. It crouched on the feeder as a merlin called out and flew overhead. Eventually, the mother starling returned and again fed the chick. This behavior was repeated for the next couple of days until one day, I saw the chick at the base of the feeder, eating away! The lessons had finally imprinted on the chick and now it was able to feed itself.
There are days when I fret over how best to contribute to the betterment of this world. Do I write and try to publish? Do I take photographs and share them on the internet? What will be my gift to future generations? There is a very good chance that when I die all the multitude of poems and essays I have written will be tossed in a dumpster as they clean out my study. The same with my photographs. This is the harsh reality of life. So what is to be done?
The next day after my observing the starlings I was with my grandchildren at a local fair. It was nearing dusk and the lights of all the rides were blinking red, blue, green. They were wide-eyed with the sights, sounds and smells of the world around them. As we walked through the crowds, we talked about all the myriad of things we saw – what we liked best, what ride seemed scary, past times when we had gone to festivals such as this. My husband, who has a better tolerance for swirly rides, was the designated ride companion for the younger ones. As I watched them all navigate a fun house, I saw my husband pointing out the best way through the mirror room; how best to climb the rope ladder. My granddaughters watched and listened, then followed along. Hi-fives were given as each one reached the top. My mind drifted to a time when I was young, in my grandfather’s rose garden, how he would have me sniff each type of rose, telling me its name, instructing me how best to care for them. And although I was young, it instilled in me a passion for gardening and a desire to learn more. When I garden, I feel my grandfather beside me, the deep connection established so long ago bridging across the realms. My grandfather’s wisdom is eternal in me.
As my eldest granddaughter joined me after the fun house, she reached out and took my hand, looked into my eyes, and smiled. We were connected in a most beautiful way. I realized at that moment my life calling was in this bond, this bridge I had become between the generation past and the generation of the future. The most important thing I could ever do for humanity was right here in my hand. The experiences I share with my grandchildren, like the ones that my parents and grandparents shared with me, last forever. As I pass down my knowledge, each child, when they become adults, will pass it on to their children. This is immortality.
In a sense, I was a student of the universe as I sat and watched the starlings that one morning, as much a student as the fledgling. And again, with my grandchildren, learning how the most important contribution I can make in this life is to pass on the wisdom and knowledge that was given to me, to learn the dance of observer and teacher. The universe never stops teaching us if we have the humility of beginner’s mind and the generosity to share it with others. This is all we need to do. Everything else is inconsequential.