Let’s start with hummingbirds. That beauty has nested right outside of Sophie’s bedroom window. Eye level. I saw it hovering around the other evening and watched it land. I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes, but Carl took the photo. As a person who’s into signs and symbols, who’s superstitious and feels sometimes as if I could morph into my southern Italian grandmother, I’m wondering if it’s a sign. A sign of what? At the other end of the yard is an equally miraculous nest that a couple of bushtits have constructed. It’s long and narrow and stuffed full of the fluff from the burst pods of the silk floss tree, but Carl insists the birds actually go down into it and lay their eggs. Right here in the sad old shitty we’ve got some serious nature, I guess, and if it’s a sign, I suppose it’s up to me to take it into my heart as something beautiful and hopeful and life-giving.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have days where I walk around the house muttering pray that I die, pray that I die over and over as I rub the red jasper worry stone that stands in for my grandmother’s rosary beads. I got the second Moderna vaccine last Friday morning, and on the way there I got stuck in a ridiculous amount of traffic with what seemed like a score of police cars and helicopters overhead and all side streets closed and blocked, so I was going to be late, and when I checked my Citizen app (don’t ask), I learned that an armed robbery on the very block where I was stuck was in progress, which seemed to me like a sign, I joked to Carl on the phone, that maybe I should skip the vaccine? As many of you know vaccines baby vaccines have made grooves in my brain that carry fear, that are lit up like the seizures they ignited in Sophie’s decades ago. But no, I made my way to Kaiser and parked on the street and took an elevator up to the parking lot structure where the vaccine distribution site happened and apologized for being late pray that I die, pray that I die and got the fucking vaccine and sat in a chair facing a window that looked out onto the persistent blue sky and the swaying palms and waited for my fifteen minutes to make sure that I wouldn’t die. I felt no relief. I felt no gratitude. So. Guess what? As I gathered myself to exit a man a couple chairs socially distanced down the garage floor also waiting his fifteen minutes dropped from his chair with a thud and began to seize on the floor.
Describe this scene.
The lady in yoga pose the poster of Wellness the garage floor the downed man the helpers look for the helpers as they swarm the nonchalance of the unaware the dumb middle-aged woman me hyperventilating the slant of sunlight my concern my terror my incredible powers of dissociation and willful empathy please let him be all right please let him be all right let us all be all right propelled me out the door and past the paramedics rushing in down to my car where I proceeded to — well — fall apart. Is it a sign? When I texted my friends I realized from most of their reassuring replies that most didn’t really get it, have never gotten it, will not ever get it. What might be the appropriate response to any of it? To any of the fuckery? You see, I’m not afraid of death of disability of Covid striking me. That’s not it at all. Not at all. Statistics are meaningless to me. I am not comforted by any of it. I don’t want (want as operative) to bank on chances, even when they’re good. I chafe at all of it in the most unreasonable way one can using reason. It’s the grooves in the brain, it’s the decades, it’s the baby’s mouth in a perfect “o,” it’s the intra-muscular shots of steroids through the soft skin into the muscles, the bloat as aftermath, the pustules of yeast on the mouth, the slits in the face, the screaming and screaming and screaming. The seizures. The dismissal the indifference from doctors and drugs alike. The grooves in the brain and how quickly they receive a signal, any signal, any sign, a man falling off a chair, seizing. What are the chances? How many seizures have you seen in your lifetime? It’s not even the seizures, you know if you know.
What is a sign?
Where is the cursing? Oh. I wanted to say that I deeply appreciated the anger and despair expressed in my friend 37paddington’s recent blog post. I wanted to join in her chorus of fucks. Fuck all of it. 6 women struck down counting of blood clots from the vaccine. Pause. We will see headlines, I’m afraid, said the trusted doctor, but sadly, it’s the only way to stop the pandemic. 30 people dead a day from gun violence. Pause? Countless black bodies dead from Covid. Countless black bodies dead from police. We watched a white policeman kneel on a black man’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds until he died and now watch the policeman get his day in court. Is this a sign?
I’d like to offer a hummingbird nesting in a walnut-sized nest outside my daughter’s bedroom window as an antidote to the fuckery, to the pray that I die, pray that I die, a sign, perhaps, against signs.
That there are two bird nests in your yard shows a level of safety and refuge that I know is real. Whenever I'm out walking and ask my worried mind to tell me something it hasn't told me before, I hear a bird singing. When you write you speak for so many of us.
Oh, my god. Elizabeth. I do believe in signs. I believe in sorrow and its indelible mark on us. I believe in the hoof print of trauma and how that kick feels when it comes again and again. I'm beyond sorry that you saw that man fall to the ground and how you felt it in your body. I wish you recovery. I wish you the image of those beautiful birds and their nests imprinted on your eyeballs. Look at them. Study them. Love to you and Sophie and to the bird photographer and his exquisite talents that help us forlorn humans to see our winged fellow creatures.