But First, It Listened

Today, I watched a transformer pop, and sang to a bird. And it was all because of a thunderstorm.

It was an extremely slow day at work. I had just told my coworker to go out and water the plants, when it started to rain (ironically, the plants never got water – the rain could come down as hard as it wants, but the overhangs at the Cinema protect our shitty plant beds from getting any moisture). I stuck my head outside for just a moment to laugh at him hiding from the downpour and tell him to not bother and come on in, when CRACK! We heard the sound of a large explosion.

At first I thought it was just thunder, but then I saw a large, yellow billow of smoke rising from behind the treetops. A transformer had blown.

Which meant that, in the split second between the time that the power blinked out and the generators kicked in, everything at the Cinema reset… which also meant that the projectors turned off, leaving our patrons sitting in a pitch black theater.

We quickly ran to the projector rooms and switched everything on, apologizing to everyone while the projectors came back to life, and got their movies started as quickly as possible. It was an easily solved crisis, but it still made one hell of an end of a shift.

Which meant that I owed myself a walk to the river.

Walking by a body of water has always been calming to me. I used to drive to the beach at night when I was a kid, perch myself on the lifeguard chair, and just think. In college, I would mull things over at the Yellow Breeches, on the Swinging Bridge; and when I moved to Harrisburg, the Susquehanna became my lover. I have had many good walks by this river.

Sometimes I’ll talk to myself, to work out whatever issue I’m struggling with; and sometimes, if I’m up for it, I’ll sing to myself. Sometimes it’ll just be humming, but usually I’ll make up words as I go along, trying to convince myself of something, or even just vocalizing my wants. It’s great practice for musical improv, and for self-therapy.wp-image-1769745350

Anyway, today, I was singing. And as I walked along, I saw a bird up ahead (according to later investigation, it was a yellow-crowned night heron). He didn’t seem alarmed by how close I was getting, and I wondered if maybe my singing was preventing him from feeling threatened. He was standing right by the stairs, and so my goal was to just slip past him, but I saw that there was a large puddle right behind him, blocking my path, so I stopped, maybe five or six feet away from him, and just stood there, singing.

And you’ve probably guessed by now that I started singing to him.

He was very intent on listening — he never turned towards me, but he remained very still for about five minutes as I sang. I asked him to stay, to stand by me for a little longer; and I tried not to make any sudden movements to scare him off. I vocalized the idea of coming closer, and wondered aloud if he would let me. I didn’t dare do it; you can’t expect a wild beaut such as this guy to actually stick around, even if you are actively trying to play the role of a siren.

But I enjoyed his company for the short amount of time that he let me, and then I made the mistake of stooping to get to his level, to try and take a picture (I had already taken a picture of him, because I apparently can’t allow myself to enjoy a moment without technology, but I wanted a closer shot). And off he went, flying into the storm-scarred sky, leaving me to sing to myself in a kind of forlorn way.

It made me smile, though. I may not be very good at wooing, but the few moments that I do have by a bird’s (or even a fellow human’s) side, I appreciate. We were both wary, and both apprehensive, but we stuck it out, even for just a moment.  We shared a mutual appreciation for each others’ company, as guarded as we both may have been.

Sometimes I have a hard time seeing the good in a brief relationship, once the aftermath kicks in. I will immediately interpret it negatively, thinking I must have done something wrong, or that I should have seen how it was going to blow up in my face — in the aftermath, everything feels so resolute and permanent, like it must have always been broken if it was broken in the end. My brain takes that beautiful memory and tarnishes it, boils it down to a nagging thought in my mind: the bird flew away. It flew away, and that is all I will ever remember about that bird, is that it was scared of me, and it didn’t want to be near me, and so it flew away. Sometimes I have to actively remember the fact that I sang to a bird.

I’m slowly learning to appreciate those moments of victory in my life. There are a lot of fears and hangups that hold me back, but in the moments that I do take a chance, I want so badly not to chastise myself in the end. I have to remember that I do have some sort of impact, and I do have the ability to make a connection. Maybe the bird flew away… but first, it listened.

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