This Grand Life

Random Musings From the Editorís Desk

By Kirsten

†Mustain

This morning as I was preparing to go to the office, a small cardinal hit my patio door. He wasnít much more than a fledging, with a sparse little crest and mottled red on his chest where his adult feathers hadnít filled in yet.

Cardinals are one of my favorite birds, and as I knelt close to the poor little gasping fellow, shooing the cats away, I experienced an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Whether he was able to rouse himself and fly away was completely out of my control.

All I could do was make sure my cats didnít eat him in the meantime, watch his labored breathing and pray that he would make it.

Life is like that.

About ten years ago I had the dubious yet sublime privilege of traveling to India.

Before I left I read books, watched documentaries and talked to others who had gone before me. But nothing prepared me the actual experience of getting off a plane and trying to negotiate a taxi in Calcutta.

By the time I climbed into the sticky hot back seat and the cab pulled into the cacophony of Indian city life, I was completely overwhelmed. I couldnít have felt more alien if I had disembarked on Mars.

The cab, which had no seatbelts, careened wildly through the streets with no traffic signals, tossing me from the left to the right and back again. Drivers honked their horns and didnít yield the right-of-way, and at each moment we seemed to be in imminent danger of a terrible accident. The stink of diesel fuel and fetid filth assaulted my nostrils. Dead things and garbage littered the street, and small thin children ran barefoot through the gutters.

I was impossibly far away from everything I had ever known. And I couldnít get back home for a month.

At that point I realized that in this moment I had no real choice about what would befall me. The driver at the wheel would take me to a destination that might or night not be where I thought I was going, and we might or might not arrive in one piece.

The only choice I had was whether to conduct myself with dignity and good humor or to dissolve into tears and kick and scream.

I chose the first option, took a deep breath of that horrid humid air, and willed myself to calm down.

It was one of the greatest lessons of my life. As I careened through the streets of Calcutta that day, I realized that this really was no different than everyday life. It just took a change of scenery to help me realize it.

We are all passengers on this wild ride of life. There are few things that we can completely control, and the foremost of those is how we conduct ourselves in the situations we encounter.

As you may have surmised, I survived my trip to India. Parts of it were uncomfortable and challenging, and other parts of it were so beautiful they brought tears of joy to my eyes.

And so it goes.

I have placed stickers on the outside of my patio door in hopes that the birds would see that it was solid and veer away before they broke their necks.

Nevertheless, this morning a newly fledged cardinal flew into the glass because he saw the sky reflected there despite the stickers.

And I pu the cats inside and knelt there and hoped he would live. And after a moment he blinked a bright little eye, chirped in fright to see a human kneeling so close, and, after a momentary struggle, fluttered away to the trees.

It could have gone either way. The only thing I could do was to choose to be helpful in my small way Ė control the few things I could - and pray for the best. †

This time the little cardinal lived, and I had very little to do with it.