The Gift of Time
Gwendolyn never got back on her feet. “She’s devastated,” her former friends would repeat to each other. “Devastated,” they’d proclaim in sing song tones. There she was, on the other side of the street, trudging like the uncle she’d once buried.
“His nickname was Trudge,” she’d told people when they expressed surprise at the way she happily consented to tend to his dying. “He was homeless in the end. That was the official diagnosis on his chart. But he was happy,” she said to folks who were repelled by his circumstance.
And in the end, the conclusion her old friends thought they saw her living in, she was as happy off her feet-ever wondering what to do next, deciding where to go, examining who to incarnate- as she had been when she looked the part of someone who had it all together: teetering on high heels of the latest style that were killing her feet.
“What does that mean anyway,” she’d ask the birds all around her, “On your feet?”- And one afternoon as she was plodding along her usual route to the shops where she dutifully bought the same things over and over because they kept her in a state of balance – a far cry from the excitement, the flurry she had existed in while consuming an exotic variety of delights, and cigarettes on the sly, she came upon a creature who gave her the answer.
It was a moment she’d been gearing up for by letting go all her gear. All the outfits, the trends, the activities, that she had once donned and immersed herself in to feel, to seem…better. Everything discarded, she was ready, without any gear, to have some idea.
And so it was, that a little bird appeared on the slimy litter-filled path that was Gwendolyn’s way home from the grocery store each afternoon. A bird who accorded her a relative eternity by being present to her for a few precious seconds. Gwendolyn felt love drawing near.
The little robin’s lifespan was only about 13 months, so those seconds amounted to a great deal. The experience reminded her of the souls who had given of themselves in brief encounters. People with empty hands and overflowing hearts.
She was breathless as she realized the creature’s generosity. A being free to be available as it wished- A creature doing something kind of its own volition. Or was it simply the very nature of the bird? Drawing near to another sentient being, a larger, potentially dangerous creature- plodding along like an unhappy giant- without fear, even if there was some trembling.
The bird was so different from the dogs that Gwendolyn felt for. Those hapless hounds tethered by people intent on control, unable to be truly alone with their maker. Alone and trudging like Gwendolyn.
In weak moments, she wondered if acquiring a dog might make her seem to have gotten back on her feet. Then her lack of faith would pass and she’d resume the role she had discovered when her fancy life had fallen apart. “I am God’s dog,” she realized one hot afternoon on a beach in Morocco where she’d gone to escape the gloom of a winter that she otherwise loved for its melancholy.
So, on the afternoon when God’s dog was truly free of her leash, a little bird came to offer the secret of being on one’s feet; “Take your time,” the little creature chirped. It was, in fact, an eternal whisper. Gwendolyn had never heard a bird whisper and wouldn’t ever again. Wisdom only needs to whisper once if the listener is disposed to it.
“Why did you take the time?” She called out as the bird flew off. It wasn’t until another bird appeared repeatedly along her way that she was to know the answer. The other bird, a Eurasian Jay, was grander, more elegant. It first appeared to Gwendolyn in a manicured park, an enclosure that had been established as an archive of vegetation in a European capital.
Then, as if by some Divine order, the feathered messenger reappeared to her along a road where she’d given a fox a proper burial.
It was a verdant way she’d found to walk on for a time where she could be in peace. There, she’d come upon a fox newly dead. Fresh, bright red blood pooled all round it. The body was still warm when she reached out to caress it. She could feel life streaming away. Cars hurtled by. A horn honked, the driver leered in exasperation at having to swerve slightly.
Gwendolyn stayed in the road with fox until its body had became cold. Then she picked up the carcass and carried it to a grassy slope where she laid it to rest. After a few moments standing with the sun on her back, she turned to see a smiling woman in the garden of a house across the street.
“I’ll call the authorities to take it away!” The woman chirped. She was a ruddy faced soul with beady, dark eyes and an air of agitation that made Gwendolyn sigh.
“Yes, I suppose she cannot rest here anymore.” She replied to the woman who stood akimbo in her garden.
“I’m finished with my dream too.” The woman announced. Gwendolyn turned to face her. “I had a little café here. That was my dream; find a house by the sea, serve cake and libations to tired holiday makers. Sometimes we had the odd scruffy fellow wander in. But they didn’t disturb the ambience too much. I created a very successful ambiance you know! But eventually, it wasn’t enough. I needed something else. So I’ve shut the café down, now its just a house… and well, I think I’d better move on to find another way to realize this dream inside me that I thought I’d achieved…” The woman’s face grew dark as she turned back toward her door. Frowning, she looked over her shoulder at Gwendolyn .
“You’re very kind to tend to that fox….” And she disappeared inside the former cafe”.
The Eurasian Jay appeared a few moments later in the foliage above the fox’s corpse. In the trees that motorists sped by, their tires making a thunderous rhythmic hum as they rumbled along the pavement. Standing in awe at her second sighting of the magnificent bird, Gwendolyn could hear it explaining its reappearance.
“But I didn’t.” Gwendolyn insisted.
“Every time you helped someone, gave a moment of kindness when you were feeling weak, you were petitioning the spirit we are to come…Good things come to those who wait on others.”
Gwendolyn stood watching the bird for a time before continuing on her walk. There was a bit of a shimmer on her grease stained old overcoat. It matched the swirling colours she stopped to admire in a murky oil filled puddle. The sun’s rays were making the mauve hues of the slick appear to be some heavenly canvas floating in a watery frame