The birds are missing
Dear Mother Earth,
North America is missing 3.4 billion birds.
3.4 billion birds disappeared and no one noticed the sparrows, blackbirds, wrens, and swallows that didn’t make it, who were never born, who stopped flying or singing or making their ingenious, fragile nests, who never perched, who never pecked their gentle beaks into your moist, black, earth.
I was helping a friend recently when I started falling. I was unable to prevent the catastrophe ahead, unable to find the brakes or make them work, unable to stop the fall. I fell and crumbled, knowing full well that I had been falling for a long time and that we all have been falling, crows and conifers and glaciers, expectations, and faith — falling and falling.
I wanted to keep falling. I didn’t want to be here to witness more falling, bleaching, burning, drying, disappearing, choking, never blooming. I didn’t want to live without birds. I didn’t want to live with the ravenous hunger that turned us feral or the greediness that gave us claws. I wanted to fall and fall into your deep, moist, black, earth, to be finally still and at peace.
It might have been the sharp pain of my cracked ribs or the dirt embedded in my clothes, or maybe it was the shock of grief congealing in my chest, or maybe it was just the lonely rattling of my bones. Whatever it was, I realized that I was broken.
Dear Mother, I am the reason the birds are missing. I am the cause of salmon who cannot spawn and the butterflies unable to take their journey home. I am the coral reef bleached death white and the sea boiling with methane. I am the millions running from lands that have dried, forests that are burning, and islands that have drowned.
I didn’t heed you, Mother. You were nothing to me. Arrogance and ambition drove me to have only contempt for you. What did you have to offer that would give me status in the marketplace of achievement? What could your bare trees offer but a staggering aloneness I could not bear. I reduced you to weather, an inconvenience, something that got in my way, muddy tracks that scuffed my overpriced city boots with your moist, black, earth.
I refused your invitation, scorned your generosity, held suspicion for your immeasurable love. I ignored all the ways we abused you. I pretended to believe in the tales of our ancestors who preached that you had to be tamed and controlled — and that all you possess belongs to us.
I felt my broken body pressing down into your moist, black, earth, breathing in and out the realization of how much I have missed you.
I have been away for too long. I am sorry. I am so sorry.
I remember what you taught us — that we are dirt and grit and stars and river. We are skin, bone, leaf, blossoms, and fur. We are your children.
We are branch and hive and trunk and stone. We are what has been, and what is coming. We are energy and dust, wave and wonder. We are perfumed peonies and a copse of trees in the Cajas. We are dandelion, daisy, dahlia, chrysanthemum, pansy, bleeding heart and rose. We are all that has been named and unnamed, all that has been gathered and all that has been left alone. We are all your missing creatures, all the sweet birds never born. We are your daughters and sons.
We are your caretaker, your fierce defender, your griever and your servant until we too are chosen to become your moist, black, earth.