At 6:30 this morning, I found an injured Northern Parula on my neighbor’s driveway. He (it was a “he”) must have collided with the kitchen window. When I picked him up, he was still alive, struggling to get his bearings. While Holly and I marveled at holding such a beautiful thing in our hands and scratched our heads over what to do to help, he died in my hand. I know that tens of thousands of songbirds die during migration each year. The arithmetic of population dynamics accounts for such losses. Because this bird died in my hand, his death feels personal.
Although he weighed a bit more than a nickel he embarked on a journey that few self-aware animals would undertake. He got himself as far as Staten Island, powered by perhaps a gram or a gram and a half of fat, from somewhere in Central America. He probably flew non- stop over 300 miles of open water. He traveled by night. He knew where he was going even though he may never have been there before. He was beautiful. His death gave us pause.
When a Sioux warrior went off to battle, he would shout “today is a good day to die.” He didn’t mean that he was looking forward to his own death. He meant that all the things of his life were before him. He meant that he was completely present in this moment, and that if he died in the coming battle he would have left no unfinished business. He meant that he could pass on with no regrets.
Today is a good day to have no regrets.