Monday, June 02, 2008

Bluebirds, Snakes, and Wonders

One late afternoon in May, I watched two tiny bluebirds defend their nests (and lives) from a four-foot-long rat snake, repeatedly swooping down and pecking at the black serpent and flying away before it could react. When, finally, I stepped in with a long-handled shovel, I sided with the songbirds.


I love that girl.

(couple of lines of electric slide guitar blues)

Not like a lover.

(half a line of electric slide guitar blues)

Hell, she’s only 19.

She’s a curious girl. From a different world than mine.

(rest of the line of electric slide guitar blues)

I love her for the shyness which I first took for serenity. I love her for all the good things I can see for her. And for the things that could go wrong.

(slide guitar, recognizably the music to “Black Snake Moan”)

Because surely some things will go wrong. I hope – I expect – many more things will go right. That she will leave the nest when it is time, and continue to live in the light.

(brief slide guitar with the “Black Snake Moan” lyric: Mmm, mmm, black snake crawlin' in my room”)

She’s a curious girl. Curious about the world she’s beginning to discover.

Once when I talked with her – at the diner where she works – she told me she used to think she’d be happy at home taking care of her younger brothers and sisters. She’s home schooled, one of 13 children from a fundamentalist family.

Fundamentalist. My word. Not necessarily hers.

(half a line of electric slide guitar blues)

The next time I talked to her, she was nervous. She kept pretending to wipe tables and booths, and came closer and said “hi” and shared a small wave. And said “hi” again when she thought I didn’t hear her.

(line of electric slide guitar blues)

Until somebody called her name and she hurried off.

She finished her first year of college. Studying to be a teacher. She wants to see the world and do good things. The last time I talked with her, though, she said she might have enough school; she might get married and be a stay-at-home mom. Adventure or home? Neither choice is wrong; adventure opens more doors.

Once, I met one of her sisters, who told me, “Oh, you’re that man she talks about all the time at home.” Which pleased me. “I hope nobody thinks I’m hitting on her,” I said. “No,” her sister said. “That hasn’t come up.”

(rest of the line of electric slide guitar blues)

The next time I came into the diner, she ignored me. I am sure that somebody – her boss, her parents, I don’t know who – told her not to talk to me anymore. I understand at least some of the reasons why, or at least think I do.

She’s a curious girl, seemingly with a thirst for learning. I think of a possible friendship aborted. And the useless deaths of so many future conversations. So many gentle explorations. Innocence and the serpent. The garden of innocence. The temptation to stay who and where we are . . . unable to tell the difference in what will/won’t/might/might not hurt you. I love that girl. And the ones, each in their own way, like her.

I wonder where every one of them will be in five years. Ten. And beyond.

(sung lyrics with music: “Mmm, mmm, black snake crawlin' in my room / Some pretty mama better come and get this black snake soon”)

Innocence and the serpent. The garden of innocence, the temptation to stay who/where we are, to not grow and to not experience, unable to tell the difference from what will/won’t/might/might not hurt us or help us grow . . .

On their song “How Long,” from the album Long Road Out of Eden, the Eagles sang of a bluebird with its heart removed.