Our great little teacher

Spring is always a wonderful time both on our farm and in the surrounding countryside. There is so much life. Quite apart from the intense new emerald-green foliage, there are myriad blossoms, flowers, the bees buzzing as they busily collect nectar; also many types of butterflies, small mottled lizards and big fat green ones; frogs whose boop, boop noise provide a charming and slightly surreal background chorus to our evenings; the bats that flit silently around us at dusk as they feast on the many insects; the many sparkling cobwebs bejewelled by the morning dew; the cuckoos with their loud unmistakeable call; the birds of prey constantly hunting to feed their young. There are also wood pigeons, owls, woodpeckers and crows, each easily recognisable by their unique sound. Then we have the graceful grey herons and the massive vultures. It makes early morning walks all similar but different, and there is always a sense anticipation of what we might see today − perhaps a deer, a new-born calf or foal.

So in early spring we watched enchanted, as a small bird decided to make its nest in the eaves over our balcony. We watched as it industriously gathered moss, twigs and hair from our moulting loberos, and built a tiny perfect nest.  A few weeks later there were four chicks cheeping, their hungry open mouths visible at the entrance to the nest, as their parents foraged for food. Although we were often only one or two meters away, they seem to have decided that we were no threat and carried on with their lives.

Last week came the big day; it was time for the chicks to learn to fly. We watched both enchanted and slightly nervous, as a chick balanced on the balcony, prepared to launch itself into the void. It jumped clumsily into the air. Breath held, we followed its descent as it fluttered into a bucket of water. It struggled, clearly in panic, unable to get out of the bucket. It was about to drown when Kiira (my daughter) ran down and rescued it. Cradling it gently in her cupped hands, she brought it back up to the balcony, placing it in the sunshine to dry its feathers. It walked to the edge of the balcony and it looked as if it might fall. We were worried that with its feathers so wet, it would not be able to fly. I picked up the tiny, trembling and fragile life, and held it in my warm hands. After a couple of minutes, clearly re-invigorated, he ran up my arm and up onto my hat, and there he decided to stay and did what we have all done at times: face into the sun, eyes closed, just enjoying the life-giving warmth of the sun. He was perfectly in the moment. I felt a connection − a bond, as we both shared that moment of the gentle warmth of the sun.

Just two minutes earlier the chick was about to die, and yet here he was, lesson learnt, completely in the moment, completely relaxed, happy and completely trusting in the process of life.

He became our teacher, showing us through his example about letting go and just getting on with what is here and now. The past is gone and cannot be changed; the future does not yet exist − just the joyous beauty of the moment, under the infinite blue sky. Life, here and now is a miracle − a gift.

Our great little teacher

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