By: Lavinia Plonka
If a Tree Falls in Alexander…
In the chaos theory of the universe, we’re told the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can lead to a tornado in Texas. What seems like chaos may actually be the result of patterns that lead to events that lead to results that seem like fate.
After one of the crazy storms last month, I was eating breakfast, looking out my window at the familiar landscape of my backyard. Something had changed. I felt like a kid, looking at Highlights Magazine, trying to find what “doesn’t fit in”, the hidden picture, the mystery image. My vista was disturbed, but by what?
Finally, I realized that one of the trees in the woods to the right was leaning differently. In fact, it was leaning right out of the woods and over my mowed lawn. As the days went by, the tree got lower.
“Looks like that tree’s coming down,” I said to my husband Ron.
“What tree?” asked the visual artist who constantly reminds me of his acute powers of observation.
“The one that’s tilting over the garden.”
“Huh, imagine that, did that just happen?”
I forbore from wisecracking about his obvious ability to ignore anything related to yard work as we both watched our cat venture onto this newly accessible territory.
The next day, the tree was lower.
“Do you think Houdini’s weight sent it over the edge?” I asked.
“Huh?” Ron looked up from his morning reading.
“The tree,” I said.
“What about it?” He idly looked out.
“It looks like it’s so low that it’s touching the garden fence.”
“What?” He bolted out of his chair. Sure enough, a branch was just starting to press on the garden fence. Ron was galvanized into action because just a couple of weeks ago, after months of my begging, cajoling, and foot stomping, he had finally completed deer-proofing our garden, slaving for hours in the unseasonably warm sunshine to create a masterpiece that included bamboo poles, hemp and even artsy branches woven into the fence.
He quickly did the manly job of using his car to tow the errant tree to the side of the garden, where it laid in the grass for another couple of weeks. We talked about selling the wood on Craig’s list, foisting it on my neighbor who has a wood burning stove (“Black walnut? No thanks, it takes at least two years for them to dry out!), throwing the wood over the cliff. But nothing moved. Until yesterday.
I came home to find Ron out back with his chainsaw. I began working on my transplants. He shut off the chainsaw.
“Were you in the shed?”
“There was a hummingbird who got himself in there. I couldn’t get him out. I wondered if you saw him.”
“I didn’t see or hear him, so I guess he left.”
Ron went back to the shed. Within minutes, he was yelling for my help. Apparently he had been in a hurry to oil the chain saw, and had spilled some bar chain oil on the shelf. Wanting to make progress with the tree, he left it, planning to clean it later. The hapless hummingbird had landed and was now stuck in the chain saw oil. It was the BP oil spill in miniature. A puddle on a shelf with a tiny creature drenched in oil.
“What should I do, what should I do?” Ron fussed. Then he ran upstairs and got cotton pads. Holding the bird in his hand, he began to gently wipe its wings. I made up a bowl of dish detergent and water, which Ron began applying with a Q-tip.
“Should I really be using dish detergent? What if this is the wrong thing? What if I’m making a mistake?”
“What do you want me to do? Call the Hummingbird Hotline?”
“I don’t know! Go on the Internet! Google it!”
Feeling more than helpless, I did exactly that. Several sites came up, not for hummingbirds, but for birds. They urged you to keep the bird quiet for 48 hours before trying to wash it. Fat chance of that with a hummingbird. Besides, he was already covered in soap. Their solution was also dish detergent, but recommended putting the bird into the water, agitating it, then dunking it into rinse water, kind of like your silk underwear.
I went back to the shed to find Henry the hummingbird (had to name him!) splashing in the suds.
“He needs food, he’s exhausted, quick, quick, go make a solution!” Ron urged. I ran in and quickly made the hummingbird magic potion, one part sugar, four parts water. What to put it in? A bowl? A bottle? I put it in a bud vase and ran back out.
Henry didn’t get it. He wouldn’t dip. Maybe he was thinking, “You expect me to eat at a time like this?” I began to doubt my skill with sugar water. Meanwhile Ron had dipped a Q-tip (the man loves his Q-tips) into the sugar water, and soon, Henry was flicking his tongue in and out, refueling.
Ron’s face was so tender, so nurturing, I thought, this was the man with the chain saw? He turned to me and said, “Look! I’m having a relationship with a hummingbird!”
I left the two to commiserate, then heard Ron curse. “Damn it, damn it!!” Fearing the worst, I ran back in.
“What happened?” I looked at Henry’s peeved expression.
“I picked up the wrong Q-tip. I just fed him soap. Help, help, I need to get the bad taste out of his mouth!”
The ordeal continued. Ron brought Henry into our guest bathroom, set him up with a little nest, an official hummingbird feeder, a nightlight and shut the door. We figured he needed some peace. Just before retiring, Ron went in to check, then came out and stood by me.
“Henry told me she has a nest with eggs.”
“Henry’s a she?”
“And you’ve become an animal communicator?”
“I’m just telling you what I felt.” He sat down, head in hands. “I feel so bad. I should have cleaned up the oil.”
“Honey, how could you have known a hummingbird would decide to bathe in it?”
“I was just lazy. Lazy about the tree, the job, cleaning up.”
I silently sang Halleluiah, praise the Lord, you have transformed my man. Then I picked up his face. “Who knows, maybe that hummingbird needed an adventure with humans? Or that you needed to explore the depth of your compassion? Maybe that tree fell down just so you could experience the fragility of a life.”
I shrug. “It’s either a random universe and we just invent our own meaning, or a fantastic web of perfect mathematics designed to aid our evolution.”
The next morning I prepared myself before entering the guest bathroom. I put up a sheet, in case Henry flew hysterically into our house. I opened the door to the back yard should he be ready to go. I took a deep breath in case I might find a dead hummingbird in the sink. Henry was perched on the feeder, drinking away. He/she looked at me, flew up to the towel rack, saw the open door and without as much as a fare thee well, took off.
Who knows Henry’s ultimate fate? Perhaps even now, he/she is regaling her pals with the story of the oil spill and how God lifted her out, let her soak in the hot tub, put her in a luxury condo, gave her gourmet food, then sent her on her way. Anybody need some black walnut?
When not nagging her husband, Lavinia helps others realize their goals: physical, mental, emotional via The Feldenkrais Method. Laviniaplonka.com, ashevillemovementcenter.com. Want more CosmiComedy? Visit Lavinia’s blog: cosmicomedy.com.