Posted on October 29, 2020
Wednesday, October 28, 2020 9:00 pm
I have something positive to write about, for a change. An uplifting incident occurred tonight while our group was at Beavertail Lighthouse doing tai chi.
It was a cold, misty, overcast afternoon, and we met early, at 4:30, to avoid the oncoming dusk. There were four of us students plus the teacher, and we gathered on a grassy green spot about 100 feet away from the lighthouse, so we were really in a prime, central spot almost at the tip of the peninsula. Everything else around us was in shimmering shades of gray – the sea, the sky, the clouds. The water was nearly flat, with no wind. Just one or two walkers strode the paved perimeter.
We began, peacefully, in our accustomed silence, moving smoothly as a unit from the practice built up over years of group energy. The five of us formed an informal circle, with about 8’ between each (for social distancing). After about 20 minutes, a small brown bird flew up and landed on the verge of our circle, and then began its business of hopping and pecking and searching for bugs. It hopped right inside our circle, and stayed there. It then began visiting each of us in turn, hopping and pecking directly at our feet. It was so cute, everyone broke concentration and began adjusting their feet, or pausing to look at this sweet visitor. I know everyone was just beaming behind their masks – I certainly was.
Now, the tai chi form we do is about 45 minutes. Little Bird continued to keep us company, and remained inside the circle for the remaining 25 minutes or so of the form. It continued to make its rounds, visiting each of the 5 of us in turn, very consistently and democratically, calmly hopping within inches of our shifting feet! And so it hopped, pecked, and visited throughout the entire rest of the form, clearly having adopted us as some kind of strange, large flock where it felt comfortable and safe. Or maybe the tai chi energy attracted it. After we completed the last motion in sync, we turned, fascinated, and looked at our new friend, still in the center, still hopping and pecking calmly away. Frankly, we all just melted. Each of us knelt or leaned over to offer it our fingers, and see if it was tame enough to hop on (no). Discussion began…was it a juvenile, what was the species, was it lost, was it wild or tame, what should we do about it…and then we figured, let’s see if it keeps up with us as we walk away. Well, Little Bird did! It stayed right inside our group circle as we slowly strolled towards the parking lot. It paused for a minute by one of the old building remnants… but then flew back to us and hop-walked within our circle, keeping pace with us as the sixth, inner member of our flock. We melted even more. After a few attempts to coax it inside a box, or feed it crumbs, eventually we herded it over to the dense cover of the brush, made sure it was happy on a branch, and walked away. Shahin said we should name it ‘Chi’. Judy took some photos and is going to try to ID it.*
But angels, this was a heart-breakingly lovely end to our last outdoor class of the season, as though an animal totem of peace was blessing us with its presence (well, I did invoke you and St. Francis for blessings, yes).
So please tell me about this quietly powerful interaction, which effectively disrupted our group’s concentration by melting our hearts, faster than any loud noise, human or mechanical, has ever done in 15 years of tai chi practice. All on a silvery October evening in a shifting time of change.