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Lions Roar : September 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2011 15 WE PARKED ABOVE THE DAM and I carried her down the slope, gear in one hand, her in the other, clutching tightly to my side. We followed the old summer trail downstream, the sigh of tumbling water fading behind us. It was spring, a good day to be outside. Down here along the basin of the hill, the grass was as long as fingers, and a few bright dandelions stood splashing against the deep green. The sun sprinkled through the newly budding trees. Up ahead I noticed a dead baby bird to the side of the trail and my three-year-old daughter noticed it, too. She arced out of my arms and ran ahead, pointing. “Look, daddy, look! A bird.” We stood over the stiffened creature, the living birds sing- ing and wheeling all around us. The little bird’s tiny bead eye dully reflected the wiring of trees and sky above. It must’ve died recently, perhaps overnight. My daughter stooped down, studying the bird. “She sleeping, daddy? She go sleepy and fell out of the tree?” “She fell out of the tree all right.” “She sleeping? And now we have to put her back in the tree? So her mommy and daddy can find her?” A fly landed on the bird and I watched with unease as it tinkered with the still eye, as though it were stitching a knot. I imagined beetles and ants trickling through the grass, filing onto the scene. “Come on Bumps. We’ve got fish to catch.” I turned and started to walk. “Daddy, no. We have to give her back to her mommy and daddy.” “She’s dead, Bumps. We have to let her be.” We sat down on the bank and more or less watched the lines, mostly less. We were fishing with slip rigs and cut bait on the bot- tom but apparently the cats weren’t upriver yet. The rods leaned over the water, the tips pumping slightly in the current. Bumps squirmed and twisted on my lap. Finally she broke loose. “Bumps,” I said, standing up. “It’s dead. We can’t go messing around with it.” She gazed at me with wide eyes. “She sleeping?” “No, she’s dead. Sort of like sleeping, but permanently.” “Yeah, right, daddy, right. She sleeping. You have to wake her up. Come on.” She snatched my hand, tugging me along. There was no stop- ping her. I decided to have a funeral for the bird. Using a tree branch, ILLUSTRATIONBYLISAVANIN The Sleeping Bird MARK KRIEGER on his young daughter’s discovery of impermanence. “It’s like the bird is sleeping,” he tells her, “but it’s not going to wake up.” MARK KRIEGER, a Wisconsin writer, is currently working on a novel.