Birdy Numb Numb


I blame it on the rain. Frozen rain, to be exact.

Our tale starts innocently enough—the hero gets up pre-dawn for work and checks the weather. He inspects the street out front through his window. No ice. He unlocks his bike and notices no ice coating it like slime on Bill Murray’s Ghostbuster. The rain is melting what remaining ice which may have accumulated overnight. The dude checks the alley way leading to the side street, and finds it clear of slippery stuff. The guy then hops on the bike, dashes downhill down the alley towards the first street. Mp3 player is set to “thumpalicious bass.”

Then the aforementioned blame-worthy ice touches wheels and the hapless hero-slash-sucker wipes out in spectacular Evel Knievel fashion. Curses spill from his mouth while his legs get splayed and twisted like a Thanksgiving turkey. He slides across to the other side like an errant hockey puck and stares at the branches jutting out from the nearby tree. He hears a few birds chirping.

Our stubborn lad gets up, fixes his dented bike up and walks to the main street. No ice. He rides his bike, gingerly, to work. Mp3 player adjusted to “healing Tibetan singing bowls” vibe for the ride in. He doesn’t encounter one molecule of ice the rest of the way, which is fortunate, because sliding under a bus is something he is not a fan of.

The sucker in question (for illustration’s sake, let’s just say he’s me) begins to get increased back pain. So I (remember I’m the anti-here) decide to cut out early. For those of you who may not know, I had a herniated disc last year at around this time. I would rather not celebrate the anniversary with a re-enactment of those nine weeks of pain and suffering. I took today off to spend quality time with my cane, codeine, naproxen, epsom salts and my bed. One other thing I did was luxuriate in was some long meditations. And that’s where things started to click for me, at a different level. Another kind of healing.

Delicious, smoky healing.
Delicious, smoky healing.

I settled into my usual sitting position in the basement and put on some new meditation music. I don’t always listen to music, but I was moved to on this occasion. The swollen sounds of gentle chords filled the air, carried on the clouds of Nag Champa incense. I closed my eyes. A few minutes later I heard them. The birds. It is common to have bird sounds in some sacred music. I once read that the sounds are put there as a reminder of the power and grace of the Creator; the subtle emphasis that the Universal Mind is always present. A kind of slap upside the head to say “oy! I’m here, ya hear?”

It brought me back to the birds I heard while lying flat on my back. It reminded me that no matter how dark things are, no matter what pain we are in or how numb we are to things around us, the light is always there. We may not even see it, or even hear it, but it’s there. We just have to be open to it. I have experienced this in all areas of my life—from my recovery to other situations where things appeared dire, then blossomed into something positive and life-affirming later on. I am usually too busy pointing out the negatives rather than seeking that one dart of light that has crept in. It’s in my nature.

The greatest shift in my growth continues to be that of putting my faith in faith. It’s in cultivating the practice of understanding that no matter what happens, things will be taken care of. I may not get my way, but things will be taken care of. It means taking the actions attached in having faith, but leaving the outcome to the universe. I can’t lie on the couch waiting for a Pulitzer Prize—I need to write. Faith isn’t an esoteric notion. It’s work. And realizing that is what propels me to do better, to strive higher, to navigate through the landmines. It’s about pushing through.

If a couch isn't available, a bearskin rug always works.
If a couch isn’t available, a bearskin rug always works.

I think of the caged canaries in the mines of old. They were the measurement of where those men stood before life and death. They were reminders of what came from the light above while they toiled in the darkness below. There are countless analogies and examples of birds representing life sprinkled through literature and our collective stories and wisdom. Birds emerge as harbingers of hope. There is always hope.

The universe is a wacky thing. It likes to speak, but not with words per se. Sometimes it does, but it likes to show rather than tell. Just like a good author is supposed to. Don’t tell me the moon in shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass, as Chekhov is purported as saying, a pro tip to new writers. Or in my case, a near-broken ass glimpsing at the moonlight on the ground inches from a parked car. Not as romantic, of course, but illuminating nonetheless. I also realize that I am taken care of by these injuries, in a weird way. I take these as signs to slow down. Chill out. Thaw the numbness of stress and shutting down. Oh universe, couldn’t you have sent me an email instead? So while I lay there on that cold and icy street, I knew that things were fine. I was banged up, but alive. I was good. I heard the birds. I knew they were a brief reminder that I am always taken care of. As long as I have faith in who created them in the first place, all is well. I will take my blows in this life, but when I take a look at the big picture, I see that I am blessed. The little winged angels remind me of this daily.

All noble and shit

17 Comments Add yours

  1. I love this! I am a huge believer in birds as signs from the spiritual world. I have had them show up at the most crucial times in my life as reminders that the universe is good. Owls in particular used to haunt my sleep when I was crazy stressed and drinking too much.

    I hope your back feels better — I am currently waiting out a back injury of my own.


    1. Paul S says:

      I hear you about the birds. I had turtles in mine, so I tend to lean towards turtles as sort of spiritual animal (not that there are many turtles here in Toronto!) But I love what you said about birds showing up at crucial points for you.

      I also hope your back gets better as well – a chronic thing, or a one-off type thing? Regardless, heal up. It’s rather depressing and annoying when you can’t move much and/or in pain.

      Thanks Shawna for visiting!


      1. Thanks, Paul. Turtles! That’s pretty funny because they don’t just show up, especially in Toronto. One of my friends has dolphins as her special sign animal, so I guess that’s pretty much the same thing.

        I am starting to think this is a chronic back issue because it comes back every time I really challenge myself physically. It is depressing, because it makes you feel older than you really are.
        Have a great evening and thanks for stopping by. ; )

  2. Rosie says:

    Where is the I love this! 👍key to press? “The greatest shift in my growth continues to be that of putting my faith in faith” Brilliant.

    1. Paul S says:

      Ha ha thanks 🙂

  3. byebyebeer says:

    Riding a bike in winter is not for the faint of heart. I hope your back is better today. Be careful out there. Great post and pics, as usual.

    1. Paul S says:

      It’s my thing, this riding in winter. It’s my transportation, but it’s also my freedom and my way of decompressing. It’s the space between work obligations and home obligations, so when it gets disrupted by flats and all that kind of nonsense, it’s messes me up in many ways! But the back is better today – I am hoping by the weekend I will be back to normal. Thanks Kristen!

      1. byebyebeer says:

        I get that need to decompress, totally. Wishing you safe travels for the rest of winter. I bet you love spring. Glad your back is better already, smart of you to take the time to rest and heal.

        1. Paul S says:

          Thanks again Kristen! I actually don’t mind the winter commutes, but it WILL be nice to not use two mitts and a balaclava and all that other heavy stuff!

  4. Our humble had had me laughing and reflecting this afternoon. Thanks for the gift of your words, Paul. You speak of the word-less communications of the universe better than anyone. And it is a wonderful reminder to never give up hope. And keep those eyes looking up!

  5. hahaha, oh boy.. I’ve taken the same sort of tumble while merrily skipping along a sidewalk that I assumed was safe. Next thing I know I looking like a baby giraffe learning to walk for the first time, but in fast forward speed. Thanks for the giggle 🙂

  6. I Quit Wineing says:

    I remember ‘ invisible’ ice from my childhood. Nasty stuff! Thankfully I live in a warmer climate these days so ice is not a problem, only the scorching sun which deters me from getting on a bike in the first place. Love the bird example. Even now as I type this I can hear a kookaburra outside my window. Natures healing sounds.

  7. ainsobriety says:

    It’s beautiful that you noticed the birds. Mindfulness spills into everything we do when it is part of our practice.
    Backs are dicey things. I had horrible pain this summer and thought it was a disk, but the osteopath realigned me and it resolved.
    It did teach me a valuable lesson in pain that has been useful in my yoga teaching. I understand how it feels for a back to go into spasm and what makes it worse. Maybe that makes me a more effective teacher.

    I hope the freezing rain is done for the season!

  8. I love birds!
    Now I can hear them with my cochlear implant!
    Before, I never could!
    I really need to be open to hope and faith.
    Especially faith.
    I hope your back is back to normal!

    1. Paul S says:

      Hi Wendy – so glad about being able to hear them now – what a blessing.
      Thanks for the well wishes – the back is healing very slowly, but it is getting better daily. I hope you are doing well and I appreciate you stopping by and reading!


  9. furtheron says:

    I don’t ride things with less than 4 wheels. It’s simple physics of stability 😉

    1. Paul S says:

      Ha ha! I get that! Maybe I should get one of the three-wheeled ATV type vehicles!

      Nice to see you Graham – hope you’re well!

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