It was just a slight graze – the nose of one car slid across the back bumper of the other car. No one’s fault more than the other’s. Just too much traffic. Too much hurry. A blind crossing. In the blinding heat of the summer.
It happened right behind me, so I saw mostly mirror images of it all. But I heard the anger as it railed through my open windows. I felt the fierce and hostile energy as it slammed against my ears and eyes and heart. Where was the compassion? I expected more from women. I always do. No one asked, “Are you alright?” No one claimed “I’m sorry.” Just accusations and assumed righteousness. And the lone daughter in one of the cars watched. Her face was twisted, as she watched and listened and learned.
The light changed then, I had to move on. I couldn’t help, and it made me cry. Tears as hot and wet as the day. Sadness for the energy that broke into my heart and crushed down into me.
As I drove slowly forward, my eyes lifted up and caught in the wires and cables over our heads as they carried their own currents of energy and power. And on the wires perched rows of birds. Birds watching. Birds listening. Mockingbirds.
It seemed woefully fitting at that hurt-filled moment. Mockingbirds, after all, are some of the most prolific and beautiful of songbirds, yet they have no song of their own. Mockingbirds learn their narrative music from their environment. They learn from other birds, other animals, even manmade sounds and inanimate objects. They learn from larks and doves and sparrows and crows, and from dogs barking and cats mewing, from children laughing and strangers crying, from church bells ringing and alarms shrilling and humans shrilling.
Other birds are born to their own songs. They are given their music by their fathers and their individual tribes. But mockingbirds learn solely from what life brings before them, what life examples for them, the life that surrounds them.
As human beings, I suspect we are a bit like both of them – the larks as well as the mockingbirds. Like larks, we are taught our inherent songs by our parents and our tribes, by their voices around the dinner table and at bedtime, in our homes and in our cars. And, like mockingbirds, we also learn our songs from our outside environment – from the life experiences and examples and energy that others lay down before and around us. We learn to imitate and internalize the sounds, the actions, the energies. And they let us feel safe. And they make us cry. As if we had no song of our own.
I also suspect that the energy we ourselves put out into the universe – the songs we sing, the melodies of our own lives – affect all those who pass by and through us every day. And their children. Regardless of whether we are larks or doves, barking dogs or blaring horns, whether we are gentle or harsh, laughter or tears, sounds of peace or anger.
Perhaps during this time of restarting and rethinking, returning and retuning, this can be our time for also relearning our songs. To listen wisely, not only to each other but especially to the peacemakers among us and to the natural world – to hear those songs and lean into that energy and create new symphonies of peace and compassion and kindness. Perhaps we can look for the poets who have listened before us, and for the wisewomen who have understood the significance, and for the writers of songs and painters of beauty who have known how to share it with others. Perhaps we can look for the mockingbirds.