Recently I hiked with a friend through the Alakai Swamp Trail. A perfect day for a hike, not too hot, and the rain held off until we safely scampered to the trail’s not too slippery end. My life was dipping and turning and I was grateful for a respite in Mother Nature to get more clarity, a little peace, from the murky journey ahead. We scooted over to the Kalalau lookout afterwards; while walking across the parking lot I noticed a hen, rounded, hunkered, and awkwardly placed on the asphalt next to a parked car.
“Is she laying eggs?” I asked Vee.
I looked at the hen and tried to telepathically explain to her that this was the stupidest, I mean, not safest place to lay her newborns into the Earth. And yet, she didn’t exactly look like she was laying eggs. I was perplexed and agitated that this hen was so precariously placed and there was nothing I could do about it.
I remember having a conversation once with a friend about trusting the perfection of life’s greater plan. She had said to me, astutely, that I was a “know it all.”
“Are you a perfectionist?” she asked.
“No,” I replied into the phone as I looked at my disheveled bedroom.
“Yes, perfectionist isn’t the right word – it’s like you know it all?”
“Know it all?”
“Well, how can I put this, when you got the job offer, you said no because you didn’t want it to be like the last -"
“Well, right, I didn’t want to repeat the past –"
“Right, it's not the past, it's the present, you live on Kaua`i now, not Philadelphia, and you were probably right, but did you really know?”
“Huh? But I wouldn’t be able to travel whenever I wanted to –"
“Did you know that? I mean, really know that? What if you could have traveled and had the job, what if it ended up that there was more flexibility, did you know this already? Did you give the Universe a chance? Or did you say No, that won't work?”
I was silent. It ended up that it was perfect I didn’t chase the mentioned job, but the conversation was well placed. I often summarized a situation before it was allowed to breathe. Wrote it off and moved on to the Next. I knew what was best.
As the rain started to pick up again, I looked at this confused Hen Mother and wondered, why she would pick a highly trafficked area to birth her babies, or whatever it was that she was doing. I moved a couple of steps forward, but mindful not to move into her personal field. There was something about the breadth of her wings, about the steady stare in her eyes, something that I was missing.
I looked closely at her breast and her fully fluffed wings; my eyes fell where feathers and asphalt met, and I saw too many feet moving - at least four chicken feet; two pairs facing each other. Her wings opened to reveal four baby chicks being sheltered by the rain.
Their mom’s movement left everybody in a cold wet confusion. Mom and babies turned in a few circles, before moving further up the parking lot and resettling into a warm feathered refuge. Mom facing the rain; babies nestled, again unseen, to her breast.
The unveiling was a suspended moment. I had never known that hens did that. Then smack – the beauty of motherhood. The perfection of Nature. The selflessness. The tenderness of that sweet mama hen. I stood there stupefied and schooled. I had no idea.
My first reaction to nature is often – why are you doing that?
Kate: Why is the bee headed toward the ocean waves? It’ll get killed, that silly bee!
Mother Nature: Because this is where they come to die.
Kate: Why is that foolish Mina bird so close to the road? Move!
Mother Nature: Because he mated for life, and his mate was run-over, see? He is mourning her, and has nowhere else to go without her.
Kate: Why is that Shama Bird building her nest there? Doesn’t she know that is the worst spot possible? Silly bird
Mother Nature: Kate, come look. Hear the chirps of her three beautiful newborn babies.
I had watched the Shama Bird build her nest on the top shelf of our boat shaped shoe rack. What a ludicrous spot, I thought. She often flew out and away whenever we came out the front door. Frightened.
Seeing that she was determined to birth there, I started a meditation practice with her. I would quietly slip out the door, tip toe past the shoe rack, stop a good four feet away, and breathe from my heart, telling her she was safe and welcome. A few days of doing this and she met my eyes, although still a little frightened, she held my gaze, and beckoned me closer. We shared a moment and I saw the same love and tenderness that I see in the eyes of human mom’s whose children are still belly bound. Each day she let me closer; I was careful never to get too close, be too loud, or too invasive. And one day, just like that, I heard “look closer” and three little beaks, on three wobbly necks screeched their wormy wishes.
Just like that the babies were born safe and sound. Without my explaining of inadequacies, or inappropriateness of better places and times, Mama Shama, as I call her, knowingly gave birth to three little Shamas and shed a little light on one ignorant human. Who knows the dips and turns of what is best, why things are the way they are. We are always children of learning, and it seems Mother still knows best.