24: On Scarlet Wing

24: On Scarlet Wing

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

On Scarlet Wing

The union of heaven and earth is the origin of the whole of nature.

~I Ching

The restored 1883 brick carriage house boasts high ceilings, a huge natural stone fireplace, and four large windows in the living room. Peering out the wavy glass of the side windows, I sighed in despair. In the country home I had just sold after my husband’s death, the windows looked out on a bird feeder with a pair of cardinals flitting about. Here I looked out at a junk heap of city litter — bottles, cans, rags, papers, plastic bags, and foam cartons.

I appreciated the urban conveniences of this restored carriage house in the city, but I missed my birds. I planned to install bird feeders, and I sure hadn’t expected the side yard to harbor a city dump! After a day of filling recycling bins and trash barrels with the many years of debris, I unearthed a little square of earth.

I hung large, squirrel-proof feeders and a suet cage from an old shade tree that crowned my new patch of yard. Sparrows and pigeons explored first, but soon black-capped chickadees, a pair of downy woodpeckers and a pair of mourning doves arrived. On occasion a blue jay wandered by to see what was happening and then one day I saw a spot of red in the bushes. And a pair of cardinals thrilled my heart.

The male cardinal became a persistent visitor to the black oil sunflower seeds. His boldness amazed me! When I checked my mailbox outside, he appeared. Wherever I walked, he was there. Was he following me? One day my son was helping at a neighbor’s house. How I wished his father could see him now. A flash of scarlet caught my eye and there was the cardinal clinging precariously to a string of ivy that adorned the adjacent brick wall. My heart fluttered. Could it be my husband letting me know he was still nearby?

The following day my husband’s sister visited, and as we crossed the patch of lawn between buildings I started to tell her about the cardinal’s strange presence. I halted. “Shhh!” There, on the grass near our path, sat — the cardinal! Furthermore, he made no attempt to leave.

Different birds came and went; a pair of red polls one season, black grackles another, but for some reason the cardinals never returned. Then one day as I was going through a trying period, I wept as I begged my husband, “If you are still around, please show me a sign — a rose or a cardinal.” Dawn slithered in with cold, wet rainy snow and I sighed, as my feeder was empty. Staring out with sleepy eyes I saw it. A cardinal just sitting on the wet ground outside my window. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief — looked again, it was still there — definitely a cardinal. The bird flew off but now I am content. My husband’s spirit remains, still looking after me!

~Esther Griffin

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