A Call for Help ~ Finding Grace Through Surrender

ImageIt was the last Sunday in October and I got up early like I do every morning now to walk my sweet beagle Molly.  Molly’s demeanor was nervous and a bit unsteady this morning.  Whimpering, she had relieved her bowels on the floor just before I woke.  I wasn’t surprised.  Hurricane Sandy was forecasted to touch down later that night and the barometric pressure and pending hurricane had her and my cat Dictator stressed and pacing.  I put her in her green hemp harness and we did our normal trek around the southern part of Central Park, past the children’s playground, around the skating ring and circling the pond.  Molly’s body and temperament always relaxed in the park and we eased into stride together.

On our way home down 6th Ave we turned onto 55th Street.  As we walked towards our building my attention was drawn to a man standing motionless on the sidewalk holding a Starbucks cup with his gaze purposefully fixed on the pavement in front of him.  As I approached, I realized he was watching a beautiful bird lying very still on the sidewalk. The bird was exotic looking sporting brown and gold plumage and a long pointed bill.  It was lying so very still on the sidewalk that it appeared to be stuffed like one you might see in some extravagant dried flower arrangement.  When I moved in closer, however, I noticed the quick rise and fall of the bird’s chest as breath moved in and out of its body.  It appeared to be stunned.  I asked the man staring at it what had happened, as the bird wasn’t there when Molly and I began our walk forty minutes ago.  The man standing over the bird said he didn’t know, he had just walked out to get coffee, came back and here it was.  I assumed, much like Molly and my cat Dictator it was in shock and stressed from the pressure changes in the atmosphere and the wonky weather the storm was bringing in.  It was a beautiful bird, partridge sized with a wide fanned tail and a very long narrow pointed beak.  A sand piper, perhaps?  Those were the only long billed birds I knew.

I asked the doorman of the building the bird was in front of to help us out but he threw up his hands and walked away wanting nothing to do with it.  Others walked by the bird without a glance, some almost stepping on it, others shrieked or shuddered and crossed to the far end of the sidewalk to pass, a dog stopped to sniff it.  Even the man who was standing over it hemmed and hawed when I asked him to take out his phone and start to make some calls.  He bucked the responsibility saying he didn’t know who to call, didn’t want to take it on, wasn’t his task to deal with.  Oh for peets sake.  Ever the New York pedestrian mentality to turn a blind eye.  I realized then Spirit was asking me to do this.  I took Molly home, grabbed my phone and started making some calls, first to a 24 hour emergency vet down the street, who referred me to the Avian Society who then referred me to the Wild Bird Fund where I spoke with a lively woman who was mesmerized that a Sand Piper would be in Manhattan and told me to bring it in immediately.  They were on 86th and Columbus.  In two minutes, I was in action.

I felt a fluttering in my belly.  I wasn’t quite sure how to do this.  I need something to transport the bird in.  I rummaged through my closet and dug out a plastic storage container that had a lid.  I also grabbed my red pashmina.  Might as well travel in style.  I left Molly upstairs and returned to the beautiful bird on the sidewalk.  I stopped and stared at it for a long time.  I made a clumsy attempt to pick the bird up but it flew itself a foot or two off the ground and then skidded down the street.  This bird doesn’t want my help I thought.  I persevered just like a mother giving medicine to a resistant child.  I kneeled beside the bird said a prayer and told the bird that I was going to get it help and that I was a friend to animals.  A neighbor of mine stopped by just then and offered to hold the plastic storage container while I attempted to collect the bird.  As she held the storage bin in her hands, I squatted next to the bird and took out my pashmina and wrapped the bird in it.  It fluttered at first but eventually stilled itself.  The bird settled into a comfortable position in the box.  My neighbor hailed a cab and I got in holding the box to my chest tightly as I gently hummed a medicine song to soothe both my nerves and the nerves of the bird.  I noticed during the cab ride if I loosened my grip on the box or stopped singing the bird became agitated but if I continued to sing and cradle the plastic storage container to my heart, the birds agitation eased.

I arrived at the Wild Bird Fund and rang the bell.  A lovely silver-haired woman with a gentle heart-centered disposition answered the door.  She smiled when she saw me and peered into the box.  “That’s a woodcock,” she said. “It’s a woodland bird.”    I marveled.  I had never heard of a woodcock.  She gave me paper work to fill out about where and how I came to find this bird.  In the paperwork there was a section for the bird to be named.  I put ‘unknown.’   I finished the paperwork and the lovely Ms. Doolittle-like woman came back out.  “It’s most likely in shock.  We’ll get it x-rayed to make sure nothing is broken and nurse it back to health and then release it after the hurricane has passed.  We name the birds after the person that brings them in” she told me.  “This one will be named Isis.”  Isis, the woodcock.  I was speechless.

Weepy I returned home.  It was a haunting parallel.  A week earlier, I had sprained my ankle on the way to a performance with Theatre Group Dzieci.  I was in Brooklyn and had just gotten off the subway.  I was doing nothing more than walking when I zigged and my ankle zagged and I was left in a crumpled heap on the sidewalk.  My nervous system was shocked.  I couldn’t move or stand.  Three people passed with concerned looks but didn’t stop nor did I ask them to.  I rationalized in my head how far I could hop on one foot and how much energy it would take to muscle through the performance that night.  I tried to pull myself up on scaffolding that was near by only to crumple down again.  Ask for help a voice circled in my head.  Uggghhhh!  I HATED asking for help.  Begrudgingly my shaky hand pulled out my phone and called and sent text messages to my company members.  Most responded right away.  Megan whizzed up on her bike wild eyed her long blonde hair flying behind her.  She grabbed my garment bag that I was holding my costume in and helped me to my feet so that I could lean against the scaffolding.  Next Zach rounded the corner from the subway and Yvonne came up on her bike.  I was surrounded.  All right I asked for help, so now what?  I met every level of resistance to help in this moment.  I tried to put pressure on the ankle only to suck in breath in pain.  Yvonne told me to get on the bike.  Zach and Megan steadied me as I mounted it and each took a handle bar and we were off.  A string of obscenities exited my mouth as my nervous system recalibrated itself and shook off the trauma.  This was a moment both totally humiliating, and secretly joyous.  I mean when was the last time I got pushed on a bicycle uphill?  It was like being on a kiddie ride at an amusement park or like when I was first learning to ride without training wheels mom and dad on each handle bar. They pushed me for three blocks uphill while I worked through my inner levels of resistance.  When I arrived to our performance location they took me inside and gave me arnica and ice.  It was a profound moment.  I asked for help and received it.  Everything I needed in this moment was provided.

Crisis has a way of bringing people together and reminds us to both ask for help and to take care of each other.  I didn’t necessarily want support with my injury but I was guided to ask for it and was shown just how much resistance I had to receiving it.  I was also amazed at the state of grace that was offered when I finally surrendered to receive help –  it was provided instantly.  It was, in many ways, my soul’s purpose and lesson to take care of Isis the woodcock, just as it was also my lesson to receive help and be taken care of earlier by the actors of Dzieci.  Standing on both sides of care taking, I see that there is a great healing and catharsis, even an intimacy that is created when we are asked to give help and to receive help.  A request for support from someone helps us rise to a new level of strength and power and often takes us to new places that we would not willingly enter into or create for ourselves.  Most of our good intentions to offer selfless service remain just that, good intentions that are never acted upon.  But when an opportunity creates itself to give and receive help directly, we have an opportunity to step into the role of creator in a miracle.  Being in a position to offer help allows us to call on inner creative resources that are not often used.  I am reminded of a Morley song lyric in this moment “When you are feeling helpless, help someone.”  By not asking for help I actually deprive my friends and family of an experience of transformation and grace that we could both experience and an opportunity to further the intimacy and connection between myself and my tribe.  I am especially thankful to Theatre Group Dzieci and Isis the Woodcock for offering me the opportunity to learn what is possible when we surrender fully to the support and grace of the universe.  Take care of each other.


Isis Phoenix

Sensual Shaman