Pets / Spirituality

The green tree in your heart


Five years ago on Easter Sunday, I awoke early in the morning, sensing something was about to change. Soon after, I went into labor.

While Christians everywhere celebrated the resurrection of Christ, I awaited the arrival of my daughter. She was born the next evening, but Easter and birth are now inextricably linked in my mind. It is no coincidence either that her name means “to ascend, or rise”.

This Easter Sunday, we experienced a different kind of transition. Our parrotlet, Picchu, died sometime during the night. The Easter basket and egg hunt in the front yard was ready for my daughter, but we were faced with also having to explain to her that our pet had died. Picchu had been very sick for the past 36 hours, and received treatment from the avian vet. She seemed to be doing better last night, and we were cautiously hopeful that she would pull through.

We went ahead and took care of the Easter activities, and then broke the news. Children are not the only ones who have a difficult time grasping the physical permanence of death. We all struggle on some level, even after experiencing a loss and understanding that our loved ones are no longer physically present with us.

I held Picchu in my hand, stroked her brilliant green feathers and felt tremendous poignancy. As we were celebrating the ascension of Christ  and our daughter’s imminent birth day (ascending literally from the womb, as the obstetrician lifted her out during my c-section) we were also preparing to return our pet to the earth. I’ve lived with birds my entire life,  and also know symbolically that birds often represent a kind of divine intermediary because of their ability to straddle both earth and sky.

According to the article, “Birds As A Spiritual Symbol of The Divine“:

Middle Eastern and Asian cultures often speak of birds as symbols of immortality. In East Indian myth, every bird in the world represents a departed soul, and in Christian art, birds often appear as saved souls.

And in Christian symbolism, the dove is an icon representing the Holy Spirit.

I found out today that the Japanese celebrate the Buddha’s birthday on April 8 (most Buddhists celebrate it a month later) during a festival called Hana Matsuri (Flower Festival.) An altar is decorated with flowers containing a small statue of the Buddha as a newborn in the center. Buddhism has been central to my understanding of birth and death as two aspects of the same process. The ending of one cycle to begin another is necessary and natural. Even as we mourn death, we are simultaneously rejoicing in life renewed.

It seemed to me as we were laying Picchu to rest that the birds outside in the trees were unusually vocal. Later, a Chinese proverb that I particularly love came to mind: “If you keep a green tree in your heart, perhaps the singing bird will come.”

Today, I reflect on three things: the loss of our feathered family member, the eternal promise of the risen Christ, and the birth of my daughter.

Daily, I will tend that green tree in my heart and await the bird song.

(Photo credit: Amy Loves Yah)

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