Sparrow Song, Moving On
The song sparrows made a home outside my window long before I arrived. When I moved into my apartment in February 2020, I discovered their nest outside my south-facing bedroom window. The café below me has two bright blue awnings that slowly roll out each morning, and the collection of twigs sat right at the top, across from an adjacent tree branch. Before opening, I could hear the café owner sweeping the sidewalk, paired with the whistling birds outside. Sometimes they’d get so loud it seemed unbearable, but I learned over time to tune out the noise. One night, a friend stopped by to watch a documentary with me, and in the middle of the show he paused it and said, “What is it? 6am or something?” and I suddenly recognized their scream-singing voices, communicating with each other about something that couldn’t wait until morning.
When the sparrows sing, I think it comes from a place of love, or desire, or a need to protect each other. They don’t sing out of self-hate, or impatience, or loathing. It’s for survival. A message so simple: I need it to be known that I’m here, that I’m wanting, that I’m aware.
When I moved into this apartment building, it was one month before the pandemic started. Before I signed the lease, I was afraid of feeling lonely and missing my family and friends, but I told myself that I would build a network of support over time. I could have never anticipated becoming a covid nurse only a month later and being forced into total isolation from everyone around me. I quickly had to make peace with solitude and uncertainty in ways I never could have imagined.
During that time, the only constant company I had were the sparrows. When I sat on a bench in the park, they would hop up and sit beside me, tilting their heads and chirping. I shared food crumbs with them and watched them silently jump in between my feet, always curious and always present. I read next to them, talked to them, tried (and failed) to gain enough trust to touch them. But I didn’t need to physically feel them to know that they enjoyed sharing space with me too.
Nests should be constructed to cultivate safety, to serve as a warm place to return to -but they don’t always have to exist in a physical spot like the one above the café awning. What I realized during those difficult times, and continue to realize, is that my own safe places are made through my connections with other people and my connection with myself. I was surrounded by so much tragedy and trauma each day in 2020, and sadly continue to experience that, so it’s always been essential for me to come home to a healing space. Returning to myself each night meant confronting some parts of myself I had been avoiding, learning to show compassion to even the most difficult or frustrating bits.
A few weeks ago, I woke up and couldn’t hear the birds anymore. I realized that it may have been weeks – even months? – since I heard their call outside my window. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or a metaphor or a meaningless fact that the day I acknowledged the absence of their windowsill home was around the same time I decided to move out of Philadelphia. Today, while starting to pack books away and sell furniture, I prepared myself to face new and unfamiliar types of uncertainty. It became clear to me that to move forward, I had to take a leap and move out of the place I’ve called home for years. Maybe that’s why the birds left the blue café awning – they needed a new place to spread their wings.
My messages, like theirs, are simple: I will exist in this space even when it’s hard. I will wish for things to be different but accept what I can’t control. I will feel the pain and heartache of the world around me, but I will also feel the same cool breeze that the song sparrows do – and what a gift that is, to share joy with other beings as fragile and resilient as I am.