The other morning,
instead of meditating,
I watched two Steller’s jays fledge.

Of all the voices in the bird world,
jays must have the most obnoxious.
They screech, and they squawk,
and they are constantly making trouble.
But even jays are cute when they fledge.

First they were on the ground,
flopping, and cheeping, and acting helpless.
Then one found its feet and stood up
and looked around
and began making for a boulder, the one
with the young cherry tree beside it.

The fledgling struggled
through clumps of bunchgrass
and the thick stems of daisies
and fell over with every other step it took
but it continued on.

Then it tried to fly up onto the rock.
Its short little wings and stubby tail
did not have enough strength
to get it that high,
but it launched itself again and again,
until it landed on the bottom of the wire cage
protecting the young tree.

The little jay cocked its head this way and that,
considering the options,
then climbed up the inside of the cage.
When it reached the top,
it pulled its top half through the wire with its wings,
but then the bottom half would not follow,
caught as it was by the feet gripping the wire.

The bird flapped its wings a few times
and I was afraid for it.  My heart beat fast
but the bird did not panic.

It did not beat its wings in a frantic bid for freedom
and get ever more caught in the wire,
but instead rested, and considered,
and then calmly hopped out onto the boulder
and called from the new heights it had reached
in a voice that was nearly adult.

Then it fell off the boulder.

Meanwhile, its sibling was trying
to return to the nest.
It found the ladder leaning against the house
and hopped up
one rung at a time
and cheeped and cheeped for help.
The parents were watching carefully,
but help was not forthcoming.

The first fledgling came to the ladder too
but finding an end to its reach,
flew back to the ground
and made for the old oak,
which it began to climb.

Scratching, and scrabbling,
and using its wings for balance,
it reached a leafy twig about four feet up,
where it rested.
The next time I looked,
it had climbed another six feet.

I have not seen it since.

Let me be like the first fledgling.
If I find myself flopping gracelessly on the ground,
let me make for the nearest high point
so I can see what to do next.

If I get caught in a cage,
let me not panic,
but calmly consider what to do.

If I fall, as I know I will,
let me know Earth will catch me,
and then let me try the next thing.

If that does not take me high enough,
let me strike out for something higher,
knowing that eventually,
I will find my wings and soar,
screeching at the top of my lungs,
to make good trouble
somewhere in the world.