CERTAINTY

Sometimes it seems like every season has its very own, very special question. “What do you want for Christmas?”, or “Who do you think is going to win the Super Bowl?” or “File your taxes yet?” For me, up until lately, people have been coming up, poking me in the stomach and asking, “And… when is the baby due!” Turns out I’m one of the few creatures in nature that actually gains weight DURING migration instead of gaining it FOR migration. Who needs to see their feet anyway! But seasons change and the question now is the all too familiar, ”When are the birds going to leave?”

Now back in my school days, knowing the question before the test gave me time to prepare the correct answer. We called it Cheating! But there’s no Cheat Sheet to save me here, no Cliff Notes to lean on. Just cold, hard uncertainty…the kind that forces you to raise your arms and shrug so many times throughout the day that your shoulders ache at night. The response is clearly disappointing and unsatisfying to the inquisitor; not at all the answer they were looking for. This, despite the fact that in the literary scheme of things, a simple “I don’t know” lies somewhere between a poem and a prayer. But it’s OK. We’re all used to asking questions to which there are no answers. It fact, it surpasses baseball as the national pastime.

Of course, the question does tempt one to try to fill the void of uncertainty with a little humor and reach for a laugh with answers like, “Wait here while I go ask them.” Or “Next Tuesday morning at exactly 9:36 sharp.” Secure in the knowledge that sometimes a laugh or even just a smile is better than no laugh or smile at all…and much more fun than “I wish I knew.” But not always. After all, we live in a world that demands certainty, worships it in fact, regardless of all its inherent uncertainties, and although we are loath to admit it, certainty is the foundation upon which we construct our lives. This, despite the fact that the last words heard from the Captain of the Titanic were, “Oh Lord, forgive us for our certainties!” He knew, as do we, of its exquisite intoxication; that it’s the cheapest drug there is… if you don’t count the consequences. Sadly, my own grasp of the stuff has faded with age. But like the Zen Master said to the grasshopper, “Hey man, sometimes ya just gotta believe.”

“No… seriously! When are those birds going to leave?” Well, some folks were sure our chicks would leave with the other whoopers (not). Others were positive they would leave with the sandhills (not not); forgetting, maybe, that comparing our chicks to either is like expecting an apple to roll like an orange.( I mean, how many times have you sat next to a fruit basket and heard an apple say to a grapefruit, “Let’s roll!” ) Still others believe without a shadow of a doubt the chicks will do what the chicks in past years have done at St. Marks and Chass and leave after the whoopers and sandhills, sometime between the end of the third week in March and the end of the second week in April, possibly ratcheting this up a bit allowing for the unusually early spring.

But if we can be certain of anything, it is that Mother Nature is the consummate magician with an infinitely deep bag of tricks with which to dazzle and surprise and fill our lives with unending wonder. Perhaps rather than spending our time trying to figure out just how she does the trick, we should just kick back, put our feet up and enjoy the performance.

“But…when ARE those birds going to leave?”

“Only the Shadow knows…”

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