A Tiny Death

During rush hour, while running errands, I saw a flock of doves touch down on the street ahead of me. This is a chronically busy street, and doves are usually good with their timing.

"Flight" reductive drawing, charcoal on paper. © Quinn McDonald, 2008.

As I got closer, most of the doves flew across the street. One of them turned toward my speeding car and lifted off. I felt the thump under my car and winced.

It was a small death, unavoidable (slamming on my brakes would have caused an accident, no way I could change lanes) but sad.

When I came back from my first errand, a group of people stood in front of the car. The dove had flown directly into my grill, and was dead, but stuck. The small crowd took photos with their cell phones. They asked me what I was going to do. I asked for volunteers to remove the bird. The crowd dispersed quickly.

I felt sick. Over the death of a bird. I also could not bring myself to touch the firmly lodged bird in my grill. I finished errands and drove home. I could not bring myself to clear the bird from the grill. I’m pretty tough. I’ve come across some pretty messy auto accidents and stopped to help. I’ve broken bones in Taikwondo and continued to the end of the match. I’ve had pets run over and taken them to the vet. But this one small life, these fragile wings stopped in mid flight undid me.

I still don’t know why. I’m not exploring why. I called my car mechanic, who not only removed the bird, but didn’t charge me for doing it. Afterwards, I sat in the car and cried. I had the car washed.

Every day in my city, in every big city, people are made homeless, are shot, are falsely accused, are beaten, suffer and die. And I’m crying about a bird with a bad sense of direction.

At the end of every blog post, I try to write a summary, draw a conclusion, explain a lesson. Today there is none. Not that I can see or know. So there it is–just a vignette. Sometimes we don’t understand it all.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She doesn’t understand much, but that which she understands, she is sure of.


40 thoughts on “A Tiny Death

  1. Heading home one afternoon I saw a meadow lark on the side of the road. As I got closer he launched himself straight at my front tire in a mad attach. There was slight bump as it lost the battle against the fast moving rubber and metal monster. I cried all the way home for that little suicidal feather ball.

    • It’s so hard to accept that we can be driving and kill something. Even though it is not our intention or will, it still happens. The innocence of death is enough to undo a strong person.

  2. Thank you for sharing this –it is a small death, yes, but a touching experience. I am glad you were able to share it even though it was a difficult write and you aren;t quite sure how to sum up the effects the bird’s death had on you.Everyone and everything in the Universe, indeed, are in some way connected.

  3. The value of small living things is inestimable – it’s arrogance to think we’re any more important than any other creature. I travel rural roads and apologise to the poor little dead bugs I clean of my car. If someone heard me saying “you poor wee things, I’m sorry” . . . so yes, I’d be affected too, by the dead and by the ghouls taking the photos.

    • Bless you for that kindness. Who are we, indeed, to think we are more important. And “top of the food chain” is a relative idea, isn’t it, depending on the view? I’ve never won a battle with a roach.

  4. I communicate with animals. It’s not that hard, but it is about listening. Normally, I remain quiet until I’m asked to interpret animal messages. Your dove, however, is insistent that I step in.

    When I’m not *getting* a message from Universe, a critter will run past my path. Once, a squirrel did the same thing to me that the dove did to you. It just dove under my tires. I just had to STOP and open to the message then. It was such a desperate act and so unconditionally loving on the part of the squirrel…

    In general, everyone knows doves represent peace. But they also represent forgiveness, especially in family matters. Since it sacrificed it’s bodily life to send a message (I don’t believe in coincidences) to you, some things you might ask yourself include:
    * Is there something or someone you’re not forgiving and that’s standing in the way of your personal peace?
    * Are you more in tune with the Shadow side of life right now and running from it rather than forgiving what the Shadow is bringing forward for you to see?

    Animals are very respectful of personal privacy and, where I was lead to share the above, I am also lead to tell you that from here, it’s your journey. With that said, I’ll stand out of the way. Please take what you find valuable & leave the rest where it lay.

    I wish you the best!

    • It was so brave to speak your message when you have no idea of the reaction. Forgiveness is always a blessing, and generally requires a sign. Thank you for stepping up to bring this message. It was so pitiful to see him face me and fly into the car. Thank you for your kindness.

  5. I think what made you cry was the smallness of it. We cannot really do anything much to change big things, like homelessness, HIV, gangs, drugs, etc. But we can help ONE person, or animal. That’s why the death of Jack the Cat broke me. I cry over the cats (and dogs) of this world, because anything bigger is overwhelming to me.

  6. People have touched on so many important things in these comments. For me, the horrendous agony I feel when animals die trying to negotiate the human world is that they struggle heroically every day to survive in situations that are not natural to them and they have little control over. An animal (or for me, even an insect) that is overwhelmed and suffers in these circumstances symbolizes our own core helplessness and sorrow and our own heroic struggle everyday just to live with aliveness. Namaste.

  7. Oh, Quinn, I was crying as I read this. I’ve experienced similar things, and the capacity for human compassion in instances such as this is always profound. Thank you for sharing.

  8. In a world where there is so much suffering, crying for a dead bird is beautiful; if more people were capable to cry for the death of animals,
    the world woudn’t be the same.Thanks for sharing Quinn .

  9. Once I was driving the back roads of my small town here, and the car ahead of me hit one of three mynah birds that were flying low across the road. The bird tumbled, flapped it’s wings, and struggled to move. I had to stop. It’s companions returned, and while I watched, pushed it with their beaks, encouraging it (I was sure) to fly away with them. It stopped moving, and I got out of my car. The two friends hopped to the side, keeping an eye on us both, and started talking frantically. By the time I got to the bird, it was dead. I gently picked it up and moved it to the grasses, with its two friends hopping and talking around us. I stepped back and they rushed in, nudging it with their beaks, and even pulling at it, talking, talking all the while. I cried at their loss, and our wanton recklessness in speeding vehicles. I left before they did, and I’ve never forgotten that small death.

    I don’t always comment, but I’m always grateful for your beautiful insights, Quinn.

    • I think the small deaths, like Kaisa said below, are ones we can let ourselves feel. We understand tragedy in small doses. The morning of the other two birds with you as witness is touching.

      • Quinn, this post, like many of your others, has really touched me deeply. I wish to apologize because when I first read your words I wasn’t even able to stay in the emotion and empathize with you. Instead, I jumped away into a painful past experience of my own. I’ve read and re-read your words, and as much as I can from this distant shore, gone with you through those hours and feelings.

        As you and others have noted, there is a great deal of beautiful insight that has been revealed by this discussion, which you in your bravery have prompted. This may have been a tiny death, but it has enlivened our awareness and connections.

        I am drawn to share this poem with you and the others.


        It has been a constant ally for the past three weeks or so, after a beloved yoga teacher read it aloud at the end of a particularly heart-opening class. I hope that you are relieved of the suffering that this death has caused you; and I thank you as always for opening your heart and studio to us all.

        • What a beautiful poem. Your mynah bird story was full of empathy and very responsive to Quinn’s quest for understanding as she described it.

        • The poem brought me wonder, understanding, and healing. Thank you so much for posting the link. While I’m sorry I pulled you into a memory you didn’t want, I’m so glad you came back and posted the link. You and others have brought such insight to this incident.

  10. I think you felt it because it’s just human to do so. If we felt fully all the sad and terrible things around us we would not be able to cope. Mourning the death of a dove is just as precious as mourning any other instance of death and suffering.

    Maybe the Dire Straits applies here too. It is the cycle of life. May all beings be free of suffering and the seed of the suffering.

    • I love that you love Dire Straits. I saw Mark Knopfler in concert once–he was by himself, and he talked about an oud–a musical instrument. He talked about finding it and learning how to play it so lovingly, it made me realize how important loving is for creation.

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