I'm biking to work when I pass a little dead bird on the polished granite tiles surrounding the front of the American University's towering, pillared main building. The vaulted edifice gleams, a dominating fortresses of symbolic strength and means. The little bird at its feet is being devoured by ants, half its skeleton exposed.
I ride on past. But, as I swerve around students scurrying to and from classes, I think about the bird. I didn't wish it ill. But I have trouble caring. It seems, I don't know, like the way of things. Then I feel bad for my quick disregard.
So, for a moment, I imagine it hatching and experiencing immediate hunger. I imagine the wonder the tiny consciousness may have felt. The vivid colors. The sensation of breezes and warmth on its new body. The feeling of being alive. Of crying out for the first time. The automatic trust it must have had for momma bird. I wonder how it felt during first flight with the world spreading out below. And its first hunt as a chewed another miniature life. Did the bird experience pain? pleasure? Did it nestle in with its siblings for warmth? Did it dream while it slept? I read somewhere that birds are capable of REM sleep, but no one knows what's happening in their consciousness.
Then, I imagine its death. Was it sudden? Did this tiny bird die of old age? It seems like an old dying bird would fall from a tree or hide in tall grass--not lie down on an ocean of hot granite. No, more likely it hit one of the building's shimmering windows. It's universe suddenly ringing with the high tone of violent impact. The body flooded with tingling sensations that exponentially intensify to the point of an energetic super nova. Terrible. Heavenly. Then nothing. Or, maybe, something.
Perhaps I'm attributing too much potential to the little bird's consciousness. But I would gamble it experiences more than most people would assume.
Either way, farewell wee bird. I bear witness to your life. We shall include my children's drawings of you upon our Day of the Dead ofrenda tonight.