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Another Way of Seeing: Being Trapped – November 2002

I woke up later than usual and the sun’s rays had already begun to turn the night rain into a steamy Florida morning. The very first responsibility every morning, after dressing and running a brush through my hair, is taking my 11-pound Lhasa, Jenny, for her half-hour walk. She is afraid of stairs so we take the elevator from the second floor of my apartment building to ground level. This Florida-styled stucco building is a huge three-story construction in the shape of a “U” with 20 units on each of the two sides of the “U” and 7 units along the back. In the middle of the “U” is the circular drive and the parking area in the middle, which has a center strip of palm trees and grass. The front entry for each of the apartments opens out to long open-air corridor that looks out over drive, the parking area, and the grassy-strip with palms. A large swimming pool is tucked in the center of the “U” at the end of the complex and the backside of the apartments opens to a golf-course, and a forested area. I have always liked driving into the entry at night because the row of palm trees that are lighted by ground lights and the Caribbean blue pool that glistens from floodlights make me feel like I am on vacation. Between every six units, runs a ten-foot wide firewall corridor, which is the full 40-foot length of the apartment units. These corridors are perpendicular to the outside corridors and break the U into sections, just in case there is a fire in one unit, damage can be contained. At the far end of each firewall corridor is a floor-to-ceiling, 10’ X 10’ mesh screen.
This morning, as I approached the elevator with Jenny on her leash, a rustling sound coming from the far end of the corridor caught my attention. When I looked down that firewall corridor, I noticed that a bluebird had gotten itself trapped on the inside of the screen and was thrashing around against the screen at the far left corner. I suspect that the sounds of human and dog coming down the outer corridor caused the little creature to go into panic. As I approached, I could see that there was a small hole in the bottom far right part of the screen and I assumed the bird must have come in that way and then was unable to find its way back out. I tied Jenny’s leash to a post in the corridor and walked toward the tiny bird. My intention was to help the bird free itself from the corner where it was beating its little body against the screen to break out, and then coax it toward the hole, or outward to the external corridor, and freedom. But the bird became so frightened it flipped onto its back and seemed to have gotten its little feet caught in the screen, as if it was trying to tear a hole in the mesh to escape.

Just then, the door of the elevator opened and my neighbor with her Poodle exited. She saw the situation and walked part way down the corridor to see if she could offer assistance. The bird’s attention must have shifted from what it sensed as the immediate danger of a close human and the threat of being trapped against a screen to another human and dog approaching from forty feet away. No longer focused on the screen, it leapt up and flew above our heads and out the other way into the morning and freedom.
I mentioned to my neighbor that I would call the manager’s office to let them know about the hole so that birds would not come in and get trapped because they couldn’t find their way back to the tear in the screen. But my neighbor suggested that maybe what happened was that the bird came in from the front, and seeing the open space with light at the end didn’t notice the screen until the little creature bumped up against the obstacle. Of course, that would make sense, too, and perhaps at least as likely as my speculation, if not more. Just like the bird, I was focused on the screen and didn’t consider that the Blue Bird might have come in another way. I laughed and said to her, “What a metaphor for what we humans do! We, go into places, bump up against something, and become terrified that there is no way out. We then focus on what we bumped into instead of letting go of fighting against what is blocking us to look for other ways to get where we want to go.”
Perhaps, when we discover ourselves trapped against our own screens, we can turn around and notice that there is another way out, and another way of seeing.

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