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Elegy for an Effigy

Basking in the glow of Christmas lights, he once added sparkle to the season.  Hatched in a plastics factory nearly half a century ago, he arrived one day to grace the boughs of an evergreen with a painted, glittering plumage of silver and gold. A metal clip instead of feet and a borrowed feather for his tail, he was a celebrity among ornaments. Each year he was assigned a place of honor, rubbing elbows with angels and elves, nestled amongst the candy canes and antiquated lead tinsel. Through shiny red eyes he looked out into the room. Had he been a real bird, he might have seen human eyes wide with wonder looking back at him.

For a few short weeks each year he was a glory to behold, until that fateful day arrived when he was sentenced to the long dark of the attic, left to dream plastic-bird dreams through many months.

The decades passed and his place of honor was gradually lost, making way for fresh young novelties. Little by little, the march of time had chipped at his glitter and dimmed his eye shine. Still managing to avoid the dreaded “left-in-the-box” curse for a good many years – a testament to his original status – he was now perched nearly out of view of holiday revelers.

At last, fallen from favor, the inevitable came to pass, and he was tossed without pause into the trash. A short time later, however, someone retrieved this forlorn figure from the trash – a second thought, a second chance. The other faded and broken ornaments took their final journey in the back of a garbage truck.

Given a new purpose, this hollow bird was no longer trapped in darkness, shining for just a few days each year. Now he looked out from his new perch set high on a branch of a fake tree in a small nature museum in the woods. He stood there, leaning slightly, day and night for a few years. Through the heat of summer and chill of winter he perched as the dust of time accumulated, advancing his haggard appearance.

One morning, the final judgment came to pass, and he once again found himself staring up at the living world from a waste basket. It was then that I happened upon this plastic public servant, and I saw within it all those years of service – from shining glory to dusty ruin.

Pausing by the trash can, looking down at this sad figurine, I reached in and took it outside, placing it in a nearby shrub. In a way, this plastic bird came alive. Having never eaten a worm, preened its feathers, or opened its beak in song from a twilight roost, it stood now under the golden sun, the warm breeze animating it with the sway of branches. Its one remaining red eye looked out across vibrant meadows. It seemed to me that there was finally peace within the breast of this little plastic beast . . .

Of course, I am aware of how absurd my action may seem, yet what I saw in that ragged Christmas ornament was the residue of all the energy infused in it by those long years of adoration. So in honor of the joy directed towards real flesh-and-feather birds by way of this effigy, a moment of freedom and the chance to touch living nature seemed a fitting, final chapter.

Hidden in the history of this plastic bird was a message for us. It is too easy to go through our lives without experiencing ourselves as truly belonging to the earth, to nature. Instead, we humans often think and act as though we alone own the earth – as though we are passing time in the ultimate shopping mall.

Perhaps the desire for nature is being routinely pushed aside by the manufactured urgency of our daily lives. Distracted and blinded by the lights and glitter of the world, it’s so easy to get caught by the whirlwind of this disposable society that shoves aside what is real in favor of mass-produced illusion. As individuals, you and I hunger for a more balanced life and a healthier world. As a society, we place too much value on multi-tasking and not enough value on quietude and natural rhythms.

We must break free of the vortex of society that is damaging our vital relationship with nature. Even if it means simply cloud-watching through the window, we desperately need to make time in each and every day to consciously connect with the value, wisdom, and healing power of nature. We need to come to our senses and put down the electronics on a regular basis. Let the poisons of worry, fear, and speed be drained from your body and soul. Take off your shoes and revel in the simple touch of grass between your toes; feel the earth supporting your body weight. Stand with arms wide open, face uplifted in the rain and feel it. Inhale slowly the scent of wild places. These things are real.

Reader Comments (2)

Beautiful thought. These things, often relegated to tag sales and "antique" shops, have called to me many times. Some have come to grace/clutter my home and heart, where I too wonder about their history, and the tales they could tell.

Dance in the twilight of the harvest moon this week, and take your moment then, when the world is lit in soft greys and faded shadows.

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelinda

wonderful story, very poetic!

December 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEva

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