A choir of ducks announced their appearance before they filled the sky above me. The talented choreography of these wondrous birds has long enchanted me, but my 32 years in Los Banos have made me a devoted fan. I was delighted to find that where I live now in Fresno seems to be a haven for my winged friends.
My dog, Yogi, and I were off on our early morning walk when we both stopped to look up and lock onto the bird ballet above us. We broke into smiles, and yes, I really do believe that Yogi smiles.
That call to pause brought up a string of thoughts that seemed to just jumble out randomly, as our thoughts often do.
Always look up. I could hear the words so clearly in my mind.
Many, many years ago, I was given that advice as if it were the greatest wisdom that one could share, and maybe it was.
However, think first of the opposite advice: always look down.
With that advice, you could walk into a lot of people, be hit by a car, not see the airplane about to fall on your head or many other endlessly negative possibilities. Yet, I knew even back then that the advice had more to do with attitude than geography.
It can seem much easier to look down — less effort, easier on the neck. It can also make you feel like you fit in with others who have negative thoughts or who claim they won’t get disappointed.
It seems to me that this has been a very popular stance recently.
Looking down can become contagious. When you become accustomed to looking down, you can begin to forget about the possibility of looking up. I am ashamed to admit that sometimes I have looked down for long periods of time.
That is why I have learned to truly appreciate the subtle and not-so-subtle signs that cause me to lift my head.
I wonder if the need for an attitude adjustment is the true reason why we get a pain in the neck.
These nudges can come from anywhere.
Recently, I was at the memorial service for Julie Piwowarski at Saint Joseph Church in Los Banos. On my knees, literally, I was pensive, as a sudden ray of light hit the stained-glass window at just the right angle. It made me catch my breath, look up, and see the smiling picture of my departed friend on the table before me.
It stopped me from thinking about my dead friend, but instead I thought of my friend soaring up. I imagined her feeling joy, and that lessened my feeling of sorrow.
Across from my house, my neighbor has an awning patio. I became so accustomed to it that Yogi and I began not to notice it. Then one day, as we passed by, Yogi barked excitedly, anxious to draw my attention to what he was seeing. There was a beautiful white bird sitting quite at home on the awning.
The bird kept turning its neck so that it blended into its full breast. It felt like it was encouraging us to smile.
And how could you not?
For over three months now, the bird has remained perched and preening. It has created an amazing thing. My neighbors have come to discover it and stop to look up.
Sometimes several of us gather, talking to people we have never talked to before. We share in buying bird food and share in wonderment at how such a simple thing can make us momentarily happy.
Now when I give Yogi his late-night walk, I make a point to look up at the majesty of the show of stars that glisten above and bring back memories of the times I’ve looked up at the sky in naive wonder.
All the world’s problems will not be solved, nor will all of yours or surely all of mine, but by remembering the sage advice, “Always look up,” maybe we can all have a moment of peace or joy.
Maybe that could be the beginning of a better world.