A small chirp of encouragement


“Bird through a Pin Hole.” Original Pastel drawing by Tom Curley © 2019

10/14/2017 – 9:00am

I saw a cardinal just now. They say when you see a cardinal in an odd place that it’s an omen from heaven that an ancestor or someone from heaven is paying you a visit, an acknowledgement of their love for you. Every time I see a cardinal I think of dad. That’s because once, when we lived on Mifflin Street, when dad was sick, he saw a cardinal sitting atop the street light pole in front of our house. He was amazed with it, looking on like a child filled with wonder. 

I don’t see cardinals around my home too often. But, here’s the odd thing. I was in my living room when I heard a loud, repeated singular chirp. It sounded like I had a cricket in our house, so I went in the direction of an air conditioner we have in a window at the foot of the stairs. As I drew closer, it sounded like it was in the little nook outside were the accordion flap fills the gap between the sides of the air conditioner and the window. I peered through our blinds but couldn’t see anything so I just let it go, comfortable that it was not in the house. 

10 minutes or so later I was out in my yard with our dogs and wasn’t paying too much attention to the noises around me. But then I heard the same chirp and realized it had been happening in the background for a short while. I looked up in the direction of the chirp and saw a cardinal sitting atop the cyclone fence high above the stone wall that lines the back of my property. Just as I noticed the cardinal it stopped chirping and took off in flight. It was so quick. But that’s what’s odd. The chirping has ceased altogether now. The cardinal is gone. It’s as if the bird had been calling me for over a half hour on our property until I finally saw it. Once I saw it, it’s task was done and flew away. 

It immediately made me think of dad. I am in the middle of writing my current book “Mark Twain, my father and me” right now, a narrative memoir focused on my relationship with Dad. A few times when I thought about throwing in the towel on this project, some little sign has cajoled me to persist and keep working. I wasn’t having doubts exactly, today, but I had been comparing my work with that of another author, and questioning how I was writing. If the cardinal was a visit or a sign from dad, I’d say it was just a simple announcement of “Don’t worry. Just keep at it.” A small chirp of encouragement.