Sunday, October 30, 2005

I am so happy that Calvin and Hobbes is back in the LA Times, even though they are all strips I've seen before. I had forgotten that Calvin and Hobbes had an encounter with a dead bird; it appeared in today's paper, and is so sweet and tender and deep. I tried to find a link to the strip online, but haven't had any luck. I did, however, find the "transcript" of it on Wikipedia, and imagine it's okay to share it here:

A dead bird lies before Calvin and Hobbes
Calvin: "Look, a dead bird!"
Hobbes: "It must've hit a window."
Calvin: "Isn't it beautiful? It's so delicate. Sighhh... once it's too late, you appreciate what a miracle life is. You realize that nature is ruthless and our existence is very fragile, temporary, and precious. But to go on with your daily affairs, you can't really think about that... which is probably why everyone takes the world for granted and why we act so thoughtlessly. It's very confusing. I suppose it will all make sense when we grow up."
Hobbes: "No doubt."
Calvin and Hobbes recline against their tree, watching birds around them, in silence
If it all made sense when we grew up, I never would have written The Book of Dead Birds. I love Calvin and Hobbes so much.

As I was searching for the strip, I also came across this site: Everyone has a dead bird story. And it's true. People shared some amazing dead bird stories with me when I was on tour with The Book of Dead Birds. A woman who came to one of my readings told me that the week before, she had been driving around Santa Cruz, listening to me talk about the book on the radio, when a bird flew into her windshield and died! I felt strangely responsible...


Anonymous said...

Once, as a child of about 11, I was playing with my grandfathers pellet gun. He and my grandmother lived in a cabin near a lake in Oregon. They had very few neighbors, and had to get to town by crossing the lake by boat during the winter, because the miles of windy, one lane dirt road would wash out.

When my sister and I would go and stay, we would, as children do, get bored. You can only fish and attempt to quietly follow deer to whatever mysterious place they go for so long. So my grandfather, with a long list of stern rules, said that I may use the pellet gun.

So, I was walking down by the lake, pellet gun in hand, when this small, beautiful bird flew by me, and landed in the reeds where I could not see it. Knowing I did not want to hurt it, but wanting to see it again, I aimed the pellet gun about 3 feet from where I saw the bird land, squeezed the trigger, and waited for the bird to launch into startled flight. And I waited. A horror, and a shame, began to seep into my chest. I stood perfectly still, not breathing for what seemed to be close to a full minute. When there was no sign of the beautiful bird, I launched off the spot where I stood frozen, flinging the gun away from me as I frantically ran to the spot. I arrived to find the beautiful bird motionless, its tiny, innocent life taken in a single instant by my own stupidity, and I becan to cry. I sat, hunched in those reeds for what felt like an hour, wishing my tears could make it right, and knowing they would not. When I could finally move, I gently picked up the beautiful bird, found what I considered a place where a beautiful bird would like to be buried, and with great reverance, I laid it to rest. And I cried. I picked up that pellet gun, tears streaming down my face, and I ran as fast as my legs could carry me back to the cabin, and shoved that pellet gun as far back in the closet as it would go, and I never touched it again.

Birds, I think, are such a representation of abandon, freedom, innocence, hardwork, responsibility; all the things that we consider to be good and beautiful. I have always seen them as just pure innocence, and when I took the life of one, it felt as though I had committed a grave sin, and in some ways, I still feel that way. Respect for life is a beautiful, essential thing, and those that are touched by the loss of such innocence and beauty, I think, are the ones whom this life will be a little harder for, in all its harshness, in all its disrepect for life, for difference, for diversity, and for all that allows us to bring harm and saddness to others. I know that for me, that beautiful little bird whose life I took, will always serve as a reminder to think, to be kind, to respect, and to love, because life is brutally short...

gayle said...

Thank you so much for sharing this powerful story. I am very grateful. That final paragraph is a stunner; I especially love the last line--"to think, to be kind, to respect, and to love, because life is brutally short..." Yes.

If anyone else would like to share their dead bird stories, I would love to hear them.

Anonymous said...

I think the calvin and hobbes dead bird comic is one of his best ones!

You can find it on-line here

Yerrick said...

I saw that C+H cartoon in my paper as well, the day after my beloved little Maggie died. Even three weeks later it's still hard to talk about. But it's all on my blog if you're interested.

comicsman said...

Hi!!!The Calvin it's cool!