I had been told that a cardinal was a whispered communion between worlds, a messenger from realms beyond and that seeing one meant that a deceased loved one was with you in spirit.

I don't know whether I actually believe it, but a few months ago I noticed a cardinal building a nest outside my bedroom window. Weeks later, I heard tiny chirps and opened my blinds to find four tiny chicks, mouths agape, bulging eyes blinking slowly, small bodies quivering softly. Every day since then, my joy hinged on the wellbeing of these birds. I'd stand vigilantly by my window watching as their mama and papa would feed them worms and bugs, their naked fledgling bodies growing feathered and their wings gradually unfurling. 

Last Tuesday I watched them leave their nest for the first time, one by one, their small wings fluttering nervously as they hopped from my window ledge to the grass. Then they flew. It was only a few inches off the ground and maybe only a foot of distance, leaving trails in the grass with the ruffling of their tiny wings. Zig-zagging above the trees was about five or six fully grown cardinals watching over the chicks at play. Unfortunately, one passed away the next day and as the week went on, I saw the remainder less and less. 

I guess in the following silence I pondered about loss and fleeting beauty. I’ve spent the majority of the year grieving deaths and losses, but for a few weeks this family of red-winged messengers brought me happiness. 

Clarice Lispector once said, “beauty like that is a fraction of a second, quickness of a flash and then it immediately escapes.” So just like that the birds have flown, loved ones vanished, memories as fragile as gossamer wings flutter in the wind of what remains.