The Blue Bird of Happiness
“Mom, we’re goin’ to the bird,” yell my kids when they’re already too far down the trail to hear. We love the big metal bird. It’s a great place to chill, and fill our senses with the forest. He’s an old bird, a bit rusty, his blue paint is peeling, but he still invites us in to feel the breeze blow through our cluttered minds. Troubled times always seem so far away under his wing. He’s been a part of the family for seventeen years. I adopted him from our neighbor to the north. Tired hunters weren’t using his four bunks anymore. We removed the bunks, cleaned him up, and he became a cozy home for my son and me. That’s right, home. Many times I’ve heard, “What kind of crazy, hair-brained idea do you have now, Carolyn?” I’ve been painfully practical lately. That question hasn’t been thrown at me in quite a while and I’m a bit worried. I need crazy, out of the ordinary, hair-brained exhilaration. It’s done me good.
I was living in Minneapolis when my neighbor called in the spring of 1992. He wanted to know if I’d like to buy the Blue Bird, an old blue school bus, for camping when I visited my property next door to his. I passed on the offer. I was saving money to build, and a tent worked just fine. On May Day 1993, I found myself permanently camped out in the Blue Bird. It’s funny how he flew into my life and made himself available. As if he knew I was going to need him in a big way, and he’d wait until I realized it. The forest was coming alive, the dirt road was a muddy mess, the mosquitoes hadn’t begun their all out onslaught, and the trilliums were going to bloom any time, but until then, the ditches were yellow with May flowers.
It was hard leaving Minneapolis, my friends, and all the fun. However, I knew my days there were numbered. I felt myself becoming overstimulated and scattered, surrounded by frenzied living. The dissonance built up inside me like a toxin I just couldn’t cleanse. I prepared for an eventual detox, and bought a small chunk of green when I was twenty-one. I feel much better, although, I have guilt over becoming a sprawling urbanite. At this point, mental and physical health rank more important, and there’s always something to feel guilty about isn’t there?
Life under our bird’s big wing was the most incredible time of my life. I’m still amazed that I stuck it out and maintained. I did for the most part thanks to my neighbors. I can’t count the times they pulled my car out of mud, snow, and ditches, or the times they’d drop by with some good cheer just when I was missing my old life the most. There were the two weeks I couldn’t keep the bird warm enough, even with the wood stove and gas heater running full tilt simultaneously. We stayed next door until -30° windchills passed. I managed because I was told, “You do what you have to and you’re never given more than you can handle,” because sanity outweighed the struggle, and it was my time to learn about the gifts of simplicity. Simply carrying wood and water, simple oatmeal and coffee for breakfast, simple little red wagon, simple snail mail, simple ice block refrigeration, simply serving my newborn through attachment parenting, mother’s milk and cloth diapers, simply going without a phone, electricity, or a toilet.
I need another crazy hair-brained idea, and with a quickness. I’ll take a trek down the trail, pay my old friend a visit, and see what surfaces. Bluebirds, after all, signal new life, dreams coming true, and happiness. This is especially true for me.