CREDOS : Precious lives — I

Halfway through a two-week retreat at a remote Buddhist monastery in Nova Scotia, I was startled awake by a thud on my tiny cabin’s picture window, and then a softer dunk on the deck below. It had been a quiet week. I’d not talked to anyone and no one had talked to me.

To reach the cabin I had to walk down a long path through a dark gauntlet of hemlocks, their roots pushing up from the earth like bones in a shallow grave. The cabin, aptly called Cliffhanger, is perched high over the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I stood at the door, uneasily gazing through a window in the opposite wall, a postcard of deep blue open water and the vast curve of the earth. The veteran nun in burgundy cotton robes and green rubber muck boots who’d escorted me here assured me in a low voice punctuated with a mischievous chuckle that the place would not blow away, even though, in a gale, the walls might shake. Then she left me.

Now, as I twisted around in the hard, narrow bed and squinted into the dawn, I knew, sadly, those two sounds like the words to a bad song stuck in my head. It was the second time since I’d arrived that a bird had crashed into the window. The first time, the bird stood on the deck, stunned and shaken, but alive; I watched it pull itself together and fly away. I was relieved. But this time the bird, a sparrow, remained on its side, motionless. Suddenly, I

was filled with a great sadness. —