War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

black bird

a few weeks ago I met up with Lt. N’s Sigs who was with him when Lt. N was killed in Afghanistan. I hadn’t seen this young soldier for a long, long time. he showed up in his DU’s at a memorial sporting even, the Nutts Cup, in Vanc. where I’d been invited to read to 200 gods and goddesses.

“I’m 24 going on 100” he said to me. looked fine though he’d been terribly injured in the blast back in 2009.

and Sigs is a bright young guy. lovely. competent. capable. a big heart. an insight into people that belies his young years. I guess when someone has been where he has, seen what he has, one takes onboard a whole lot of knowledge. I admire this young man very much.

Sigs asked me to tell him the story from last December 23rd, the first anniversary of his young officer’s death. he wanted to hear from me exactly how that day went down.

I told Sigs how I spent the anniversary of Lt N’s death snowshoeing and picnicking on the ice at Elk Island with someone close who had been in A’stan with Lt. Nuttall and the young Sigs, and who had taken Nuttall’s death very, very hard. I told the young Sigs how we’d both been dreading the day and how that morning when we got up I turned to him and said, “let’s do something with this beautiful sunny day in honour of Andrew. Andrew wants us to live and enjoy life”.

and I told Sigs how back in December, my friend and I jumped into the truck and drove to Elk Island stopping to get good food for the back pack, gas for our little stove to make espresso with when we were going to be out on the ice picnicking, and snowshoes (yeah WalMart!). I’d grabbed us quick breakfast for the road. (my friend, the great provisioner, the one always looking after everyone else was amazed that someone might anticipate his needs, “wow, you got me breakfast. that’s awesome.” he smiled. simple pleasures).

I told Sigs how we spent the day of December 23rd, 2010, completely alone in the beautiful wilderness of Elk Island, seeing only a few people and a wolf or coyote crossing the frozen lake in the distance, then later, a herd of buffalo. it was one of those perfect days sent from heaven. clear icy blue sky, the snow like cornmeal. the clack of our snowshoes. he, big man breaking trail (though I beasted him for sure in distance and stamina). I carried the pack (because A’stan and jumping out of planes had done in his back, so he carried our food in a carry bag). us talking and not talking. laughing. breathing in the goodness. perfection.

we nested on the frozen shore and set up camp for lunch. hot espresso from my camp espresso maker (life is too short to drink shitty coffee in my opinion), baguette, Brie, Oka, grapes, gypsy salami, black chocolate and mandarine oranges. nobody, no creatures in sight. the great provider, 20 years of army survival under his belt, warmed my frost-cold hands under his armpits, covered me with his opened coat.

near dusk we snowshoed back. I pulled out a tiny flask filled with Jura single malt. poured us each a thimbleful. we toasted Lt N, spilled the rest into the snow for him—a libation. “how great is this?” my companion said, “to honour a fallen comrade like this. a beautiful day. not get wasted in a mess somewhere…”

then, as I later told Sigs at the memorial event, the black bird flew over us. circled us. we heard his wings feather the air. he flew off. and as the black bird flew off my friend laughed and said, “Nutts I never thought you’d come back as a raven. I’m glad to know you’re all right. Farewell my friend.”

we turned and went home for a cosy winter’s night. satisfied and well with a day’s cool, clear sunshine. our heads and hearts and bodies cool and clear.

so after I told Sigs this story, he said to me, “well you heard about the black bird in A’stan didn’t you?”

I said no.

Sigs then told me that immediately after his officer died, a black bird appeared out of nowhere. the bird flew over the patrol as they collected themselves in shock. a bird they’d never seen before. it circled. then apparently, every time that patrol went out, again the black bird followed them.

Sigs and I looked at each other and shook our heads.

he’d heard about my blackbird story from his officer’s mom at another memorial event. they were sitting in the front seat of a car driving and chatting. my name came up and Lt N’s mom told Sigs the story. he then told her his story.

is it a sign? who knows. skeptics I know said, coincidence but how strange that we should only see one bird on the anniversary of his death. all day we were in the wilderness and saw not a single bird. until then.

and that bird, rich black, light
as a winter sky with our hearts and bodies satisfied
was as gorgeous
as Lt N.


1 Comment (Closed)

Alex VanderWoude

This post really touched me. You know, sms, you are both blessed and a blessing to others. The price is pain, of course, but isn’t it worth it? (I know, I know, easy for me to say…)

Oct 09 2011 · 10:20

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled black bird. It was posted here on September 19, 2011.

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