Sitting on my terrace in Downtown Houston reading the paper with tea and toast, and Marley, my tabby, for company, I sensed a shadow fast as a blink flutter by in the still air. It was a sparrow.
In itself nothing extraordinary except that our little patch of this oil town is not home to many birds. We have Mr and Mrs Blue Jay swooping with air-force-like precision into the trees by the bayou, Mr and Mrs Cardinal, she a dull dun to his regimental scarlet, and we have many mockingbirds wearing their grey coats but made colourful by their soaring arias, stealing lines and notes from all around. Though they have been known to mimic the harsh screech of a braking or belching train as it judders past our building. And just occasionally iridescent hummingbirds hover by, lured by the flame-dappled hamelia or exuberant hibiscus, but for some reason rarely sparrows.
This particular sparrow, cheeky in brown, perched on the rim of a terracotta pot of glorious sunset geraniums, always a reminder of my mother’s windowsill and patios. He was brazen, slightly belligerent I thought at the lack of crumbs, and completely unafraid of the creaking of my rocking chair, the rustle of paper, or the twitching whiskers of Marley contemplating a kamikaze leap. The sparrow’s beady gaze held steady, and picking up my pen in an excuse to lower my eyes to the crossword he had interrupted, I smiled. Nine years into my stay here the sparrows have finally deigned to visit my colourful terrace and I felt content.
Contentment is, I think, sometimes confused with compromise, somehow not quite fulfilling enough, signifying a lack of ambition or desire. But to me it is soft peace, however fleeting. Contentment can, I suppose, be seen to be self-satisfaction but I can never be self-satisfied when there are books to write, and publishers to chase. There will always be words and incidents, and sometimes pain to throw me off course; that’s life, but for the now I thank that sparrow for allowing me a moment to reflect and revel in pure contentment.