Trapped in the Pipe

Dear friends,

I know that this week many of us are extremely concerned about the recent (leaked) news from the Supreme Court regarding the Roe v. Wade case. With an impending decision to reverse the rights that ruling gave us decades ago, there is an incredible sense of anger, fear and sadness for many UUs right now. How do we handle such hard news?

This may seem like a stretch, but an incident that happened on the farm here last week has given me some perspective on challenging times.

Every spring, when we let our woodstove go cold after months of warm fires to heat our house, at least one hapless bird finds its way into the stovepipe. Despite the ‘bird-proofing’ lid on the stovepipe, usually sometime in April or May we will hear the distinctive sound of scritchy-scratchy claws on the inside of the pipe in the middle of the living room. Last week, I greeted the annual sound with a groan of dread that combined sadness for the poor bird, frustration for my lost day, and anger that we can’t come up with a better solution. So, I stomped out to the hoop house to get Tracy, whom I consider the animal-whisperer in the family.

Tracy greeted the news with his own frustrated noise, and said “I can’t take time away from what I’m doing right now to rescue it.” Last year, the rescue included taking apart the stovepipe, a dangerous climb onto the metal roof to push down (I think) a padded stick (or some other relatively non-injurious object I can’t remember) to urge the bird down the pipe, and then catching it in a pillowcase. This was a very difficult couple of hours. This year, we tried a different approach. We waited.

Tracy wisely said, “It will get tired, and eventually drop down on its own into the stove. Then we’ll catch it.” I wasn’t sure this was a good idea, but I was willing to try it. So we waited. A couple of times over the next 16 hours (the rest of the day, and all of that night), we heard the scratchy-scratchy noise. But mostly it was quiet. I however, was truly fretful. Waiting for the right time to take action was incredibly hard.


But the next day, when the blue bird got tired, it landed down in the stove. I (and the cat) could see it staring out at us through the glass door. And then the rescue was relatively easy. We put the cat in a closed room, got a pillowcase, and removed the bird, who did not struggle at all. Tracy released it out the front door, where it had yet another trauma as it encountered another territorial male bluebird, but eventually it escaped to freedom.

The lesson in that rescue, for me, was this: when you know you’re in a tough spot, when you feel trapped, or when you see someone else in a terrible spot or trapped, sometimes you need to wait a minute before you react. Sometimes, timing matters a lot. Of course, ultimately, action is necessary. And, of course, wise planning and timing are keys to making that action successful. Tracy and I had to calmly discuss our options before deciding the best course of action. And I had to rely on his greater wisdom than mine in such matters, because frankly I hadn’t a clue how to respond. I only knew that I felt a terrible sense of panic for the poor bluebird.

For the last many months, advocates of reproductive rights and reproductive justice have been preparing for this time. Over and over they reiterate that the solutions will be slow, and take lots of time. The actions will need to be carefully calculated and carefully executed. Hard as it is to feel the feelings of frustration, fear, anger and sadness, one of the best actions we may be able to take right now is simply be together, talk about it and discuss our options, and manage the feelings. And we need to wait for the leaders who understand the situation, who have been preparing and planning, to guide us in how to respond rather than react.

Let’s be thoughtful in our actions, responsive to our feelings, and in community discussions with those who have the wisdom and experience that is necessary to move forward.

In faith and hope,

Rev. Carol

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