"Until you have cried for the fate of every sentient being, you cannot be a real human being"

(There is a through-line in all my writing, from childhood feelings to visions, dreams, poems, experience, prayer...everything, ending up on the back road from Bullhead to Isabel, just above the Grand River, several miles west of Sitting Bull's camp)

In July I made the drive one early evening from Bullhead to Isabel, the first 15 miles on a good dirt road, hardly travelled, beautiful. It had been a good day, almost a great day, making plans for this venture I've cared about so much, sharing with another person there my grandmother dream, seemingly making good practical things happen, the sun setting in front of me, a favorite song playing, me speeding up as the music kicks in, and goddammit if a meadowlark doesn't rise up in front of me, and I hear the thump.

This is not a new thing. I know this is meadowlark country, I know they are slow to avoid the cars compared to the other birds, almost as if the beauty of their songs and bodies is some kind of weight in itself, a price they pay. I get out to check, and of course it is there, but not dead - yet - only broken, with its head up, alert.

I pick it up and carry it to the side of the road - and I am heartbroken and wildly hypocritical, feeling this hypocrisy as I weep - and place it gently in the grass, apologizing (fucking hypocrite!), speaking out loud, profoundly conscious of this holy landscape all around, of the proximity to Sitting Bull's camp, where one morning at sunrise he walked out on the prairie and a meadowlark said to him: a Lakota will kill you.

Then this meadowlark, broken and crippled, did the most astonishing thing: it flew, or attempted to, achieving a kind of liftoff before flipping completely over and landing helplessly, failing (Dylan's lines, which I myself have railed against, were right there, not even a thought - Do not go gentle). And I felt the soul leave its body. And then this meadowlark, with indescribable dignity, its lower body completely paralyzed, raised its head and preened, cleaned the inside of the wing it could reach, and then laid down its head, and...accepted. And I felt its body going back into the earth, its eyes closing slowly, the light going out (no fear or regret - O my soul!). And then with the eyes halfway closed, an ant crawled directly onto one of them, as if to suck the last little light of life out for itself, it seemed to me, and I said Not on my watch, and brushed it away, wondering if it really was what it seemed, and the ant crawled back once more, brushed aside once more, and then the meadowlark was gone.