I’ve walked by this birdcage for at least the past three weeks. It’s on a street corner in front of an old apartment building—the one where I walk past with my dog Talulah every day, usually twice. But only today did I finally stop for a closer look. My first thought: Must be a yard sale leftover. Then I noticed how the ivy pattern on the cage echoed the ivy the cage was sitting on and instantly felt like an asshole. It’s a decoration. There, mystery solved. I didn’t like the aesthetic, but I knew what was happening and was free to return to my regularly scheduled race around the corner to my house. And therein lies the problem.
We humans are wired to make sense of the world, and fast. But jumping too quickly to the answer instead of exploring the question is a killer for creativity. Because once we think we know the answer, that’s pretty much the end of the story. We shut down, and habitually contract instead of expand. What can be fun and fruitful and freeing, though, is keep the door open, let that open space linger and breathe. We could get expansive and wonder, what are some other possibilities? Was there was a bird in that cage before? What if the cage were some sort of signal to the man in the apartment who walks with the cane and a smile? Not impossible. Practicing this sort of active curiosity a little every day stretches us, making us more flexible and free. It may not take the place of your yoga class, but does wonders for limbering up your imagination.
I walked Talulah again this afternoon and the birdcage was just as it was this morning, but I was different from thinking so much about it. And just because, I dropped this note inside. The idea that someone will find it and read it and wonder WTF fills me with all kinds of silly, easy joy. I wonder what they will think and what they will do. I wonder what kinds of stories they will tell themselves about it. Hopefully lots of them.