I carried it back to the car in both hands, reconciling with its death. An accidental meeting of two bodies in space, a curious side-effect of my existence, had caused the death of this beautiful thing. I settled it on the seat next to me and drove home.
I have since identified my late-lamented feathered friend as a partridge. It wasn't until after I had plucked, drawn and hung it that my husband pointed out that a partridge is a Christological symbol: the “partridge in a pear tree” is Christ on the Cross. I then looked up. There it was, hanging above my kitchen sink, skewered cross-wise with its little wings outstretched, unmistakably cruciform.
I've been trying to formulate a way of putting into words everything that this means to me. I keep having that phrase, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me...” running through my head, reminding me that Christ is my true love, and that I am the beloved to whom He gives the gift of Himself, in this case under the queer guise of roadkill. I suppose also that it conveys in some sense the sense of happy calamity, what Tolkien called eucatastrophe, which is so central to Easter: “O happy fault, o happy sin of Adam that has earned for us such a redeemer.” It reminds me that man lives by gift alone, that gifts lie entirely outside of anything that we can control or predict, that they are wild and improbable, serendipitous and synchronicitous, quotidian and yet infused with meaning. And it points towards the crazy good accident of being alive in the first place, the fragility which underwrites the beauty of existence, the strange and unpredictable chiarascuro brushstrokes by which we are painted into God's masterpeice.
Only God said it so much more eloquently, elegantly, in the crook of a broken neck and a warm breast cooling beneath my fingers.