And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

My dog is scared of the Christmas tree. A bird had its feet frozen in ice in a parking lot. And I have an appointment with my medical oncologist tomorrow.

Yes, these things are all connected.

For the first time in years, I decided to try and like Christmas. I bought a tree, a skinny six-footer, that fit between my piano and the wall. It’s a lovely color – Michael calls it champagne. I call it rose gold. We both call it different and unique. We pulled out family ornaments that have been in my off-site storeroom for at least three years now, exclaimed over them, and created a tree that stops my heart when I look at it.

It stopped my dog Ursula’s heart too. In fear. Ursula has only been with us since March. She is a rescue from Alabama. We don’t know much about her, except that she is afraid. Of everything. The icemaker in the fridge, the microwave, the television, storms, flapping flags, flying ducks, buses…and apparently, Christmas trees. My vision of a smiling new dog under the sparkling new tree evaporated. We’ve had a week of treeness now, and she’s improved some. She will stay in the same room. But she won’t go near. She spooks when the tree goes from dark to light, and light to dark.

This morning, I took her out to do her business. The city parking lot next to our condo is coated in ice that comes from water out of a mystery pipe attached to a building that is for sale. I’ve called “the city” about it. “The city” said, “Uh-huh.” That is our city’s way of dealing with things, at least until someone falls and gets hurt. As Ursula and I skated to the little patch of grass between our condos and Walgreens, I noticed a bird standing on the ice. The bird saw us too, flapped its wings to flee, and didn’t go anywhere. That’s when I realized that the ice was up to the bird’s twig-like ankles. He somehow got frozen there.

Ursula is scared of Christmas trees. Even sparkly unique ones. I am scared of birds. Even birds in trouble.

Job finished, I brought Ursy back into the house. Then I ran warm water into a coffee cup. I told myself I could pour the water over the ice, it would melt, the bird would fly away. AWAY. Not in my hair. Not in my face. Oh, so scared.

Back outside, I squatted behind the bird. Behind it, so that it would fly AWAY from me when it was freed. I poured the water, my arm as outstretched as it could get. The ice melted, the twig feet appeared, and…the bird just stood there.

“Yo,” I said. “Fly.”

It didn’t. And I wondered if it even knew it was out of the ice. Maybe there was no feeling in its feet. I looked at my gloved hands.

Oh, no. Not again.

I put one hand around the bird’s body. With my other hand, I cupped his feet. And I waited for my warmth to warm him. I swear I felt that bird’s body relax. “It’s okay,” I said. Then I stood up, opened my hands slowly, and he flew away. AWAY.

There was nothing to be afraid of. And I was able to help.

Going upstairs, I patted Ursula and said, “There’s nothing to be afraid of. But you’ll figure it out.” She rested her big concrete head in my lap.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with the medical oncologist. It’s a routine check-in. Blood will be drawn. There will be an examination. We will talk. And I am terrified. There is actually something called cancerchondria, where cancer patients, even cured ones, are afraid at every bump, bang and pain, and also at every appointment. I have it bad.

I’m scared of birds. But I picked that bird, that fear, up and I let it go.

I came upstairs and I told Ursula to let it go.

I have an appointment tomorrow. Bye, bye, birdie.

I helped that bird. But that bird helped me.

And yes, that (obviously) helps. Despite. Anyway.

The new Christmas tree.
Edgar Allen Paw approves, even if Ursula doesn’t.

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