Journal Entry: Melinda Bixler-03/16/2024-Birds on a Wire

Journal Entry

Birds on a Wire

Being imprisoned in a Philadelphia City high-rise building has highlighted key differences between this and other federal facilities. If you’ve ever watched Shawshank Redemption or indulged in Orange is the New Black, you’ve undoubtedly gotten a glimpse of the inmates enjoying the outdoors. The fenced-in “yard,” basketball court, softball field, track, and some grass. And, there’s definitely sunshine!!!

I love sunshine and have always appreciated the warmth on my face radiating from the vibrant blue sky that it highlights. Though grateful, I never considered the absence of sunshine lasting longer than a few days, until I came here.

Upon entering the female unit on August 22, 2023, a glance to my right revealed an enclosed concrete room. At the top of one wall, a glimpse of the sky. The steel grate that covers the opening 20 feet overhead provides just enough space for small finches to fly in and out. (In fairness, it may be 15 feet, I’m only 5’2″.) Either way, we can’t see much, and other than experiencing the outdoor temperature, we’re fully sheltered from the elements.

On sunny days, a small strip of sunlight might make its way through the tall city buildings into the space that confines us. With any luck, the sunshine warms my cheeks. It’s not uncommon to see a small gathering of women competing for a patch of sunlight. One day while standing inside, I watched in awe as women lined up to share the coveted space. It was quiet and still. It invoked a ton of emotion all around. I was somewhat fascinated by the sun, seemingly, magnetic pull as women followed its path. Frankly, it reminded me of a small flock of birds resting along the telephone wires that border my neighborhood. They were peacefully existing, soaking up free Vitamin D while also pondering life.

Silent thoughts – “What have I done? Why did I do it?” are often followed by a brief silent prayer asking for strength and expressing gratitude. I often imagine how good it will feel to step outside again, enjoy freshly brewed coffee and a sunrise on my patio, and ride with the windows down.

Hope and faith have been the key to my strength. Hope for better days ahead and faith in knowing they will come when they should. As I sit here now, I can share a lengthy list of the things I’ll never take for granted again. Once I have them back, I’m sure I’ll settle in comfortably again. It can be easy to ignore how sacred the sunshine is. But if I’ve learned anything over the past few years it’s that living in the present, savoring all that surrounds me in a precise moment is absolutely priceless.

Cherish the now. Forget about the troubles you can’t control and the ones you fear await you someday. Each moment is an opportunity to experience, to feel. Today will be the past someday. I hope you’ll be able to reflect upon it knowing that you embraced moments rather than simply existing through them.