Summer of Feathered Graces

For Writer’s Island prompt #19  Breakthrough
http://writersisland.wordpress.com/

It happened again. We had another visitor, the night before last. I had gone over to my daughter’s and asked if she wanted to come back with me to help me clean up some glitches on my computer. When I pulled into the apartment complex parking lot, I noted a few people outside at the far end of the lot where I live.

I pulled into my usual spot, the one closest to the door. Shut off the car and was gathering up some purchases, while Sara got out of the car. I heard her speak in a friendly voice, “Well, hello there.” I assumed she was speaking to my neighbor in the building, an older woman, whose patio faces into the lot where my car was parked.

“Ahh, Mom, you need to look at this,” my daughter said in a soft, somewhat awe filled voice. I looked up and perched on the railing of the balcony, about eight feet above us, was a large, really large hawk. She was peering down, rather nonchalantly at my daughter, sort of casually gave me a nod, then stepped off her perch, spread her wings and flew away.

I noticed several things at once. Before she stepped off the balcony railing, I had gotten the impression that the main color on her back and wings was gray. Her underbelly and the under side of her wings, which seemed huge at such close range, were almost completely white with a few darker splashes of gray, as well. Then I became aware of the hushed silence in the parking lot.

The three or four people, who had been standing around, were stilled and simply watching what might have been a first-time close encounter for them. My daughter and I looked across the car at one another and grinning, both spoke at the same time, “Gyrfalcon,” I said, as she almost sang out, “Two of them, now, two of them in such a short space of time!”

She, of course, was speaking of the bald eagle she had spotted in my tiny backyard the week before, while I was identifying our present visitor. The world seemed to close it’s surprised mouth and once again went into action. We walked into the building, while others drove away slowly, or continued on whatever errands had been forgotten in that moment of recognition.

My daughter and I discussed it later after we got settled in. I teased her about the fact that my energy levels were extremely high lately and the birds must be drawn to that energy. She insisted that I please remember that she was the one who had seen them first, and I would have missed them completely if she hadn’t pointed them out to me. And she was absolutely correct.

We then talked about the specific meanings of such close encounters. In the world of symbolism, all birds are considered spiritual messengers because they are constantly moving in the space between earth and the heavens. Thus, they are often viewed, in symbolic terms, as the vehicles for the transport of messages between those two realities.

The messages pertain to the individual species and are found in their habitats, coloring, and behaviors. Thus, a woodpecker that drums on dead trees and sends an echo through wooded places, can be seen as a messenger of forthcoming confrontation, perhaps even battle or war, because of the red color, often with a mixture of black and white, on its body. But, that red color also speaks of creative fire, so the message may concern a confrontation with self about a choice between creative activity versus more practical ones.

As I said in my essay last week ( Eagle As Spirit), the eagle is a symbol of spirit and freedom, the ability to rise to the occasion and perform tasks that might otherwise be considered beyond the reach of the normal. The message of the hawk is about remembering who one really is, beneath all the social and interactive behavior we engage in. That person with individual thoughts, beliefs, wants and desires, that inner individual.

Ahh, but back to the present story. The next day, as I was commenting on someone else’s current poem about wings and flight, I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t asked the Gyrfalcon what her name was. She was immediately in my mind, wings spread out above me as I looked up and she looked down at me, and she said, “My name is Grace.”

My Mother passed away on April 30th, of this year. She was 91, and had had a full and rich life, and was deeply cherished by those of us left behind. And yet, these past summer months have been bracketed by three different encounters with unusual birds. So much so, that I could easily define these past months as the Summer of Feathered Messages.

Although my daughter was present for the last two encounters, I was alone when I saw the first one: a Pelican. That message is about buoyancy, the ability to dive into the darker aspects of life, and grab what will nurture whatever travels take one into the future. That particular story can be found at
http://1sojournal.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/gifts/

Taken altogether, those messages are potent. The buoyancy needed to traverse the landscape of grief with a spirit of freedom and the ability to remember who I really am. And what’s more, that is exactly what this summer has been for me.

With sudden endless hours of time on my hands, after my Mother’s death, I found myself on my computer. There, I stumbled onto a circle of writing and poetry prompts that have been life giving and incredibly nurturing. I have once again, reestablished my love of poetry and eagerly participated in that circle. I have been enriched ten-fold by meeting new people, poets and writers that have fed me with their words, their poems, their comments. And I have been given the grace necessary to create a new life, one that celebrates who I really am, have always been, and am still becoming.

In searching back in my files for the Pelican story, I found a quote by Emily Dickinson:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

Death, especially the death of a beloved parent, is a journey for those left to go on with life. The end of that journey is a recommitment to life, to the hope that life will go on, will continue to grow and to evolve. Mine has certainly done so. When I look at all of those messages I find I can only be grateful to a Universe that gave me this Summer of Feathered Graces.

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About 1sojournal

Loves words and language. Dances on paper to her own inner music. Loves to share and keeps several blogs to facilitate that. They can be found here: http://1sojournal.wordpress.com/ http://soulsmusic.wordpress.com/ http://claudetteellinger.wordpress.com/
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46 Responses to Summer of Feathered Graces

  1. anthonynorth says:

    An excellent, uplifting post. I’ve studied such symbolism myself in the past, tracing them through animism and synchronicity. It’s a fascinating subject.

    • 1sojournal says:

      Anthony, it is fascinating and I doubt it could be called a passing fancy after almost thirty years. I am into the realization for the need of Balance in all things, including our means of knowing and understanding. This is definitely a more subjective form of that and could be seen as no more than a side glance, or a slant view. But, pure logic can be rigid and unbending and it needs that side glance for a more rounded and life-like conclusion. Life is far too rich to be contained within straight line thinking.

      I just posted an essay on that subject on another site. It’s about the two hemispheres of the brain and how they function and what that means on a personal level for the individual, and the matter of soul. It can be found here:
      http://1sojournal.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/bridge-over-the-river-soul/
      I love a good dichotomy, lol.

      Elizabeth

  2. “I heard the owl call my name…” an intriguing book by a Margaret Craven. Your writing was fascinating. I so enjoyed it. I have an affinity with birds too.

    • 1sojournal says:

      Diane, I’m familiar with the book. I have a former student who says she’ll drive anywhere with me because I ‘call’ the birds, especially the hawks and she loves to count them. But, the birds are not the only things that come. I’ve had encounters with wolves, coyotes, deer, raccoons, foxes, turtles and more. That’s one of the aims of this blog. To tell those stories and find meaning in them. Glad you enjoyed this one.

      Elizabeth

  3. Mary says:

    Such fascinating encounters with birds you’ve had. I enjoyed reading about them. Now I am off to check out the meaning of ‘cardinals’ as that is the bird I have the most affinity for lately and see often in my backyard. (of course, there are innumberable robins and sparrows as well. LOL)

    • 1sojournal says:

      Mary, cardinals are fascinating little creatures. My Mom and I would sit on her patio and she’d say, “Go ahead, talk to them.” So, I’d whistle and the cardinal/s would respond and she’d giggle and laugh. She loved it. For me, the cardinals are a symbol of creative fire at its fullest peak. And they are the reminder of warmer things when seen in the black and white landscape of winter, when creative energy seems hardest to come by. They are members of the finch family, thus singers. I think of them as the poets of the finches, because of their wonderful ascending and descending song that ends with a sort of chuckle sound. And their flight pattern is important as well.

      Sorry, about that, I do have a tendency to go on and on about the things that interest me most.

      Elizabeth

  4. Mary says:

    oops, innumerable!

  5. Soon after my dad passed away, I too had such encounters with totally unrelated events. Those only enhanced my feelings that dad wanted me to get on with my life. Of all his four children, I was the one who had not left the nest and was very close to him. He must have been aware of my loss and knew what he had to do. Yes, I still miss him but now I don’t get sad thinking of him.

    As you must know from my reflections, your post touched me. Deeply.

    http://firmlyrooted.blogspot.com/2010/09/ode-to-shoes.html

    • 1sojournal says:

      Gautami, thank you for your comments. I know they mean a lot because they take extra time and energy to do. But, I am so glad that you too have had these amazing encounters and find a depth of meaning in them as well. I was thinking of the birds and their wonderful meanings and messages, and you reminded me that my Mother’s spirit is free now, to come to me in all different kinds of forms and reminders. Thank you for that.

      Elizabeth

  6. vivinfrance says:

    Elizabeth, I have posted a picture and a poem specially for you, on my blog: http://vivinfrance.wordpress.com/2010/09/04/for-elizabeth/ I will remove it afterwards, as I have entered it for a competition.

    Cardinale birds: in Seychelles they were regular visitors to our breakfast table, cleaning up stray toast crumbs. I used to hang a glass plate in a sling from the veranda roof, with rice for them and it was a delight to watch and hear them. Lucky you to have them where you live.

    • Mary says:

      Viv, I was fortunate to take a look at both the photo of your husband’s work and the poem before you took it down. I had said that your husband does stunning work and that of all the poems I have read of yours this was my favorite. We can learn SO much from nature / birds. I hope you see this comment.

      Elizabeth, I did go and do reading on the cardinal after my comment above. I think I am going to adopt the cardinal as my totem. It fits me somehow.

      • 1sojournal says:

        Mary, I wasn’t too sure about the totem angle, but was drawn to it none the less. I had an encounter with a hawk one day, and believe she came to tell me that she would be my totem. Another story to tell, another post to write. I find it exciting to find others who have a like-mind and soul. Just wish I’d thought to save the image and poem Viv put up for me. Maybe she will be kind enough to do that. I just sat there and cried for a few minutes. Softly, lol. Then came back here to tell her about my very special Montana encounter with the Osprey. A wider place, a bigger bird. Wow!

        Elizabeth

      • vivinfrance says:

        Thank you Mary. Sometimes I spend hours, days, even weeks writing and fiddling with a poem. That one was written in half a hour during a very rewarding poetry workshop here in Normandy in June.

    • 1sojournal says:

      And lucky I am to have such a friend. I needed your message this morning, more than I can say. Thank you so much Viv. And thanks for the tip about what to feed the cardinals. I will do the same.

      But, because of your gift to me this morning, want to tell you about my first encounter with the Osprey. We’d driven to Montana and wanted to go to Yellowstone Park. We were at a motel, took out a map and left before sunrise the next morning to follow the Yellowstone River to our goal. It was spring and the river was rushing and gorgeous to drive beside. The sun came up and because I was driving, I decided to just stop at a wayside lay-by to be able to better take in the scenery. While we sat watching, four Osprey came flying into the scene. In formation, one behind another, and each one in turn, dove for the water, and the sun seemed to glint and bless each one, again in turn. It was a beautiful moment to be there, to see that, and still remains, in my mind, one of the most spriritual-like moments of my existence. I felt blessed, just as I do this morning with the gift you have given me. Thank you Viv, from the bottom of my heart.

      Elizabeth

  7. systematicweasel says:

    Just the other day, morning actually, I caught an owl sitting in the middle of the road. It stared at me intently, then flew off after a couple of minutes. It was odd, and I haven’t thought about it until I read this post. Wonderful post! =)

    -Weasel

    • 1sojournal says:

      Owls are wonderfully mysterious creatures. They symbolize different things in different cultures. In some, they are the harbingers of coming death and change. In others they are wisdom and knowing. I personally think of them as the eagle/hawks of the night, moving on silent wings and seeking what lives in the shadows.

      In my Personal Mythology, she is a great Snowy Owl and was the guardian of the gate into my subconscious mind, showing me how to get there, and what I had blocked from my childhood experiences. She came first, in another form, shapeshifter is another symbol owls represent, one I wasn’t real fond of, but over time I knew I had to deal with her. When I did, she morphed into what I can only call a magnificent creature of deep, deep wisdom.

      If I were you, I would go back into that memory when the owl blocked your path, and ask it its name. The owl came into your space with a message and a purpose. It is always so easy to dismiss such encounters in our logic oriented world. But, we creative individuals are forever knocking on the door of imagination and intuition. We just assume there is no one and nothing on the other side of that door, never stopping to realize it is a door into another way of knowing. In my comment above, to Anthony, I mentioned an essay I have posted on just that reality. You might want to read it and explore that issue a bit more. And I’m glad my current essay helped you to remember. You were supposed to do that.

      Thanks for your comments Weasel,

      Elizabeth

  8. pamela says:

    Elizabeth I love this writing. I remember reading `the pelican` story you wrote quite vividly. I had written a short story of sorts about my relationship with my mom and you had commented on it. As you said to me once before `death is process we must go through alone in our own way` not verbatim (I know) but it is so true. I always feel as if my mom is with in all that I do. I say this in lieu of just losing my second and last brother. Just in the past 9 months. Death does inspire us to go on.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Pamela

    • 1sojournal says:

      Pamela, I love it when my words come back to haunt me, lol. But, on this occasion, I’m really glad that you reminded me. We are, all of us, in some stage of grief, almost continually, because of losses major and small. The loss of a pet, a personally significant possession, opportunity, take your pick. And although those less significant things, are not major, they still initiate the same process to be gotten through. If we ignore or dismiss that reality, they simply accumulate and can land us in a crisis of depression and despair, questioning our sanity because we don’t know where that heavy load came from.

      When I wrote them in your comments, they were the truth as I know it. Now, you bring them back to me when I need them. We truly get back what we give. Thank you for being yet one more messenger in my day. I will sleep tonight on a bed of feathered graces. Not a bad image, at all.

      Elizabeth

  9. marja says:

    What a beatiful inspiring and uplifting post. I enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t have much close encounters with birds only a lot with fantails a small NZ bird but I love the soaring creatures and they do symbolise freedom for me. I will look out for them a bit more.
    Arohanui marja

    • 1sojournal says:

      Marja, I had to smile when I read your words. Especially that last statement that you will look for more of them. I’m fairly certain, that now that you have said that, put that energy out into the Universe, you will begin to see a lot more of them. They are called to like energy. And I, on the other hand, will have to go look up fantails and find out what they mean and are all about. Thank you for reading and commenting,

      Elizabeth

  10. Rebecca says:

    I really enjoyed reading this and the symbolism behind each bird. Mourning doves, bluejays and cardinals are always on my back porch as I keep a bird feeder there. The minutes fly by whenever I see them because I find birds so fascinating. This was lovely Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing…..

    • 1sojournal says:

      Rebecca, do they leave feathers on your back porch? Feathers are a symbol of truth, that which is light enough to lift a life up, and strong enough to enable it to fly and stay up in the air. We each of us, have personal truths that must grow and change as we do. It might be interesting to explore those truths through the lens of each bird’s symbolism.

      Thanks for stopping and commenting, and this is one thing I love to share,

      Elizabeth

  11. Susannah says:

    This was a beautiful post. I love the messages we are always getting from nature, the animals and birds, our environment as a whole. The symbolic language is one that can be seen, felt and understood if we get used to ‘seeing’ that way. I really enjoyed my visit here. 🙂

    • 1sojournal says:

      Susannah, our most ancient anscestors saw all of life as a whole and communicative. I think that when we open orselves to that kind of seeing, we open ourselves to that deeper reality, and in Jungian terms, actually open a channel to the Collective Unconscious that speaks if we but listen. We really know very little about what our ‘wholeness’ means. This is just another path toward finding that wholeness and embracing it.

      Thank you for your comments, you’ve given me several ideas for future posts.

      Elizabeth

  12. Brian says:

    We have both a hawk and kestrel living in our neighborhood. They fly and call throughout the day causing the other creatures in the area to exchange warnings and information between species. Crows, bluejays, cardinals, mockingbirds and squirrels all react very differently to the threats.

    • 1sojournal says:

      Hi Brian, good to see you today. And what I find amazing is that we can learn a thing or two from each of those reactions. I once had several encounters with foxes, over several weeks of time. They just seemed to keep popping up wherever I went. When I finally settled down to do some serious reading, I found that foxes have several behaviours they engage in when they are being pursued. And each of those reactions could be traced to mental practices that I was engaging in at the time. It was an intriguing and fascinating exploration and I learned a great deal about myself in the process. And by the way, once I actually understood the messages, I promptly stopped seeing the foxes. That story is in the files of this blog and can be foung here:
      https://intuitivepaths.wordpress.com/2009/04/11/a-synchronicity-of-foxes/

      I love synchronicity,

      Elizabeth

  13. Claudia says:

    i love the emily dickinson poem that underlines your post so well

    • 1sojournal says:

      I like Emily as well, but have to be in the mood for her. And finding this piece at that moment, made it one of those really right places. Thank you Claudia for stopping and commenting,

      Elizabeth

  14. Rinkly Rimes says:

    I have never had a similar experience. I wonder if you believe that re-incarnation has anything to do with it? I don’t think I’m a candidate!

    • 1sojournal says:

      Rinkly Rimes, although I understand the basic ideas of reincarnation, that isn’t what I’m about. This is more a concept of energy that draws like energy, just as mind or spirit often attracts those similar forces. When I think of it though, realizing I am afraid of hieghts, have only been in a plane twice in my life, I’m not sure what the draw for the birds might be. The only time I feel a sense of soaring is when I write.

      But, then if birds have a sense of the symbolic, I would wonder what I would symbolize to them. A pair of bright alert eyes, constantly pecking at the pebbles of my own truth, finding nurture there, and being startled by most near-by movement?

      And what don’t you think you are a candidate for? Reincarnation or such encounters as those I have described?

      Thanks for your thoughts. As usual, they have taken me to other places. Thank you for that as well,

      Elizabeth

  15. tillybud says:

    This was a gentle and fascinating read. Thank you.

    • 1sojournal says:

      Tillybud, thank you for the gentle. That might be what the birds are drawn to. I have a tender spot for all living things and often speak softly to the birds and other creatures who visit my little backyard. They seem to accept and don’t run or fly away as one would expect them to do. Sometimes they seem as interested in me as I am in them.

      Elizabeth

  16. amanda says:

    what a lovely encounter, I had no idea of the symbolism birds have in our lives. I just lost parents recently, my mother in Feb and my father last September, it is certainly a journey albeit one I did not think to make this early in my life. Thank you for this marvelous read it made my day.

    • 1sojournal says:

      Amanda, and I agree it is lovely to have these encounters. There is symbolism attached to most wild creatures, and domesticated ones as well. My condolences on your losses, and both so close together. That makes it doubly difficult and I am glad that my words brought you a measure of comfort. Thanks for stopping and commenting,

      Elizabeth

  17. friko says:

    Maybe I have come to you late but I have come.
    I am full of admiration for your work and very glad that you have found the leisure to enrich both your own life and the lives of those who read you.

  18. 1sojournal says:

    Oh Friko, if you only knew. I love the fact that I finally have this time and space to do what I love most to do. And would continue even if no one else was interested. Your comment moved me this morning when I first read it, gave me the push I needed to do it all again. And now, I can come back and find it here, waiting to whisper in my ear, “Go ahead, it really does have meaning.” Thank you for that.

    Elizabeth

  19. I thought I had posted earlier? I came to see you today, in hopes you had posted something new. So I read again your piece. I enjoyed it again just as much as the first time. I wanted to share with you….when my husband died, I was so shattered I didn’t think I would be able to go outside. I would get lost. My sister said, no, you will make a list. So the first time, when all the mourners had left us, I made a list. The first thing on the list, was the office supply, I wanted to get things straightened on his desk, new folders, etc. I arrived and parked the car. As we got out, this silly crow, flew down and balanced himself on the mirror of my car. His antics were so funny, pretty soon he had us laughing, I had never seen a bird act that way. And then I knew.
    Magic can happen anywhere, even in an urban shopping center. The day continued to be magical, with each errand. And I did it, and survived, that day. It is not to say I was not lost on other days. Thanks

    • 1sojournal says:

      Annell,

      Sorry, I haven’t been here. Things got a bit wild this week and not the bird or animal kind. I am planning on posting here tomorrow or the next day.

      I love your story about the crow. It’s wonderful. And crows are the symbol of higher law. That which moves on a higher plane than the physical realm we are accustomed to. They are also considered shape-shifters and there are many wonderful myths about them. And what I find most delightful of all is that I was planning to post on the crow in my next essay. It’s sort of like I came here and you said yes, go ahead and do that. Synchronicity is a wonderful thing.

      And no, we have those other days. That’s what my absence has been about. A lot of turmoil that needed time to settle and find it’s own avenue through all of the words I have been writing. I put that on the 1sojournal site earlier today. Thanks for the comments and I look forward to my next post. Hope you do as well, lol.

      Elizabeth

  20. Yes, these are blessings!

  21. Cynthia says:

    Hi Elizabeth, thank you for sharing this personal beauty of love and truth.
    Your honesty and spirituality I know has helped each person who has read this.
    It is obvious the enduring hearts that inhabit your family.

    Thank you.

    • 1sojournal says:

      Cynthia, thank you for your wonderfully kind comments. It could have been such a rugged summer, but these encounters filled me with awe and a different awareness of my own passage through life’s journey. It will be remembered, as they say, long and long.

      Elizabeth

  22. Christopher says:

    I like your approach. I would suggest that the raptors and others do not themselves offer the symbols. The symbols arise from human needs. The shamanic tradition has an approach to these things, that we ask permission for such things to extend meaningfully into our lives. The asking and the permission given are as important as the meaning. When is an eagle a symbol for human spirit? When I ask for it. When God allows. On my post comment to you I pointed out how alien, how inhuman birds actually are. By themselves they cannot contain human meaning. We as symbol casters impose such things. The shamanic traditions suggest that such magic is a cooperative between man and creature, man and God. To find symbols in the world around us, to impose them as an intermediate act of otherwise passive perception is arrogant and will backfire if it is not a cooperative gesture. The birds are not messengers in and of themselves. Of themselves they are alien sentient beings filled with their own purpose. To know one’s place is essential in magic.

    • 1sojournal says:

      Thank you Christopher, for responding to my invitation. And yes, I am aware of the shamanic tradition that poses a definite ritual of cleansing and preparation for opening oneself to a ‘spiritual guide’, and that the guide does the choosing and not the other way around.

      However, there are many paths one may seek to follow and look for a truth that will uphold the individual, not just through a certain moment, but through an ongoing life experience. And each individual must make that choice according to his/her influences and inclinations. We all seek to understand, not just our own existence, but that of all of life.

      Traditions can be one of those paths. Symbols are another, but find their origins in traditional thought and belief as well. And each culture has such traditions. Although the language of symbols is not the same as that of the Shaman, it is based, to some extent in similar and like-minded tradition. But, as with all paths of thought, no one is the ultimate holder of all truth. Rather, each holds a piece or part of that truth.

      A path, by its very defintion is not a walled in experience. It is simply an invitation to follow, one step at a time. I truly believe that every path has value of one sort or another. Therefore, it is my personal goal to stay open and as aware as possible. It is definitely what drew me to your site and to your words, in which I found, and continue to find immense value.

      But language itself is simply another set of symbols that arose out of the human need to communicate. Every letter I type is merely a symbol, and yet placed together they form a message. They are not a knowing message in their own right, but still form one. All of life informs all of life, if we so choose to allow it. But, we also have to be able to discern those messages and how they relate to our own existence. Many of my ‘symbolic’ messages are of my own definition, found through years of study and expereinces. Yours would be different for all the same reasons.

      I do not proclaim myself as the holder of any or all truth, but I am definitely a seeker after and of truth. And I am not a magician, although I do believe in the magic of the human brain that can and does occur, especially in the functions of intuition and imagination.

      Thank you again, for stopping in to read and comment. You are always welcome here, and as usual you really made me think. At my age, that’s a very good thing,

      Elizabeth

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