The breeze is my grandmother ancestor, running her beautifully veined hands through my hair. She is this gentle, not just to me but to the leaves and flowers too. I watch the branches of the sequoia lightly heave and settle in a graceful dance. There is an osprey in her upper limbs. I can not see it but I know its pitch pipe call, the repetitive chir-chireep. I wonder how long it has until the crows come in a mob of harassment.
My focus moves from ears to eyes and I find a small ladybug running across my computer screen, a fresh little red thing with no spots. I can tell it is busy and will not last here long. Sure enough, it hurriedly raises its crimson parachutes and floats off. It is just one continuous parade of awe being outside and I decide that going inside might be less distracting.
A moment later I am sitting next to the window trying to regain my concentration when the bumblebees come thump, thump, thumping against the glass, drunk with nectar, stumbling and love sick, dogs with their tongues hanging out. They are undeterred by the barrier, persistent in their belief that there are flowers to get to on the other side. The sound of small living bodies hitting the glass makes me cringe. Is this biological urge? Is this lust? Is this duty? Is this the undying pact, a treaty signed in blood, between bee and flower?
Getting up to go into the kitchen, I see a crow a few feet from the door, peering in. It is so close, I think I should open the door to let her in. I imagine she will hop right through the threshold to begin a search for worms within the carpet in the living room. Instead she looks away and hops off towards the flower pot. Underneath a rock on the top of the pot is the still downy fur of our old dog, lovingly groomed, saved, and hidden by my son before she passed away. The crow has found a motherload. No doubt she is nesting and she takes a huge tuft of dog hair in her beak, flying off to line her nest. I say a little prayer for the warmth of her babies.
It is this way with me and the flying beings. They want in. They knock on doors. They speak through wide windows in the blackest hours of the night. They fly a close few feet above my head. The crow, the osprey, the heron, the bald eagle come so close, I am left stunned in gratitude. Their wing beats are spirit whistling me back, auspicious reminders that I am not alone.
The word auspicious comes from the Latin auspex, which literally means “bird seer” (from the word avis, meaning “bird,” and specere, meaning “to look at”). In ancient times, these “bird seers” were priests that studied the flight patterns of birds, then delivered prophecies based on their observations. The right combination of bird behavior could signify drought, plague, or fertile fields.
Birds show up in guidance, deliver me messages, teach me trust. In all this beauty and grief, loss and renewal, death and rebirth, they tell me to spread my wings wider. Hold myself steady in the contradictions. Lean into the momentum of my own becoming.
This is not the trust of unthinking blind faith or empty acquiescence. It is not a childish assumption that things will always go my way. Trust is an empowered surrender as an active participant, fueled by courage and action versus apathetically wishing things were different.
Trust reminds me that sometimes comfort must be shaken out of its bed, familiarity must be blindfolded and spun around, reassurance must be sent into the woods at dusk. At these times, uncertainty may feel like my only friend.
Trust tells me that often I will not know how or why I am being led in a certain direction. There may be loneliness, lightless pathways, even no earth beneath my feet for periods of time while I follow the timid truths of my soul.
Trust tenderizes me, telling my jaw to unhinge, reminding my shoulders to sink, gently speaking to my belly to unclench. It convinces all of my receptacles of tension to unfurl and flow. It is the greatest softener I know.
The winged ones embody this trust, in the shape of the sky, in the push of the wind, in their own strong wings. We are born into some kind of inherent trust but we only learn to fly through practice. We must all take that chance on ourselves at some point.
In the forest later that day, my children’s voices drift ahead on the winding trail, their bodies hidden by the explosion of spring. I hear their chattering tones turn suddenly concerned.
“Mama, there is an injured baby bird!”
I hustle to catch up and indeed there is a young robin with its wings splayed out unnaturally. Its feathers are slick and it looks fresh from the nest but I know it is at least a few weeks old and just wet from the forest. It is barely breathing, its eyes locked with the paralyzed look of a doe caught in a trap.
Our presence prompts it to straighten up and we are glad to see that its wings are perfectly sound. We were just witnessing the practicing so few see, the tender, scary efforts of a new beginning. This unblinking, vulnerable thing was in the bravest of acts: complete and utter self trust.
Photo: Alex Guillaume