Unexpected Answers To Mysteries Of The Heart

Each morning I pass time at what I call my “Sit Spot” — a special place in nature (in my case, in my backyard) where I absorb the more-than-human world around me, open myself to these other companions, and attempt to simply be (easier said than done!). For months I’ve watched the changing of the plants, the dropping of fruit and leaves, the bareness, then growth of the new, the continual ebb and flow of life that does not depend on humans but continues alongside, despite us.

Back in February or so I first became aware of the liquid song of a bird in the neighborhood. The song went straight to my heart, and I yearned to discover just who this bird was. It sang each morning from the top of a very tall birch a few yards away, and the song changed, sometimes several times within a few minutes.

I tried to spot this bird, and what I glimpsed revealed a bird that was small. A sparrow? And yet, when I pulled out field guides I couldn’t definitively to myself identify the bird.

Which bird loved to be in the treetops, or on phone wires — high up? Which bird appeared to be shy — for whenever I heard this bird, or other birds like it in the neighborhood and turned my attention on them, trying to “figure them out” — the bird would invariably fly away. Truly. My very attention and focus on the bird seemed to disturb it so much that it fled.

I realized quickly that this golden-song bird, this Mystery bird embodied some important teachings and lessons for me, was in some way a mirror to my spirit, to something I would in time come to understand. Maybe. In the meantime I perused a bird book for this area, trying to narrow down just who this bird might be, listened to bird songs on the internet — and dashed outside whenever I heard the bird, wandered the neighborhood with my neck craned, struggling to spot the small bird high in the trees despite the leafing of the branches. And I despaired of ever figuring out who this little bird is.

In time I gave up listening for the bird. I didn’t really hear it anymore — certainly not at my Sit Spot time. Maybe it had moved on, migrated with the spring. Sometimes I thought I heard this bird — but the song seemed different. I know longer recognized the patterns, though the changing, liquid quality seemed similar to what had originally captured my attention.

I spotted the bird at times that I thought might be it — yes, sparrow or wren size, with a narrow tail, a pale throat, a thin beak. But the birds I listened to in the audios were not what this bird sounded like. This bird was not a vireo, for example.

In my own heart I’ve been journeying for quite sometime, moving to a renewed understand and embodying of who I am in this world, this life. I’ve come to an end of a couple of ’story arc’s, the most recent being that of our time in the West, which I understand in an energetic and metaphoric sense as well as geographically. I mark that as the New Moon my family had moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from NE Oregon. As of Sunday, we’d been here a year and a day — a length of time that is of significance in Celtic traditions. For example, many agreements were trialed for a year-and-a-day before making a final commitment to it. Hand-fasting, where a couple might live together for a year-and-a-day before committing to marriage is one such example.

And so, when I stepped outside on Monday, I felt I was stepping into someplace new in myself, some new understanding, some new cycle of Mystery and being. And as I stepped outside I suddenly became aware of a bird singing close by. My golden-song Mystery! I spotted a bird in the lowest branches of our incense-cedar — clearly to me, a wren of some sort — a winter wren? Though the tail didn’t tip up quite as much. Still, clearly the tipping up tail of a wren.

As soon this detail registered the bird darted across the yard, and I heard the golden-song from a different place, from the direction that bird had flown, though it seemed to my ears that the song came further out. Still, I crossed the yard, spotted the bird, listened to the song and knew that this was the bird that had been singing all this time.

This morning I took the time to peruse my guidebook. Yes, a Bewick’s Wren. The book even said plainly that a particular bird sings several songs, and that the songs vary from bird to bird. I got on the internet, listened to some audio clips of Bewick’s Wren, read some more about how the songs are different but there’s a certain quality that you can recognize. Bewick’s Wren.

Why hadn’t I considered wrens in my obsession with discovering the name of this bird? Why hadn’t I considered Bewick’s Wren for more than half a second? For one reason, when I’d glimpsed the bird on the phone wire or high in the trees, I’d been at such an angle beneath it that I hadn’t noticed the tipping up of the tail — or at least not for more than a moment. The tail appeared to be tipping down. For another, when I read the description of where the bird liked to hang it, it mentioned that it favored shrubs. It said how common these birds were (when in my experience they seemed so few and so shy!).

I had suspected that following — and releasing — the Mystery of this little beautifully-singing bird would reveal something I would do well to pay attention to in my own heart. And again I resonate to these truths that knowledge is available but in the end we must let go of what we think we know, let go of “trying to figure it all out”, let go and be. Then the little bird will fly right in your yard at just the right time that you can see exactly its nature — oh, a wren of some sort — but even that is not so very important to the fact that here is a being — a little bird — who is a companion in my journey, whose flight and song have interwoven with mine.

My life is more beautiful and song-filled and harmonious because I have chased the Mystery embodied in this little bird, a path that involved hammering the question with my mind, and surrender, and — when I reached a reordered/ released sense of self — finally unexpected discovery.

As I start this new day I’m so very aware of the directives my strategic mind injects into each day, each moment, and — I have an expansive sense of what might be possible if I flip-flopped this with just being present, in love with what is right before me, open to discovery. Strategic thinking (the ego) is necessary for us to live out the visions woven in our heart, the story/dream/song that our soul yearns to live in the world, but in this moment I suspect that the directive threads can really be as light and open and subtle — and effective — as a spider’s web spun between branches.

At least, that is the experiment, the wondering in which I set forth into this day. The magic that is opening between my hands.

Tell me, dear reader. What mystery do you chase? And where in the natural world is it mirrored back to you? What is the golden-song that is “out there” that you actually have resounding in every cell of your being. We may feel that we are small birds of no consequence in this huge, many-forces life, but in the language of the soul birds have always been messengers of the heart, always the ones who communicate from beyond the visible world.

What message, song, expression do you bring forth right now? Sing it here if you wish!

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A Little Bird Told Me ….

In the cloud of dream this morning, an insistent chip! chip! cuts through, sifts through my sleep: Wake up, wake up!  It is the first bird of the morning, moving from near my second story bedroom window, to the side of the house, to … for all the world like a mother nudging family awake to get them ready for school.

So I get up, fox-walk downstairs (that is, I step smoothly down the wooden stairs, setting my feet down gently so that the floors don’t make a sound).   Since we homeschool, and my husband works from home–well, the downtown cafe is his office, really–no one needs to be up by a particular time, so why not let everyone sleep. I enjoy this dawn quiet, the secret of this hour.  And so I slip out into the backyard.

I settle at my Secret Spot — (or my “not-so-secret spot”, as I call it to my family, since everyone knows where it is).  My Sit Spot is a sandstone slab on the earth, with the towering incense-cedar tree to my Northwest, the pruned roses arrayed before me, and a lovely view of my little backyard.  I press my hands into the moist ground, with its intricate layers of old cedar needles and bits of leaf and twig in disintegration, returning to the earth from “whence they came”.

Twigs And Earth

What My Student Told Me …

Yesterday, as we sat out in the garden opening our senses to the natural world and to the fullness of who we are as human beings, my Reiki Level 1 student commented that a holistic practitioner he knew recommended connecting physically with the earth every day, perhaps even for as long (or as short!) as a half hour, as a way to bring oneself into balance, to reduce stress.  From my own years-long foray into nature connection and nature awareness I know this to be true.  I was both delighted and awed by how we all carry so many bits of wisdom, gleaned from our encounters with the right people at the right time, from our own seeking, and eventually we bump into the truth of what we carry again and again, so that we finally come to believe and say ‘yes’ to it.  The wisdom goes into our bones.

It was that way with my student yesterday, as he told me what his friend had said about connecting with the earth, and about how cultures have taught their people to give their anger or grief or pain to the earth and that it’s okay.  Mother Earth is not hurt by this kind of energy we give to her.  She feeds on it, composts it, and something good grows from that humus.  I nod, thinking of a succession of times I pressed my hands to the ground in the past–or even lay on the ground, begging my Mother to please take that pain away, and then feeling that shift, and knowing myself to be cradled by the earth.  The pain might still be there, but it was changed, smoothed, and soothed.  Made bearable.  And eventually I could get up, press my hands onto the earth once more, pour my love and gratitude into that ground through my hands, my feet, my whole being, and … move on.

My student spoke of actually laying down on the ground, every day.  Why not, I think now.  What would happen if I did so, each day?   Okay, let’s be realistic and gentle with myself — how about each week?  Or even just on the New Moon (which happens to be today).  Or once on a Blue Moon.  Maybe it could be for me like receiving Communion growing up as a Catholic.   Rain or shine … lay down on the earth for a time, and just be.

What might change for me, inside?  How might my sense of self twist and stretch, and my comfort zone (“but it’s muddy! There’s chicken poop!  I’ll get my hair dirty, and my clothes … and what about those worms?”)?   If I really believe that restoring our intimacy with nature can transform our culture, heal it and ourselves, then what might happen if I tried this one thing?

Chickens in the garden

Lord Firestar, Egglantine, Lady Sandstorm, and Yellow go barefoot everyday …!

A Story I Heard

I recall hearing about a girl who came from a village in Africa, where she was always barefoot, to America, where she now wears shoes.  She says that we have eyes on our feet, and that she feels that it is now as if she were blind.  She used to see through her feet.

If I lay on the ground once a week, or every few days, or every day, what might happen if I walked barefoot into the yard? This would not necessarily be so challenging–the weather is incredibly mild where I live right now.   I don’t think we’ve even had a frost yet this winter!  What might I discover if I closed my eyes (even for a second or two) as I walked, and opened the eyes of the souls of my feet?   What if I saw with my hands, drank in my surroundings through my nose, tasted the garden in the air–maybe like some kind of sense-of-taste/smell/sound/touch echolocation?  Can I do those things?  Is it possible?

I’m inside the house at my computer, asking these questions.  I’m curious about the answers, and maybe … next time I step outside … I will even try to find out the answers.  Or begin the adventure of finding out.

All of these ideas awakening, coming together, just because I listened to what a little bird told me:

Wake up, wake up! A new day dawns! The world is new and so are you!

What Will You Tell Me?

How about you?  I’d love to hear about your own ways of connecting with the earth, the natural world.   Do you connect by way of a beloved animal companion?  (“Oh my gosh, what critter is my dog chasing now?  I had no idea we had mice in our yard!”)  By way of your children and their exuberant curiosity?   (“Ulp, how high are you climbing that tree?”)  Or through your own spiritual questing and connection? (Opening to the heart opens you to the soul of the world …).  Through poetry? (Ah, those Mary Oliver poems ….!)

What bits of wisdom about connecting with earth, sea, birds, trees, the animals do you carry and live out in small and large ways in your every day — or even every once in awhile?

And the next time you hear a bird, I invite you to stop a moment and listen, and connect with what’s in your heart.  What do you think that bird is telling you,  inside?   And where might that bird be leading you?

Please share your discoveries below!

Sweet Joy by Jane

 Sweet Joy – watercolor/colored pencil art by Jane, created for Valerie



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