Tide Pools

view from inside

A few days after my visit from the barn swallow another bird flew into my home through the door I leave open upstairs. This one was not so easy to catch and the experience was not poetic. When I finally caught him and let him go, he flew away and out of my thoughts. The barn swallow felt like a messenger. The second bird felt like a chore and a reminder that I needed to get a screen on my upstairs door. I mentioned his visit to friends twice, and each time I was aware of how differently I was responding to this birds presence in my home. This week a friend sent an email telling me that I had inspired her husband to pull out his bird book. That story finally moved me to look up my second visitor: a red house finch. My goggle search did not turn up much information about him so I set it aside and left for work. For a second time the finch flew out of my mind. When I arrived home that afternoon I found another male red house finch in my room. This one was making a ruckus, flew around freely, refused to be caught and finally let himself out through an open door.

I have heard that if someone misses a dream, the unconscious will make other attempts to deliver the message. I had not imagined that this was also true of the animals that appear as messengers in our lives. I have sat down and looked up my finch guest a few times since the second visit. Finches are known for having a few unique qualities. They come in many colors but the intensity of their individual coloring is affected by their diet. In flight they seldom take a direct route anywhere. They prefer to bounce and bob through air currents with a playful joy and freedom that seems to be the antithesis of the elegant soaring hawk. Native Americas saw them as the bird of happiness. The song of the finch is considered to be a beckoning to unleash one’s own song. As one source put it “The finch will sing lightly to your heart, and guide you on a bouncy path of creativity”. The finch is seen as a reminder to “enjoy the journey”.  He is a welcome reminder.

My reaction to the finch has me wondering about what I let in and what I keep out. I am questioning if, in spite of all of my curiosity, I am actually open to what I am receiving. So much happens in a day. It is impossible to pay attention to all of it in the same way that it is impossible to pay attention to every detail in a dream. Last week one of the neighborhood dogs was seen walking down our street with one of my roosters in it’s mouth.  I was relieved initially to finally have one less rooster (I have always hated the amount of noise our three roosters can make at 5:00 am) but when I saw the pile of feathers on my hike the next mornings I felt sorry for the violence of his passing.  In the past month, the rosters have been picked off one by one and suddenly my day is not punctuated by intermittent crowing. The quiet feels unnatural. Sunday morning I found one of my chickens dead in her laying box. Between the coyotes, dogs and natural causes my flock has been cut in half in the last month. It seems something is happening with my chickens. Here I am paying attention to wild birds and my domesticated birds are dropping like flies.

The way I unconsciously filter and prioritize experiences has me thinking about the walls and barriers that I have created around myself and about how difficult they make it for anything to get in or out. Recently a teacher described feelings, experiences, and events as moving in and out of life like the tide. It is the difference between experiencing life as standing in the ocean and bracing against the strength of the outgoing current, and sitting on the sand at the waters edge and feeling the tide gently moving in and out against our legs. I love the image of the tides. I can feel them moving in and out like breath in a steady but constant rhythm. Each wave brings with it fresh treasures, new energy and the unexpected. It takes away some things while depositing others on the sand as it recedes: fragile shells, sea creatures, wood planks, watermelon rinds. There are days when my emotions, obligations, and activities are overwhelming.  I struggle to hold my ground and control my environment as if trying to stand without moving knee deep in a strong outgoing current. My thickest walls are seldom a deterrent to the strongest forces of life, of nature, or it seems to the intentions of birds. How lovely it is to step around them and experience the ebb and flow of the tide.

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