I mentioned to the elder, a cross had formed in the waking woods of some far off place. Should I be in reverence or concern?
And so it goes along the way home: signs and omens, the fleeting memories of some past life, some specter in the veil between worlds, or perhaps just a synapse misfiring in the hippocampus.
What are feelings but a memory recalled, the animal instinct, confined in a box of limited capacity and even less malleability?
Poetry is like this – the evocation of something we seem to recall, that seems to touch deep and hidden parts of us; but it’s not quite clear how or why or even what. And so we read another and another poem and wade around in intellectual waters after, discussing many meanings.
Hand me your coat and I’ll give you a handkerchief made of gold.
The deal seems good until you step out into the cold, into the harshness of city sidewalks and windy woods.
With this talk of coats and cold, I’m reminded that a lion’s mane serves more than one purpose, lovely and bold. It is an honor and a cloak. A signal of aggression that acts as a defense against the battle ever beginning and, one imagines, a shield when it fails to defend.
Patterns emerge from dust. Snowflakes are unique but conform to certain characteristics based on conditions having only something to do with them. We are like this: one source, separated and singular, molded by the specific environment into which we fall within a relatively narrow set of parameters. Unique as we seem up close, we look relatively uniform at a distance. Very little of it has anything to do with us.
The hard part is over.
Move slowly into today’s next step with confidence and see what comes your way.
Consider how you enter a room. Is it like a finch, light and dancing, unobtrusively humming a tune? Like a crow, swooping and solemn, as if you carry some great, invisible weight upon you? Or, like the hawk, silent and intense, the earth around you falling to stillness in your presence?
Consider that you are all of these. You have the capacity to take many forms and try many ways of being.
Often, our inconsistencies seem like a burden, something to be overcome through discipline and spiritual practice. But are they not also uniquely human?
The finch cannot change how it moves about. The crow cannot feign an easeful flight. The hawk can’t help but intimidate the world around its perch into silence – whatever its intentions.
But you, you take many forms – within whatever constraints you’ve acquired by virtue of something innate interacting with a set of external conditions. The uniqueness of your being lies not in its consistency. You are not set apart by distinctions of ability.
Expressing your being is not a matter of keeping a tight, predictable routine. Your unique capacity, indeed, your humanness itself, is in the opportunity to express life many ways. You can invoke any energy you want, blending and combining and articulating them on the whims of each moment. Thereby, you experience life from different perspectives and in a way that is singularly remarkable.
So don’t shy away from the uncomfortable or new. These are opportunities to explore fresh horizons – and not of some scary, forbidding and foreign environment. They exist dormant within, native to the landscape of you.
To help, don’t take “you” so personally.
“You” is not even remotely what you think it is. It’s just your attachment to some identity, born of repeated patterns. But you can change these any time you wish.
As such, we must wonder: if something is impermanent, highly variable, and subject to change according to its own whim, how can we take seriously what it is at any given moment, let alone expect to define and confine it?
And, yet, we consistently do this with ourselves, limiting our actions, experience, and feelings within imaginary boundaries we’ve concocted or adopted. The result is monotony or depression or some manic outburst. These emotions are your inner birds looking to take flight! The millions of unexpressed aspects of your being are screaming and clawing to get your attention, to get out and express. Let them!
There’s a story that should go here.
It is about a farmer and his wife. They lived in the late 1800s in Texas. Each morning they rose before dawn and set to work. Each day was the same: open the chicken coup, feed the donkey, milk the cow, plow and plant and water, churn and bake and mend. Eggs in the morning, bread and soup in the evening.
One year, a man offered them an absurd amount of money to drill for oil on their land. It was the sort of money that would change their lives and end the tedious, back-breaking monotony of farming. They accepted, of course.
The pair moved to San Antonio. They bought eggs for breakfast, took clothes to the seamstress for repair, and ate out at a fine restaurant three times per week. They still rose before dawn, their new lifestyle awaiting.
This went on for three months.
Then, the fighting began. And soon the farmer left. He took enough money and bought a new farm, smaller and less developed than before. He bought chickens, a donkey, three cows, and a plow. He woke up before the sun and toiled the day away, rebuilding a facsimile of the life he’d known before.
His wife stayed behind. She made new friends in the high society of San Antonio, such as it was at the time. Not a few suitors attempted to win her affections. It was all quite exciting.
Yet, as time went on, she would wake guilty and sad, late into the morning. She gained weight and started taking laudanum to help her sleep. Eventually, she hired a coach, which carried her to the farm on which her husband toiled. He opened the door and ladled some soup into her bowl.
Where’s the moral here, you ask?
It is about embracing life. The setting does not always change the person. The person must decide to make the change. We can choose to do different things but unless we are ready to let go of the identity we are attached to, there is little that a change of scenery or habits or wealth will offer.
Conversely, we can experience life, no matter where we are, in unique ways, even if the environment does not change. We can walk to the chicken coup one morning as a hawk and see what happens. We can till the fields as a crow. We can milk the cow like a feathery finch.
Variety and excitement and experience lie not in the exploration of uncharted realms but through engagement with life in uncharted ways.