My last post was about those times of waiting in the dark – or in the “soup” – when we don’t yet know what new life may be born after the death or loss we just experienced. But as with the cycle of seasons, the “winters” of our lives are always followed by the new life of Spring. I’ve been emerging from a dark winter myself in these last few weeks, and so it has been helpful that there are physical signs of new life as I walk around my neighborhood. Whether it’s a preponderance of bunnies hopping around or the brightly enthusiastic songs of birds, all these things are a comfort.
I especially love bluebirds. I was not aware that I’d see bluebirds in California, as I only knew of the Eastern Bluebird, but I’ve come to learn that there is a Western Bluebird. So in honor of these lovely creatures, I’m going to share an essay I wrote when I was still living in Georgia while in another time of waiting and watching – for new life.
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Lately, I’ve been enjoying those tell-tale sings of Spring’s presence – the fresh green grass that’s almost neon-like in its intensity, the increasing volume of the morning bird sounds, the purring made by the first hummingbirds at the feeder and the nighttime chorus of frog love songs.
I have to confess that I’m in love with birds and have always considered them visiting angels. There’s a very special place in my heart for Eastern Bluebirds, and I always stop and stare when I notice that flash of blue breezing by. A couple of years ago, I nailed a bluebird house to the side of the shed and though I usually notice a mated pair investigating its interior every year, there must be something about it that isn’t pleasing since no family except for the wasps has yet set up house there.
Once again this year there’s a bluebird family at the top of my chimney, as I often hear them chirping while I’m in the living room. The old wood stove pipe must be a particularly good audio conductor, because it always sounds as if the birds are right in the room with me.
In the first spring after I moved to Habersham County, I came home one evening from an out of town trip and was horrified to discover a dead male bluebird in my kitchen. I had just two indoor cats then and wondered if they had chased the poor thing around the house until it died of fright because its body was untouched and perfectly glorious. I could tell by the droppings left behind that he had gone to nearly every window in the house in his desperate attempts to find freedom. Each time I imagined his panic it just made me cry all over again. Before I buried him in my garden, I stroked his lovely feathers and told him how sorry I was that I’d not been able to release him from his indoor prison.
In the days that followed, I told my friends that I didn’t think it was a good omen that the “bluebird of happiness” had died in my house. I mean, just how is one supposed to interpret that? According to Wikipedia, mythology around the bluebird has existed for thousands of years and it is a “widely accepted symbol of cheerfulness, happiness, prosperity, etc.” In a 17th century European folk tale called “The Blue Bird,” two children are sent out by a fairy to find the bluebird of happiness and when they return empty-handed they learn the bird has been at their home the entire time. Native American cultures consider the birds to be sacred and I’ve learned a dead bluebird is “a symbol of disillusionment, of the loss of innocence, and of transformation from the younger and naive to the older and wiser.” When I think back to my journey over the last few years, it now makes perfect sense for that symbol to have landed in my kitchen at that time.
Just the other day, my next step finally became clear. I’ve decided to move to Chicago to attend the Lutheran School of Theology there. My hopes and prayers are that I will find my studies and my new academic community to be enriching and soulful and that this work will lead me to a vocation that will sustain me, one that I will love. I leave my beloved north Georgia mountains in July.
A couple of weeks ago, after much loud chirping in the living room, I looked up from my desk to see another male bluebird in the house. This time, I witnessed his fluttering from window to window. This time, I was able to surround him with my soft hands and escort him out the back door alive and well. I’m hoping that’s a good sign for the new life to come.