When I was a child, I sought escape and refuge whenever I could, and always I retreated to the green places where the leaves hid me and the wind whispered secrets. I never saw them, but I believed in elves and fairies and woodland spirits. I talked to trees, and spent many hours at peace reading in the branches of a weeping willow or the shade of a low tree. I made altars and left offerings to the creatures I never quite saw. In my 30s & early 40s I returned to the woods, first as part of my spiritual path, then as a place to breathe when my life choices and denial caught up with me and I felt like a caged wild animal. Time passed; I freed myself from the cage, fell in love, moved. Somehow years passed with only the very occasional walk in the woods, generally accompanied by dogs.
Lately when Linda & I are out driving to one of her off-site bee hives, we pass by a stretch of deep woods. Its green dimness calls to me and my heart has ached with the need to wander alone where ferns and moss grow beneath the leafy canopy, even more since I started writing my book, which was conceived in the memories of long-ago woodland sanctuaries. But I turn my head and distract myself; after all, I'm a Very Busy Person and besides, I'd feel guilty if I stole an hour or two for myself on one of my days off. Please understand, I know logically that Linda would be glad if I did just that, but hey, guilt is as familiar to me as my own face in the mirror.
Friday morning we took the dogs to Ramshorn-Livingston Sanctuary for an early morning walk. And as we walked under trees and along the gravelly marsh path, I knew what I wanted to do with my day off.
I began down the same path we'd taken earlier with Yeti & Lola, paying attention to my breathing and the sights and sounds around me. The birds, so busy and insistent that morning, were mostly quiet, perhaps taking an afternoon nap. A blue jay sounded an alarm when he saw me; a woodpecker laughed maniacally, then went back to drilling for bugs, but otherwise cicadas and other summer bugs made up the chorus. And then my mind started whirring loudly. What am I going to write? What if I can't think of anything? What if this is a wasted trip and I just don't write even one sentence for the book? What if.....
STOP! I stopped my walk, stopped my thoughts, stopped the panicked free fall....and consciously, deliberately gave myself permission to spend this time with the earth, sky & water, to breathe and think and be without any pressure to do anything else.
And it was awe-some.
Eventually I came to the Catskill Creek. The tide was coming in, rushing in rather than pouring out as it had been doing when we were walking the dogs that morning.
And there, once more, was an eagle! It may have been the same eagle all three times in widely different parts of the sky, but I had seen bald eagles three previous times in the same week...all in different locations. Look, I live in the Hudson Valley, near the river. Bald eagles, thank the Goddess, are not uncommon here, having rebounded from their previously endangered status. And yet...in the past week I've had six sightings, more than I had previously seen in my entire life. With this final sighting my arms rose in praise and joy and gratitude, and my heart and soul burst free in pure exaltation. I felt like i could stay there forever, just.... not leave.
And then I heard voices coming close. Sigh. I packed up my bag, tucking in this moment of grace gently, carefully, with love and tenderness, and headed home.
So what's with all the eagles? Is six sightings in a week random? I know there are many websites that offer up their spiritual meanings for when certain animals come into one's life, and I found some food for thought. But I believe we bring our own selves, thoughts, and personal lexicon into such things, and I've been thinking about the eagles. Not one appeared to be hunting, but if they were, it was in the moment, in control of themselves but not controlling their environment. Riding the thermals, they soared, observing the world but not enmeshed in the details. As the days have passed, I've been remembering this, allowing myself to take off in flight, circling above the things that usually send me on a rant, watching rather than reacting, trying to let go of needing to control every situation, and finding some peace in that.
One word keeps returning to me from that day...JOY.
Do eagles feel joy? What would joy be for such a creature?
Is joy the same for all living things...not what gives joy but the feeling of it, that reaches beyond language? What do you think?
Wishing you that same gift. Blessed be.