Perhaps, it is not surprising to have an increase in encounters with nature as the weather warms, trees blossom, and the earth dons her most colourful outfits. The surprise for me has been an increase in my encounters with birds.
It began last week when I returned home from shopping. As I was arranging the groceries, I heard a strange sound in the living room. Investigating, I discovered a dove, thrashing herself again and again against the stairwell window. We were both shocked by the discovery.
I couldn’t imagine how she had gotten into the house, which added to the mystique. For a moment, I wondered if this could be real. All the doors and windows were closed and had been all day. She certainly seemed real, however.
As a primate with a well-developed social nervous system, I was quickly able to calm myself down, using my pre-frontal cortex to assess that I was safe even in this strange, inexplicable situation. I immediately felt empathic resonance with this poor bird, who had somehow strayed into the house and was now trapped in a useless window sill, repeatedly trying to escape through the unrelenting glass of a window that would not open. Sensing her fright, my heart opened to this suffering being.
I began applying my therapeutic skills to help her calm down and enter the possibility of perceiving me as ally rather than enemy. As I spoke to her softly, she began to settle. Instead of bashing herself into the window, she sat in frozen observation of potential danger. I continued to reassure her that I meant no harm and intended to help. Gradually, her freeze began to thaw. I could see her small body soften. Her stare seemed to shift from pure terror to wondrous curiosity.
This Way Out Please!
At this point, I began my mission of helping her leave the house. I gently explained my plan, as I moved slowly to the dining room doors across the room and opened them wide for her. I tried to demonstrate to her that I could go outside this way, suggesting she could, too. She watched me carefully, but did not budge. I moved slowly over to a chair closer to her. She eyed my every move. I sat where I sensed the edge of her energetic territory, settling myself deeper, as I would in working with a cranial client. Then, I set about sending her a visual message, explaining in pictures how she could easily leave the house through the open dining room door. After a few minutes, I told her I would leave the room so she could fly out without having to pass me. I closed the door behind me as I went into the kitchen to put away the rest of the groceries, staying as calm and quiet as I could.
After about five minutes, I heard a small crash in the living room. My impulse was to rush in and make sure she was ok, but I restrained myself. Staying as quiet as I could, I peeked through the living room door. There she was on the lower step below the window sill.
I began to worry about my new housemate. What if she had broken a wing in her mad efforts to escape? Maybe she couldn’t fly and had fallen to the lower step. It should have been easy for her to hop down from the window sill and down the two steps into the living room. It should have been easy for her to fly to the open door. Why had she crash landed?
Not knowing what else to do, I again followed my cranial training. I calmed myself and deepened into my sense of ground and heart, while widening my awareness. I softly backed out of the living room door, giving her more space to find her way. Even in the midst of my concern, I trusted the innate intelligence of this being in my presence. I held her in my heart with that trust and compassion, and waited for her bio-intelligence to express more fully.
As part of grounding myself further, I quietly prepared and ate my dinner, giving my companion all the space she might need to find her way outdoors. Over the next hour or so, there were a few more crashes. I decided to leave her be, in case my presence was just adding to her trauma.
Finally, with dusk approaching and my belly full, I peeked again through the living room door. There she was, still sadly perched by the uncooperative window. For a moment, I felt hopeless. Perhaps, that was what she was feeling. I surmised that she had not understood my directions to the door, and had returned to her efforts to go through the window.
Not sure if this window would even open, I gently approached her, explaining that I would try to open it for her. She startled briefly as I approached, but seemed to quickly understand that I was not going to hurt her. Reaching over her to explore the window, I could not avoid getting too close. The dove began again wildly fluttering her wings in futile efforts to go through the glass. To give her more space I removed the vase beside her on the sill, which she had remarkably not knocked over.
I discovered that the window actually opened, but only on the top, about a foot above her. Clearing the space for her, I again tried to communicate that this was a way out. Completely ignoring my advice, she desperately smashed into the glass.
Finally, I saw no choice but to help her more manually. I had never picked up a bird like this before. I’m not sure who felt more nervous about this procedure. Her behaviour actually suggested it might be me! After gently explaining to her that, if she would not go outside on her own, I would need to pick her up with the towel in my hands, she seemed to consider the situation briefly before coming down from the window sill and perching herself directly in front of me. She looked at me as if to say, “Come on, already! I’ve been waiting for hours!”
As carefully as I could, I slowly brought the towel in my hands around her body. The moment the towel touched her feathers, she startled again and began flapping furiously. She headed right back into the window.
Calming myself down, as well as her, I spoke as soothingly as I could. After a moment, she quieted and then did a very remarkable thing. She came back down from the window sill and returned to me, standing in the best possible position for me to pick her up. This time I made my hold firmer, having seen that she did not break quite as easily as I had feared.
It seemed like instinct for her wings to struggle as soon as the towel contacted them. This time I held on, trying to lift her to the open window. In the process, her wings got loose. I found myself just holding her tail. I continued to lift, and suddenly, she slipped out of my grip and flew across the room directly to the open door and outside!
I imagine her being at least as relieved as I was. I also began to wonder how she knew to go to that open door, instead of out some other closed window. Perhaps, she had understood my communication, after all. Perhaps, she was actually trying to communicate something important to me!
Bird Number Two… and Three…
Needless to say, this dove has stayed with me, continuing to feed my consciousness in mysterious ways. Shortly after her visitation, I encountered another quite different bird.
We were driving along the country lane, heading home from my Continuum workshop last Sunday. Suddenly, there was a magnificent range of colours in front of us. A peacock was strutting slowly across the road in full display!
I had only recently discovered that peacocks frequently live at the old manor houses in Devon. This one seemed like a very special gift, determined to awaken us to the wonders of life, of nature, of the moment.
I began to be curious about this synchronicity of events, meeting with two birds in such unusual ways within such a short period of time. Two days later, a third bird entered the picture.
My Tuesday evening Continuum class occurs at a beautiful old house in the countryside outside of our ancient Elizabethan town of Totnes. Here is where a few weeks earlier I had first heard the call of a peacock, and was shown an apparently respected member of the Bowden House community.
Last week, I invited each person in the class to speak their name into the circle, as we all settled with awareness of our breath and bodies and allowed ourselves to receive the vibrations of each person’s name. As we completed speaking our names into the circle, a high-pitched cry entered our space. We all laughed, realizing that the peacock outside wanted to be acknowledged as part of our circle.
With this third bird, I could no longer deny that something seemed to be happening for me with birds. The question was, what?
Meaning, Messages, and More
Can we ever really know the whole of what is being communicated to us? Did these bird events actually mean something? Or were they simply coincidence? I suppose I make choices in relation to the synchronicities in my life. I choose to receive them as intelligent expressions of an intelligent universe. I’m not actually sure I could function in my world without this choice. It would be too meaningless, too empty, too pointless. To me, there is delight and possibility available in every moment, but only if I make the choices that enable me to open to this.
Within this context, I considered the sudden frequency of bird representatives in my life. I had originally thought the dove in my house was a pigeon. When I realized its long neck indicated it was a dove, I felt a little shiver down my spine. I have been told that one meaning of my name, Cherionna, is “Song of the Dove.” I mentioned the strange visitation to my husband when he returned home. He reminded me that, just before our marriage, we sited two white doves necking on our roof. They seemed to be reminding us of what we were capable of.
Doves have been a sacred symbol in different cultures of peace, love, innocence, renewal of life and even the Holy Spirit. Their appearance is a beautiful reminder of something we all long for. Homing pigeons, of course, are historically messengers. Doves, however, carry their message simply by being who they are.
Perhaps, the message is that simple. I, as Song of the Dove, can carry my message by being who I am. My work and teaching has so much to do with the power of being. Was the dove there to teach me further how to be?
My experience of being with her was at least as intimate and touching as my time with clients in the treatment room. I have always appreciated the possibility of being so close to another human being. There is something very precious about this. It is like being with a newborn baby. As we settle into being, that purity of presence that we come in with seems to infuse the space between us.
I used to marvel at the depth of interaction that often occurred with my patients when I worked as an Occupational Therapist in hospitals. People suffering with pain or having just lost their ability to function through a stroke or accident would open like little ones and reveal their deepest fears and hopes. I always felt honored to meet them, just as I do now with my clients and students. There is nothing I find as satisfying as having my heart touched by another being.
This is what the dove offered me. For the entire time we were together, we shared a state of pure presence. And I was touched.
The peacocks were not so close to me. Their messages were visual and auditory. Although we did not connect heart-to-heart, they penetrated my bodily experience. The colours of the one on the road stimulated my nervous system, which seemed quite excited by the show. The piercing sound of the Bowden peacock vibrated through my tissues, as a member of my weekly group. I suspect he will be back next class. As with all my students, I imagine he will have more to teach me over time.