Today, July 2nd, dawned crisp and cool with puffy clouds filling up the sky. The male cardinal who lives here on this deeply loved land was singing up the sun with his magnificent whistling song complete with crescendos. Such a lovely way to begin the day I thought as I greeted him. “Hi beautiful” I called as I walked out the door with seed and my two Chihuahuas. He answered me immediately and for about five minutes we called back and forth. He sang his melodious song as I replied, “oh I love you so!” Often this early morning conversation irritates my dogs who prefer that I use “I love you” only when speaking to them!
My relationship with cardinals began thirty years ago with two cardinals that arrived one December and didn’t stay…. When I moved into my little log cabin a pair moved here too. I was ecstatic. Something, about these particular birds moves me on a level I can’t quite comprehend. Is it the male’s crimson coat or the female’s soft olive feathers? Is it the way the female comes to the window and chirps to me so that I will feed her? Is it the way the male feeds the female when they are courting or the way the devoted father feeds his fledglings under the safety of my pines? Is it the young scruffy fledgling male who has learned from his parents how to entice me to feed him with a single chirp? Or is it that they seem to be as interested in me as I am in them? All I know for sure is that in their presence I feel Nature is speaking just to me. When I am happy Nature rejoices with me. When I am feeling sorrowful Nature expresses her love for me through deep empathy. At these times I feel a deep sense of comfort; a profound acceptance seeping through me softening my prickly skin and thorns. When I cannot love me, Nature shows me a cardinal. Instantly, I am once again in love with Earth and Sky!
Many people have a special relationship with a particular bird (at different times of my life I have has special relationships with different birds which may be a bit unusual). Could this be because birds are the messengers that move between the Earth and the Spirit world helping us to communicate and binding us all as One? I think they do act as messengers, and perhaps help us in a myriad of ways that we may never become aware of, so I spend a lot of time paying close attention to birds that accompany me through my everyday life.
Last night I attended a soiree that spontaneously became a moving memorial for a woman who died this week of a heart attack just after she left her art “A Parliament of Owls” to be hung for our art show. The outpouring of people’s love took the form of owls of all kinds that other participants brought in to honor Elise because of her love for these denizens of the night. Asked to write about a ‘Parliament of Owls’ I wrote and spoke briefly on the subject reminding folks that the word parliament (which historically is made up of men) and owls didn’t fit since owls were associated with women as wisdom figures, like the Greek Goddess Athena and Artemis who both had an owl aspect. Owls also represented the old Crone, the third and most powerful aspect of the pre-christian Triple Goddess who through midwifery brought children into the world and assisted the dying into death. The old Crone so feared by many has a heart filled with deep compassion for the life process as a whole, one which includes death. She reminds us that these thresholds must be crossed, but that we never have to make this transition alone.
Indigenous cultures often see owls as harbingers of death and I think there is some truth to this idea since in my own life an owl almost flew into my windshield the day my grandfather died, an owl hooted through the night when it was my mother’s time to cross her final threshold, and the owl came to me – she actually flew through a glass window – to announce that I would lose my grandchildren.
In the guest book at the soiree I wrote that I fervently hoped that Elise was now in the company of owls soaring free through a night filled with silver stars… I would like to believe that at the time of my death, I too will be flying with the cardinal (and perhaps others I have loved like Lily B my collared dove, or mourning doves, woodpeckers, red tailed hawks, owls, or hummingbirds and any other birds that may come to me in the future as teachers or friends), perhaps with the help of an Old Woman. The older I become the more familiar this “Old Woman” seems to feel to me – it’s almost as if I once knew her… The phrase “Women with Wings” takes on a new meaning in this context. Is it possible that women are not able grow wings or become our favorite birds, or fly through the night until its our time to be born or our time to die?