Does this happen to You?

Listening aimlessly to the random tunes coming from the radio on a congested drive home from work, it’s already dark, but not yet five, and cold as hell I might add. They say the trees during the winter send their energy to the roots, their core. They seem to know instinctively what it takes to weather the cold, they know what it feels like to hope with every fiber of their being, that the present darkness does not have the final say. 

I remember hearing on the news this morning that the groundhog did not notice his shadow, which indicates an early Spring, not holding my breath, just sayin. I’m heading directly to my sisters, as if her home has become a beacon, guiding me safely into port, after a harrowing day at sea. Hope this sort of language isn’t too dramatic for you, I’m in a mood, you’ll have to deal. 

I hear Paul McCartney singing, “blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings, and learn to fly…” For some reason the lyrics of this song accost me – words like Blackbird, broken wings, dead of night all command my attention, as these terms seem to be somewhat descriptive of my current situation.

I’m partial to Blackbirds, as if afflicted, the Latin root, afflictare, means “to damage, harass, or torment,” and I have to say that is an accurate description of how I feel. My first blog post, called Living in the Gap is Not Easy, happened to be inspired by a murder (calm down – it means group in this context) of Blackbirds squawking in my front yard, and I’ve sort of considered them a spiritual totem for my blog ever since. I was pleased to learn the Blackbird is the national bird of Sweden, and since half my DNA is Swede (or so I’ve been told), maybe it was destined?  
The Blackbird is generally thought to be a symbol of freedom. They can walk on the earth and swim in the sea as humans do but they also have the ability to soar into the sky. 
I decide to do a little research, figure out why these birds keep fluttering into my life, tormenting my soul. I found out they are symbolically rich, as if Jay Gatsby, right out of a Fitzgerald novel. It’s been said the blackbird represents not only intellect, intuition, and mystery, but they are often associated with ones search for higher purpose and meaning. Does this happen to you? Just when you think you have the meaning of life sort of laid out, it can be pulled out from under you without warning, as if a well worn rug?
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. Ecclesiastics 3:1-8 
I want it on record, after stepping out of my burrow this morning my shadow was suspiciously present, and now I’m worried it has something to do with an early arrival of the only season I’ve yet to experience? There appears to be an enhanced version of this lore that clear weather on the Christian Holy Day of Candlemas forebodes a prolonged winter. One can only hope. Sorry, not sorry, I sort of got swept off topic. It happens. Some people refer to it as a disorder but I think it’s rather enriching.

Come to find out the blackbird is also symbolic of life in the heavens (higher ideals, higher path of knowing) and the color black is associated with pure potential. Our lives are a great mystery, for this I can attest, and it is not possible for us to know how they will ultimately unfold. I’m learning the hard way to stop white knuckling my grasp on life like Mom used to do when Dad was piloting a plane. Dad was licensed for single engines and used to whisk the family off on exciting excursions to the Nut Tree, Carmel, Tahoe, and sometimes to the Northwest to visit our relatives in the Dalles, Oregon.

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” Leonardo da Vinci

Ann Lander’s says some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it with grace. It does not change the outcome, but leaves one feeling less cramped, stiff, imprisoned.

“To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own.” Jack Kornfield

My sweet brother-in-law David must have felt something like a caged bird, trapped by daily dialysis, and a plethora of medications. “Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure,” writes Stephen King. Life is definitely “more drab and empty” after his departure. 

When my sister’s husband of thirty-six years passed away last week, in the dead of the night, it’s as if a huge wedge has gone missing from our lives. My daughter Kelley says we’re sitting Shiva, a Jewish practice for mourning, where family gathers at the deceased home, sitting in low chairs, with covered mirrors, and soft candles, grieving together. And that is exactly what we have been doing minus the covered mirrors.

Photo credit Mackenzie Wood


The first stanza repeats, “take these broken wings and learn to fly, all your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.” It interesting because both Nancy and I have “broken wings” so to speak. She broke three bones in her left foot and recently I broke one bone in my right foot. I’ve taken the whole solidarity thing to a whole new level. And so here we sit, broken, bereaved, and I suppose that means we’ll be learning to “fly” once again, but not before the boots come off, and that won’t be for a month. 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances. Thessalonians 5:16

Death forces one to look at life from a completely different angle, what was familiar is now foreign, uncharted, remote. You don’t sign up for this sort of adventure, it abducts you, and there you are, no bikini wax, worn pedicure, your luggage is lost, and you just know it’s going to be a shitty excursion. 

Life keeps moving. The sun rises and sets, the minutes pass, the mail arrives, the laundry piles up, the dishwasher needs emptying. The news comes on but they only focus on the weather, politics, and the polar vortex, no word of our loss, or mention of our personal tragedy. It seems surreal. 

We’re all looking towards our loved ones with a little more empathy, compassion, and gratitude. This must be how death teaches us to prioritize that which we value, to let minor resentments go, to recognize the limits on the time we have left. It seems to come down to the quality of our connections, this is what sustains us when we’re feeling depleted. As Oprah says, “lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” 

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25-27

I hear Paul sing, “Blackbird fly into the light of the dark black night,” and I have to believe that is exactly the way David went. He is our new bridge between heaven and earth. Nancy was walking (limping) back into the house after running a few errands the other day, when two birds flew directly towards her, parting as they made their approach, landing in adjacent trees only feet away, and they sat there singing her a song. She stood for a while admiring what she considered to be a form of communication. This is what hope looks like, this is why the present darkness does not have the final say, he’s letting her know, “I am here, I am with you, and when you’re ready, you take those broken wings and learn to fly.”


Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these broken wings and learn to fly

All your life

You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these sunken eyes and learn to see

All your life

You were only waiting for this moment to be free

Blackbird fly, blackbird fly

Into the light of the dark black night

Blackbird fly, blackbird fly

Into the light of the dark black night

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these broken wings and learn to fly

All your life

You were only waiting for this moment to arise

You were only waiting for this moment to arise

You were only waiting for this moment to arise

John Lennon/Paul McCartney



I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we’ll flap our wings a bit.
If you enjoyed this post please spill the tea and share on your social media accounts! Thanks in advance, I’m off Facebook, de-winged so to speak. And by the way I’m lonely as hell. Does this happen to you? Leave me a crumb… 

Anecdotes:

  • Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings. Victor Hugo
  • I must’ve been a bird in some previous lifetime. I feel like I’m called to flying – the convenience and the beauty of it. That feeling of soaring would be empowering. Rachel Keller
  • I felt in need of a great pilgrimage so I sat still for three days. Kabir

2 Comments

Leave a Comment

  1. Hi Cheryl, Just wanted to throw out a few thoughts about this entry in your literary canon. Help! I can’t get that song out of my head! Gail was starting to wonder what was up with all the humming. Blackbird singing in the dead of night (but they don’t!) Your January 31st tribute to David was beautiful, thoughtful and well written. I really wanted to let it stand by itself.Your paragraph in this post about David feeling like a caged bird, and his desire to be free of the constraints of dialysis invoked the sound and image of the song Free Bird in my minds ear. I believe he is free at last. Loved the picture of you both sitting Shiva. Condolences regarding your dual injuries. This will not get you out of our future hike! As you both start to learn to fly, remember that the hardest part is coming down (per Tom Petty.)I read the following part with sadness. “I want it on record, after stepping out of my burrow this morning my shadow was suspiciously present, and now I'm worried it has something to do with an early arrival of the only season I've yet to experience? “ Perhaps I am interpreting it wrong.Anyway, we miss you. Hope you and your family are recovering.The song for today is what you picked out.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKP4cfU28vM I am an Ecclesiastes fan in any event. I could write about / discuss it ad nauseum. Words to live by: “There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour.” This inspires me to plant a garden and tend an orchard. Along with: Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity.”

    Like

  2. Hi Mike, so good to find your comment on this post today, I've missed our interactions, and this made me realize how much I look forward to your thoughts. I couldn't get that damn song out of my mind either so I decided it must be a sign, the connections almost spoke for themselves, but sometimes it helps to ponder these seemingly simple connections. Considering David from the perspective of a caged bird helped me to let go, he is indeed free at last. This whole broken foot thing is interesting for sure but also extraordinarily annoying when it comes to daily life. I'm learning to drive left footed, ask for help when I need it, and I have no guilt using handicapped spaces as my sister is in possession of a tag. With two of us limping out of the car we go unquestioned. Makes a trip to Starbucks so much easier. Don't give too much credence to \”the only season I've yet to experience\” as I wrote that in the throws of grief when death seemed so much closer than reality, as if looking in a rear-view mirror where images can appear distorted. It just broke me that life can end so abruptly, without warning, in the dead of night. We're adjusting to this new reality, the grief comes in waves, but we find spending time together offers the greatest relief. That I suppose is a good lesson for all. We miss you too, still hoping to visit in the spring, hopefully fully healed and able to fully enjoy exploring your town.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s