Another friend passes into the light

Image by dae jeung kim from Pixabay

At the cemetery, a solitary cardinal sang her eulogy. Beautiful. Perfect. Heartbreaking.

Rachel loved birds, particularly herons. “I keep waiting for the heron to appear,” her husband told us later. Perhaps she is waiting too, knowing he has promised its form in a bench beside her final resting place.

“I keep waiting to feel her presence,” he added.

It is impossible to assuage grief. You can be present and bear witness, but the journey is mostly solitary. Like the heron’s.

To her funeral, I wore the turquoise beads she lovingly strung for me years ago after I told her about a dream. That was the type of person she was. Her heart, in many ways, too big for a world that couldn’t hold her here long enough.

It’s impossible for me not to compare and draw parallels between the two dear friends who have passed in less than two weeks. Both unfailingly generous and kind. Giving more than they received. Leaving behind voids not empty, but filled with their never-ending love.

They both loved birds, the beauty of words, painting their dreams, and the wild wonders of nature. While one found home in the moors of England, the other found solace on the riverbanks of New England. I am certain if they had known each other, they would have seen a bit of themselves in each other.

But I am lucky to have known them both, if even for what feels like too short of a time.

For the past week I have worn Sue’s gifted necklace, and now I wear Rachel’s. Despite grief, peace envelops me. In the raw moments of love, grace stretches the veil. I saw it today, witnessing Rachel’s strength in her daughter as she shared beloved memories. I saw it in her husband as he covered her body with dirt. If she ever doubted how much she was loved, she doesn’t now.

I, like I suspect many others, find myself regretting not having told her how wonderful I thought she was. The last time I saw Rachel, she was swimming in my pool, catching me by surprise. I remember being annoyed that I had not cleaned it, embarrassed. She, smiling in simple gratitude for its cool body while her husband worked inside.

Unlike with Sue, there was no forewarning. No chance to say what sometimes goes unsaid. Instead, I let memories filter in as they want to. And sometimes, as I do with Sue, I find myself talking to Rachel as I try to weave together what feels unfinished inside a world that feels raw, a little broken, but still beautiful.

Rejection and Resilience

It was my dreams, and later an email from a friend, that reminded me of a legacy of rejections, but it was the great blue heron in its silent flight to water, who reminded me of resilience and strength.

flying great blue heron

As Ted Andrews notes in his book Animal Speakthe heron is a symbol of self-reliance and inner strength. Although the heron has the power of voice, it is known for its quiet, stealth-like nature. Unless it is breeding and tending to its young, the heron is often alone. The choice to spend much of its life in solitude benefits, instead of hinders the heron’s ability to survive and thrive.

In light of recent events, I have been thinking about the concept of rejection. I was, in essence, rejected before my birth. My father had wanted a boy, my mother, no child at all. Yet, I was born a girl of “truth.” I was destined to experience the lessons of resilience and rejection throughout this life.  What started as a birth mark, became legacy of wounds that would cut into my soul, scar-over, and open again, and I would learn how to persevere and survive.

The heron teaches us how to find the truth inside. When I started unraveling my mother’s truth from my own, I experienced the slow, painful, yet freeing release of the bonds I had desperately held throughout childhood.

In her email, my friend wrote about feeling like an orphan with family. It is a concept I have often associated with. When I began to reject to truths I was raised on, I was rejected once more by my mother, and the stepfather who’s truths she has always favored. I have, in essence, become an orphan with living parents. Yet, I have not lost everything. I have, through this process of  rejection and self-discovery, uncovered my truths, and with them, the permission to love and include the people in my life I once rejected.

Last night I had a series of dreams, most of which have by now become the blurred snapshots of scenes. It’s funny how the feelings that are evoked from our dreams linger more strongly sometimes than the images. Like most nights since Easter, I experienced dreams about my childhood family. Last night, I was back at my childhood home, but as an adult, attempting to hide from my angry stepfather. He found me in the garden, where I was emerging from the covers of a bed.

This brief snapshot of the dream that I recall is filled with symbolism. Not only am I still unearthing the fear deeply imbedded in my cells from childhood, my soul is seeking the rebirth of the true self.

My friend and I have been corresponding about rhizomes and the totipotent abilities of plants. Referencing the french philosopher Gilles Deleuze, she wrote, “to our detriment, western society has been too obsessed with the idea of unity, progeny, singularity, seed–the model of the tree.” Instead, it is the metaphor of a rhizome that he applauds, as she wrote, “a tuber who can shoot off brand new shoots in any direction, at any time, and is not “unified” so that several new places of growth can’t always be linked to the same seed. I love this sense of family! I am and I am not my father’s seed. I am so much more and other.”

As am I. I am my mother’s daughter, and my father’s (both of them), but I am not. I am a collection of cells and their memories that have chosen to grow a new form, to break apart once more, and grow again, new and separate. I have retained the memories of the original form(s), yet I am becoming my own, self-reliant self. As my dream reflected, I am still shedding the imprint of fear to emerge new and whole from the garden of self. Fear, I have found, is a hard habit to break.

Later in the night I found myself flying, it seems, as I was level with rooftops, along a street with beautiful buildings. As I passed each structure, my eye examined the intricate details of the designs. Instead of the clutch of fear I had experienced in the previous dream, I was filled with the breath of freedom and bliss. I was the heron studying all the gifts I held inside (and out).

 

 

 

The Great Blue Heron: Wader of Elements

heron wading

Often, when I look to the sky these days I see the majestic form of a great blue heron flying silently over me in a solitary flight towards the next body of water. In the sky, the great blue heron evokes the image of a prehistoric bird from a time when dinosaurs ruled the land and sky.

The great blue heron is often seen alone. We are lucky to glimpse this shy bird who walks and flies soundlessly through the elements of air, water and earth. It is a bird of great grace and beauty, with its long appendages and beautiful gray-blue feathers.

The heron, when its presence graces our lives, reminds us of our inner strength and ability to adapt and survive on our own. That when we live a life of quiet grace, our inner beauty radiates and affects those around us.
flying great blue heron

Although it is not a water bird, the heron is a wader of shallow depths, the areas where land and water mingle. Here, the heron walks with stealth and grace on long legs, bending with ease to find sustenance in the form of fish, frogs or other small animals living in or near the water.

The heron not only moves between the elements of land, water and air with effortless ease, it is literally a master of balance, able to support its large, slender form on one long leg. Balance comes to the individual through wisdom and the ability to go within to find harmony. The heron, with its gray plumage and majestic form evokes ancient wisdom. It is a sage for the soul who seeks balance, and the harmony of inner truth, as well as a guide for the individual who finds peace in solitary endeavors.

The photographs in this post were taken by a good friend of mine who dances with heron. Much love and gratitude to you, Rachel, a woman who embodies the grace and beauty of inner strength. The journey of the heron can be lonely at times, but offers great rewards.