I am not an artsy-craftsy type, though I admire the handiwork of those who are. So when my friend suggested a project that involved rocks, paints and ribbons over the Thanksgiving holiday (mostly to occupy the children), I said I would enjoy watching, not participating. Until Madison found my bird.
We have an abundance of cactus on our desert hiking paths. When the larger varieties die, their wooden skeletons often break into small sections that have an uncanny resemblance to birds. It’s a bit hard to describe that here – the connected, curved sticks form “wings” and the joints look like a bird’s head – though it takes some imagination to see these birds, even on the trail. Trust me when I say there’s a likeness, one that can be enhanced with strategically placed recycled feathers and a little paint. For some reason I enjoy finding the skeleton remnants and making these birds, and over the years I have created a few for myself and others. I had been looking for one for the past few weeks for a Christmas gift for a friend.
On the morning of the craft party, I waited inside until everyone had the supplies set up on the picnic table on our front patio. When I walked outside, I was once again invited to join the activity. Wistfully, I stated, “I would do so if I had a bird, but I’ve not been able to find one.” Immediately in response, my ten-year-old friend Madison asked: “Is that a bird?,” pointing to a shape on a little-used patio bench. Right before my eyes, there sat the most perfect “bird” skeleton.
Had I carried that treasure back from a hike more than a year ago? Two years? I can’t even recall doing it, though I’m not suggesting that the thing just materialized that morning. Most likely I found it, tucked it in a relatively safe place in the event I was inspired to bring it to life as folk art, and promptly forgot about it. (Even though I must have walked by it a hundred times since leaving it there.)
How often is what we seek right before our eyes? Recently I was asked to make a small contribution to an upcoming release, the book Something More by Randy Hain. He asked me to comment on the career dilemma many face when examining questions of fulfillment and purpose in life and realize that their current job doesn’t give them the things they think they want and need. In the chapter entitled “Should I stay or should I go?” Randy, the managing partner in an executive recruiting firm, states: “Some of the issues these professionals were hoping to escape also exist in their new organization … because the problem or issue frequently lies within themselves.” He talks about the importance of self awareness – and self examination – before taking action.
Randy asked about my views on this topic, and I recounted the story of a client who was working with me to decide if it was possible to leave a difficult job. As it turns out, she was also trying to decide whether or not to stay in what appeared to be an unfulfilling marriage. By taking a somewhat painful but honest look at her life, she realized what she was seeking was actually there before her. She eventually left the job but reengaged in her marriage. That was ten years ago and she’s happy today.
Since the bird’s apparent manifestation, I have been “finding” other things that I would have told you weren’t there just moments before. Yesterday I found a friend’s long-lost Maui Jim sunglasses. They were in a desk drawer that I use regularly, and I’ve known she was missing them for a year. Never mind how they got there, which is a puzzle in itself – how did I not see them before now?
I’ve written about the skewed perception that occurs during the split second it takes for data to move from the receptors of our eyes to the interpretation of our brain. I’m going to hold the discovery of a cactus remnant and pair of lost sunglasses as a metaphor to remember to ask if what I seek is already mine. Surely my lifelong goal to show up, fully present, and pay attention to what’s before me will serve this new endeavor. Certainly my practice of listening to my heart first will allow me to avoid at least some of the tricks my clever mind likes to play.
Spirited women, what treasures might you find if you slow down, become present, and look and listen with a wide-open heart? The exercise is not limited to inanimate objects. In fact, it can change our lives.