I believe there are things that we cannot explain.
I believe there are powers around us that we cannot see, or truly understand. Rather like we know that there is electricity, though we cannot see it.
I've been wanting to write about this for a while, but wasn't sure how. Or if I could. Or if I should. But it keeps knocking on my skull, waiting to be let out, so here it is.
When I was a very little girl in the early 1960's my family went to church every week. I grew up in a wee, small town, and we went to the beautiful church near the town center. I can still see it in my minds eye... the wide steps, the doors that were never locked, the hard, simple pews and the tall windows. I would go to Sunday school, and wear a frilly dress and lacy socks and GLOVES. The gloves might have only been at Easter, but they are firmly in my memory. My mother even had a white leather glove box in her dresser, with different types of gloves for different occasions, but I digress.
At some point, when I was between the ages of 6 and 10, there was some scandal with the minister. Lots of whispered talk happened among the adults I knew, and our family abruptly stopped our Sunday morning ritual. There was a field across the street from where we lived, and, apparently missing that which I had lost, I used to take the bible that I had been given in church (it had my name embossed on the black cover in gold letters!) to my favorite spot in that meadow and read it. I loved the 23 Psalm the best. But that whole mysterious break with the church left my young self feeling oddly angry and unhappy. I decided, very firmly,at a young age, there was NO God. And that is where I stood for much of my life, despite going to a Christian based college and taking classes in religion and being surrounded with Christian friends and professors.
Years passed and then something happened. My husband and I were living in a sweet, wee house in Memphis, Tennessee. Our daughter was 5 years old, and we were a happy little threesome. Our Sunday morning ritual was that we would have a lovely family breakfast, then cozy up in the living room and read the paper together while our daughter played. It was March 5th, the sun was slanting in through the windows and my husband I were sitting on the squishy mauve and blue sofa sharing sections of newspaper and commenting to each other about what we read. Daughter Rachel was sitting on the carpet in a pool of sunshine, surrounded by toys, happily entertaining herself. Suddenly, I was awash in what can only be described as pure JOY. It was overwhelming, all encompassing, breathtaking. It was like every fiber of my being was infused with light and love and goodness and a level of elation I had never known. My eyes welled with tears. I said to my husband, "This may sound weird, but I am COMPLETELY happy." I was imbued with the sense that all was well, everything was as it should be, and my entire being was alight in a way I had never before experienced. I was utterly content, and more. Truly, I do not know the words to describe the sensations I experienced. Moments later, the phone rang. It was my sister, sobbing. She had news to tell me... our father had just died. My emotions took a roller coaster dive, from elation to extreme sorrow, in one blinding second.
Later I wondered, what was it that made me so incredibly joy-filled in those moments? The answer that came to me was that my beloved fathers spirit was passing by me as he moved from this plane to the next, and shared his elation with me. We had a close relationship, and it was not a stretch for me to think he would swing by for a visit on his way to his next stop.
A few years passed. My elderly mother died, and then, too young, my older sister. I grieved her death hard. She was only 53, and vibrant and smart and funny and I had not had enough time with her by far. One day,shortly after she passed, when I was deep in the pain of loss, I was walking across the impeccably, flawlessly, suburban manicured lawn of one of my customers, and looked down to see a perfect hawk feather in the grass. It stood out in that unblemished green expanse and felt like some sort of sign to me.
Meanwhile, a neighbor who had become a friend died. She had been quite ill, and alone, and I had tried to help her as best I could. On the day of her funeral my daughter yelled, "Mommy, Mommy! Come quick!" I ran outside. She was pointing her chubby finger to the sky over our house. "Miss Bobbie is playing with sidewalk chalk in the sky!" A perfect rainbow, in the shape of a flat "C" (not your typical arch) shone over our house. It seemed like a happy message to me, and I was grateful.
It was these things, and more, that led to what someone later gave me a name for. "A suspension of disbelief." That stubborn little girl that refused to imagine there was more than what was tangible let go a bit, and adult me began to understand that I could not know all there was to know, could not see all there was to see.
Years have passed. I have begun to seek out signs that there is something more. Maybe because I am aging. I do not fear death, but I am curious about it. I have read books about the existence of angels. Having a firm vein of skepticism through my core, I do not fully embrace this thought, but it appeals to me just the same. One thing that resonates with me is that if you see a feather, it can be a sign that angels are near. Since I have and care for a flock of 17 chickens and 7 ducks, there are a LOT of feathers in my life. Drifts of them when the birds moult, but new ones almost every day, all year long, here and there. It seems a bit MUCH to that angels are near me as often as I find feathers from my domestic flock.
Tonight, after a long day of work and farm chores, I sat at my comfortable picnic table as the sun sank low,casting the world in Rembrandt light. The space around me was silent except for the contented muttering of hens as they entered the coop, and the sound of the horse and goats as they tore grass and chewed. Happy, I sent up a silent "thank you." It went something like this, "Thank you, God, thank you angels, for the lovely day. Please watch over those I love, please let there be peace and happiness in the world." And then, in my peripheral vision, I saw something. Over the lush pasture grass, falling in slow motion from the evening sky, was a feather.
I watched it as it drifted down, down, and vanished in the undulating green. Without really thinking,I got up from my seat, crossed the lawn, opened the gate and walked across a large expanse to where I thought I had seen that feather fall. The horse saw me coming and came to give me a nuzzle. I stroked her as I looked into the deep herbage below me, knowing the chance of me finding what I thought I had seen fall was needle-in-a-haystack slim.
Yet... there is was. Wee-small and insignificant, but clearly in sight. A flawless feather.
I did not see the bird it fell from, though I am tuned to see the animals around me. I only saw this small, light thing as it floated down on air. It reminds me that there is so much I cannot understand, and there is so much beauty... all around me.