Daylight had just begun to creep into the night sky when an insistent tapping woke me. Fighting against the fog of sleep, my mind struggled to identify the source of the sound. It was coming from a window, across the room. A small bird was tapping frantically on the windowsill. Silly bird, I thought. You don’t want in here.
Awake now, I decided to start my day. In two weeks I would be going away on a much anticipated retreat. I had things to do. As it was a Sunday, I would have several hours to myself before the kids awoke and the day got underway. Thanks, little bird, I thought.
The next day, I was already waking up by the time my little friend arrived, tapping once again on the same window. He flew into a nearby bush as I made my way to my car a little later, and when I started the engine, he flew onto my side mirror and cocked his head at me. I laughed out loud. “You can’t stay there,” I scolded. “I have to drive to work.” Stubbornly, he rode down the driveway with me and then flew away as I turned onto the street.
We were to become best buddies for the next two weeks, he greeting me every morning, then riding with me on the car. When I’d return in the late afternoon, he’d be back to greet me again. Mom’s friend, the kids called him. “Why is he doing that?” they’d ask. “I have no idea.” I’d respond, but I had a feeling I’d find out soon enough.
* * * * *
Time came to set out for the retreat. Three of us were traveling together and stopping for the night on the way. We chose a cute little town with a promising looking little restaurant where we could get a gourmet meal. I chose the Duck. Never having had duck before, I didn’t know what to expect. The grease from the bird kept me up all night with stomach pains, and prompted a number of jokes about sitting ducks, and Duck! and so on, all night.
We arrived at the retreat center just before dinner the next day. The cabins were rustic, but the setting was idyllic. Our cabin was set back in the woods, not far from a stream with a waterfall. The beauty and serenity of the setting instantly filled me with calm.
The bell for dinner sounded, and my friends and I made our way to the dining hall. A line had formed along the entrance way, which doubled as a book store. “Oh good,” my friend Sandy exclaimed. “I want to shop for books.”
I was not as interested. I’d spent all my money getting here, so I would practice some restraint. I turned my back on the books to avoid temptation, but just as I did, someone tried to pass, and I knocked a shelf. I caught a book mid tumble. It was open, and as I glanced at the page, I was startled to see the picture of my little bird looking back up at me. I gasped.
“Remember the bird I told you about?” I exclaimed to my friends. “This is it.”
“What does it say?”
The caption read: “If this bird has shown up in your life, it is bringing you the message of…….”
Shaken, I put the book back. The message I just read was no coincidence. I couldn’t concentrate all through dinner. I had to know the rest.
The book, Animal Speak, by Ted Andrews, said that the bird that had been following me was a cowbird, and that cowbirds speak to the issue of abandonment in childhood. Andrews said if this bird had shown up in your life, it was time to deal with those issues. I was dumbfounded, and trembling, but at the same time, there was no better place for healing.
* * *
I awoke the next morning before sunrise, and slipped out of the cabin quietly. There was just enough light to see the outline of a path. A movement in the brush alarmed me, until I saw that it was a bird that flew just ahead of me. I followed. The bird flew ahead a bit further. I continued on the same route. The bird settled on a branch of a tree, and I approached it as if being beckoned. The tree stood on the bank of a stream. Without daylight, everything was imbued with an eerie light, almost other worldly. I decided this was as a good a place as any to meditate on my findings from the day before.
Taking a few deep cleansing breaths, I opened my awareness to the beauty of my surroundings. Immediately, I became aware of another presence; a presence I had not felt for many years: the divine feminine. My heart filled with deep longing, and sorrow, as tears rushed down my cheeks. My issue of abandonment.
Why did you abandon me? my heart cried.
I did not abandon you, the voice was gentle, loving. It was you who abandoned me.
It was true. I had become so entrenched in the pursuit of material happiness, I had neglected my spiritual roots.
I never left you. I felt myself surrounded in a warm embrace, and sobbed. I cried for all the years lived in a vacuum, striving to please others, and be good enough, yet lonely, incomplete. I cried for the arrogance that made me think I didn’t need this connection, and for the ingratitude that I had shown.
Mother, I had called her as a child. She was a loving, patient presence that was always there for me: her voice the subtle changes of the wind, her essence a sudden release of fragrance. She spoke to me through signs and omens, but mostly through birds.
Birds. Birds had brought me back to her.
Hope, renewal, rejuvenation, and love filled me. My feet barely touched the ground as I skipped back to the cabin, daylight just starting to greet the day.
“Tell your bird friend we don’t need the wake up call,” one roommate grumbled at me as I opened the door. “She’s been tapping at the window since 6.”
Sure enough, she was there again as we made our way to breakfast, following along and finding a perch just outside our window. Then, as if she had waited, she followed us across the grounds to the gathering place, where we would be studying for the day with Delores Krieger.
Synchronicity is the Universe’s way of telling you, you are on the right track, Delores offered.
At lunch, I looked up the species of bird: catbird.
” The presence of a catbird as a totem indicates you will be encountering a wider range of people than you are normally in contact with …..With the catbird as a totem, look for new people coming into your life that will teach you lessons in your ability to communicate.”
It made sense. The focus of the retreat was how to teach therapeutic touch, and it appeared that I was renewing old forms of communication as extracurricular.
I was feeling the synchronicity.