I would like to tell a story of how Red Bird swooped through my experience of life.
After a year or more of lying to people that loved me, I had become so separated from my own sense of integrity that I felt existentially stranded on an endless frozen tundra, with a broken wing, in a frigid wind.
There are many types of lying, some lies are designed to protect others, and some lies are told to protect oneself. I did both. Part of what happens when one lies is that while attempting to protect someone else, they harm themselves. And usually, the lie told to protect someone else causes worse damage to that person in time.
In January of this year, as a way to reclaim a sense of honesty and integrity, and to begin healing my relationships both to myself and others, I began writing: everything is seen & heard.
I was writing in a little white notebook at the time that had a red ribbon for a page marker, and when the book was open the red ribbon looked like the flight of a red bird over a snowy landscape. I called the idea red bird. In my imagination red bird was a heart-symbol, and a way to get away from the intellect, which is where the lies live. Everything is seen & heard is an awareness to live with, it is choosing to practice the belief that what one says or does has equal importance in every moment, and that the effects of words and actions have indirect consequences that matter and will become manifest.
During these winter months, my response to certain pitches of suffering was to try and pray. And so I was primed for an encounter at the bookstore with a beautiful white book of poetry by Mary Oliver titled Devotions. The book is a collection of what would be her more “devotional” poems selected from her life’s work up to this year. On the cover is an image of a small bird being fed by a spoon in someone’s hand. It seemed like good soul-medicine for me, an overlap of poetry and religious-type searching. So i got the book, and when I brought it home, reading through it, I see that Mary Oliver once wrote a collection of poetry called Red Bird. I hadn’t known this previously. While I had an awareness and respect for Mary Oliver as a presence in the field of poetry, the only work of hers I really knew at this time was American Primitive. But, for obvious reasons, I was struck by the collection called Red Bird.
After I read the selections in Devotions, I decide it’s necessary to track down an individual and complete copy of this book Red Bird. For the next several months, anytime I’m in a bookstore I walk to the poetry shelf to see if there’s a copy of Red Bird. But months pass, and I never see a copy.
At the end of May, nothing was getting easier in life, so I take flight to Colorado and go to the top of Mt. Evans where particles of frost weave through a calm vortex of aether. The next day I’m in Denver with my dad, and its raining, so we borrow umbrellas from the hotel and walk to the bookstore, but we walk the wrong way and it starts raining harder, so we call a taxi. In the taxi the driver tells us how the mountains are actually floating on roots into the world. We get out of the taxi and we walk the wrong way through the rain again, and the driver, out of kindness, loops around and pulls up to tell us we are going the wrong way and redirects us to the bookstore. Finally we arrive and close the umbrellas. We walk in and part ways, I go looking for the poetry shelf. When I find it, there’s a copy of Red Bird.
So I take the copy off the shelf and open it randomly, and in the middle of the book there is a letter, in an envelope, stuck in the book. Written in blue paint, with a paintbrush, it is addressed to You from the Universe. I took a video with my phone standing there in the bookstore, which is attached here:
Anyway, I don’t open the letter right away, but I buy the book. I walk up to the check out with the letter in the book and pay and the book goes in the bag and I decide I’ll open the letter later. At this point I’m smirking at how stupid this is, just too much, I’m almost scared to know what it will say. Not because someone stuck a letter in a book of poetry in a bookstore, that’s all fine and can be imagined well enough, but because of the personal beauty that was blooming in this instant; the combination of forces working on an incomprehensible level that allow the moment to bloom. The force of recognition felt concentrated in an instant but also raised my awareness to what is happening at all times in every place; we are each a part in a vast whole of a game of angels.
In any case, later that night I opened the letter. It said, written in blue paint, “It’s ok to fall, and it’s ok to rest. But you will have to get up and move on when it’s time.”