While walking at twilight one evening, I heard a large congregation of birds in the trees beyond some railroad tracks. They were far away, high in the bare trees against the night sky. It seemed that there were hundreds of them. Their presence resonated with a feeling that I was grappling with as I walked. I had an ache in my heart regarding love and friendship -- thinking of the fact that there is so much reaching in this world. Sometimes the reaching goes without response and this creates a sad feeling of pressure in our hearts -- a wandering and empty feeling. From that emotional place a glimpse of love becomes profound. It hydrates the empty place of pain. Looking up at the crowd of noisy birds, black against the gray tree branches and fading light, I felt some kinship with them.
We see beauty everywhere - in the tracks of birds in snow, the colors of the sky, the grain of wood, and so on. But the face of a beloved friend brings the most joy. Beyond seeing the face comes the hope for deep communion and resonance, where one gets beyond the niceties and small talk and penetrates into the place of humanness. This is hopefully where shields are put aside and things that are deeply felt can be discussed and honored. This is the place where we hope to find the safety of being loved and known, the atmosphere of ‘I know you and you know me and we love each other.’ Maybe that’s what John O’Donohue meant in his book, Anam Cara, the soul friend. It’s the place we meet within the heart of another person that is like a holy hearth, where we can talk and really be heard. We feel no doubt in that place, no fear of broken trust. It’s a different kind of love than the love that's shared by lovers -- although lovers can share it. It can come from a place of commonness too, such as among children who grew up under the same roof. So much is known, shared, felt and understood, that there are almost no words for it.
Sometimes that place can be scary because the bad things are known too. I might know the things that you forgot, or I know what your temper is like, or I know your crazy habits and your weaknesses -- and you know my temper and selfishness and habits and weaknesses too. But past all that I may know the holy heart of you and may love you, plain and simple, forever and ever because in you I see God. In fact, in you I feel God, I meet God. I experience the embrace of knowing, and the kindness and the intimacy of honesty that can allow thoughts and tears to spill without worry because we both know we will be received. That is how some of us survive on this earth.
We long to be claimed, and can even come alive by hearing our own name, the way Adam, as the story goes, named the animals – lion, bear and deer. Humans named them and their dignity developed as they were seen and admired. For example, a cat might become more catlike as humans saw him as a cat, and he felt pride in his catness. We can’t really see ourselves sometimes, our lives don’t pass before a mirror. Sometimes we don’t even know who we are until a beloved person looks us in the eyes and sees us, and they recognize that we are a cat or a bear or a bird and that resonance allows us to be ourselves even more. That friend is precious beyond measure because they see us and we see them. What a gift that is. What a holy thing that becomes.
Sometimes someone might say our name out loud and it can almost give us a reason to continue to exist, especially if we felt a moment before that we were falling into a void and wanted to die. I had that experience once with a door to door sales job I took as a young person. After having a large number of doors slammed in my face, an older lady, who admitted to me that although she was not interested in my proverbial vacuum cleaners, said, "It was nice to meet you, Kim". I turned away from her door sobbing because I was no longer an anonymous entity called a "salesperson", I was a human being. To this day I say, thank you lady!
As I thought about these things, the clustering of the loud crows in the treetops comforted me as I walked. I felt tears well up as I thought about the people who love me and whom I love, and the blessedness of sharing that in the course of a lifetime on this planet. The currency of love can be as present as the recognition of it. It can be shared instantly in any direction and it can change anything and everything. We can walk down any street and change the atmosphere by acknowledging the people we pass with loving intention.
My daughter told me that she was walking to work one morning and decided to go a different way. She passed a bush near a building that was bustling and bursting with little birds – sparrows and chickadees chirping madly and jumping about. When they noticed that she was looking at them they stopped and looked at her. She just stood there amazed by their little universe, so beautiful and busy. When they saw that she posed no threat, they resumed their hopping and grooming and singing. She walked the rest of the way to work utterly uplifted by that moment.
I’m heartened by how animals key in to what we’re feeling, or maybe we key into them. It’s wonderful to co-exist in the friendship of this shared earth. We send love to the birds, and whether they’re conscious of it or not, they send it back by their existence. I find that the mood I experience by witnessing something in nature helps me understand things more deeply about my life. For that I am deeply grateful.
Kim lives in Maine, which is lovely, and where she continues her enthusiastic relationship with Art, Music, Nature, Books, Animals, Humor and Trees.