Now that the mornings are chilly, I’ve dusted off the winter coat. I haven’t worn it since March, and when I put my hand in the pocket, I found — well, a year-old wad of tissues, but also: a stone. I tend to have random natural objects near me anyway – rocks, shells, feathers – but when I felt this little one in my pocket I remembered exactly where and when I picked it up.
I had gathered with a few friends for a ceremony last winter. We took a walk to clear our heads before sunset, and spent some time near a pond. Each of us retreated into our own thoughts and breath, watching and listening to life at the pond. My attention was drawn to the ducks, in particular, who seemed so content. They coasted slowly along, sometimes alone and sometimes in groups, nibbling and preening without a care in the world. “I wish I could be that tranquil and happy,” I thought. But then I began to hear the small voice within saying, “Why can’t you? What’s so different about you? Don’t you think Nature and Spirit are providing for you in the same ways? This is your pond, too. You’re breathing the same air, gathering with friends and you can move through your day without hurry. You are just like the ducks. All you have to do is let go of the idea that your dramas are somehow really important.” I smiled and let that insight into my bones, offering myself a moment of total peace.
I wish I could say it lasted. I even anticipated forgetting that feeling, so I took a stone from the water’s edge and kept it with me in that coat pocket. Whenever I touched it through the cool seasons, I was reminded that I’ve at least had moments of knowing that all is well.
I’m happy to be reunited with this touchstone now.
The past few days, I’ve noticed swans on the local reservoir. I’ve wanted to stop and take pictures, especially as the morning mist lingers and the golden light on the trees is so breathtaking, but I always seem to be in too much of a rush.
Swan is a long-time ally of mine. Graceful, gentle though fiercely territorial, monogamous, and mostly silent, she’s always seemed like a kindred spirit. She carries the medicine of harmony, balance, music and poetry, the watery qualities of intuition, altered states, and dreaming, and coming-into-one’s-own by understanding one’s beauty. And it seems she’s been trying to get my attention again lately.
I pulled over, hopped the guardrail, and snapped this picture.
It doesn’t really matter how much I think I know about a power animal or other ally, because in that moment of contact, the precise moment when I need it most, the message will be freshly specific to me at that point in time. I can read all the books and totem blogs I like, but I still have to listen each and every time.
This swan was floating about in water that was green with what I assumed was algae. Pretty murky stuff. Cars were driving by at well over the speed limit. There was a cell phone tower on the north shore of the lake. It hardly seemed an idyllic setting for a beautiful bird, let alone for whatever shaman-style insight might be had. But the swan didn’t seem to care about any of that. She dunked her head into the water and out again. She let her gaze rest wherever she liked. She moved when she felt like it. So self-possessed was this bird that I understood immediately my medicine for the day:
Even when the circumstances are less than you had hoped, you can still get what you need. You can complain, if you like, or you can simply shift your gaze. Yes, the water is murky, but notice how Swan doesn’t look at the water: she looks through it to get what she wants. She doesn’t spend any longer under the surface than necessary, and then she’s out again, moving on to the next, ever placid.
“Ah, ok,” I thought. “Good one. Thank you. Thank you for reminding me that I’m in charge of how I feel. Thank you for reminding me that the murk isn’t the whole truth. Thank you for reminding me that I can float.”
Then, turning to go, I shoved my hands into my pockets and felt that little stone, and remembered one more time that all is well.