This morning, while at prayer in my garden, I found a feather. It’s tiny, surely from either one of the breast feathers of a bird, or perhaps from one of the babies starting to appear. It’s a bluish grey and white. Fragile as a dandelion wisp.
I have a long history with feathers turning up in odd places. Once I came into my office — I was the only one at home, hadn’t been out — and there appeared a long white feather on my desk chair. It now sits in a porcelain bowl with some other objects and feathers that came to me by, let’s just say unusual means. The white feather appeared shortly after my mother died. You decide what that means.
And then I heard the news about the shootings in Orlando.
To you, there may not be much to link the two, but to me it seems obvious. they are fragile. (I’m not saying LGBTQ people are fragile, but that people lying with gunshot wounds can be.) They can be overlooked. They are a symbol of life. To some of my ancestors, birds carry messages between the Creator and humans, for other ancestors, birds are the ones who lead us into the land of the dead. To my writer self, feathers are, as Emily Dickinson said, metaphors for hope.
Feathers also allow those who wear them to rise above the mud and muck, the blood and agony of this world. To fly, to rest upon the air, gives us perspective, allows us see the world as God might.
And… seeing with the perspective of the Creator/God means we cannot help but feel the pain the Creator/God/Allah feels when we are unspeakably savage to each other.
And…are we not told that the Creator/God/Allah/the Goddess cares for all of life, that all of life is precious beyond measure, even the most fragile of tiny birds… of sparrows.
Birds and feathers are also symbols of the soul — from a tiny egg, trapped in a shell, to a fledgling unable to stand or feed itself, to something that takes wing…soars…conquers the earth and air.
I will, as Mother Jones said, pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living. At the same time, I kneel in gratitude for tiny symbols reminding us that hate and ignorance and violence and savagery will not, in the long curve of time, prevail. No matter how fragile we may seem, we are not overlooked; we are not forgotten, we rise above.