Nurturing Seeds of Optimism and Hope

©Jane A. Simington PhD.

As the days became longer and the cold of winter was giving way to the warmth of spring, as a child I could sense the optimism and hope being shared by my parents as they discussed their plans for the seeding of spring crops and gardens. Signs of new life abounded around my farm home and the potential for the gains my family could acquire if that new life was nurtured and properly cared for, while covert, were palpable.

Those childhood days have imprinted correlations in my mind between spring, new beginnings and hope. Our spring celebrations and family meals offered a sacred space for giving thanks and for inward visioning of the promises held for the coming season.

My sacred and treasured childhood memories of the holiness of spring are in many ways comparable to the teachings which since ancient times have surrounded the Spring Equinox. The Spring Equinox, because of its association with light and new growth, was in ancient times, also known as Ostara, This title derived from the name of the Celtic Goddess of fertility and springtime. She was celebrated during the Spring Equinox as the balance between darkness and light and as the bringer of increased light. Many other cultures and traditions including Christian, Orthodox and Pagan have also marked this powerful turn of the seasonal wheel with symbolism of resurrection and rebirth.

The sun’s journey throughout the course of the year holds strong symbolism to our own journey. The Spring Equinox is positioned upon a point of balance, with one side of the equinox representing the dark half of the year and our struggles with the dark and death aspects of ourselves. The other side of the equinox represents the light half of the year and our possibilities for rebirth and new beginnings.

Spring is for me a time to celebrate the resurrection of what went beneath the earth at the Winter Solstice, both real and metaphorically; and to joyfully anticipate the new life that is appearing in field and womb. It is a time of new beginnings, of action, of saying goodbye to the old, and of creating sacred spaces to hold the new seeds we plant and, when nurtured and properly cared for, will produce abundant fruit.

Earth teach me, to forget myself as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me, regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring.
~ William Alexander

When Suicide Becomes An Option

When Suicide Becomes an Option
©Jane A. Simington PhD

Worldwide, suicide ranks among the three leading causes of death for adolescents and young adults.Nearly 90% of all suicides are associated with a diagnosable mental health or substance abuse disorder.2 The unbearable feelings of despair, hopelessness and powerlessness resulting from their mental illness, trauma, significant grief or abandonment can, despite the best efforts of loved ones and professionals, cause nearly one million people globally, to attempt suicide each year.3 The feelings of loss experienced by professionals and loved ones are magnified when the death they grieve is by suicide. Those whose grief results from a suicidal death are at high-risk for developing a major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal behaviours and prolonged and complicated grief.4

photo of someone depressed perhaps suicidal

The above information and my experience of working professionally with clients who are threatening suicide and with those who are attempting to heal from the effects of complicated grief and the associated feelings, including the stigma and shame which keeps them from seeking the help and resources they need, has led me to develop a training program to assist professionals in offering effective help to those who threaten suicide and to support the bereaved when suicide results.

This forty-hour Suicide Intervention Certification training is accredited by The Canadian Counsel of Professional Certification Global (CCPC Global.) Graduates of this training from Taking Flight International may apply to CCPC Global for designation as a Certified Suicide Intervention Specialist (CSIS.) Certified graduates of this training also receive 27 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) toward certification or re-certification as a drug and alcohol counsellor from the Canadian Addiction Counsellors Certification Federation (CACCF;) as well as from the International Association (ICADC).

1. Young I T., Iglewicz, A., Glorioso, D., Lanouette, N., et.al. (2012). Suicide, Bereavement and Complicated Grief. Clinical Research, LLS SAS. www.dialogues-cns.org

2. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Surviving a Suicide Loss: A Resource and Healing Guide. Available at http://www.afsp.org Assessed, 2016-08-01.

3. Ibid Young, et al.

4. Hawton, K., van Heeringen, K. (2009). Suicide. Lancet, 18,373:1372-1381.

PreRequisite: Trauma Recovery Certification

Click Here to see training dates and download application form.

Grief and Trauma Care during Pregnancy

© Jane A. Simington, PHD

It is well recognized that a mother’s varying stress levels affect her unborn child. Grief and trauma are major stressors, causing physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social responses. Therapists who work with grieving and traumatized clients will at some points in their careers struggle with the decision of whether to leave a grieving and traumatized pregnant woman to manage these stressors as best she can, knowing their impact on the unborn child or, to offer her therapeutic services. The decision is not an easy one since the therapist will also recognize that, as the pregnant woman examines the issues surrounding the difficult events and moves through the healing processes, she will re-experience some of the same reactions she felt at the time of the initial tragedy. This will cause her body to release many of the same neurochemicals it did originally. These resultant reactions and neurochemicals will in turn, be transmitted to her unborn child.pregnancy

Here are some guidelines I have found helpful and I encourage you to consider them when you are working in situations that involve a pregnant woman and her unborn child.

If the mother is in the first trimester of her pregnancy, the brain and nervous system of the fetus are still being formed. During these three months, it is best to teach the mother self-care strategies to decrease the impact of the stressors. Affirmations, deep breathing exercises, grounding and shielding strategies are all appropriate. When the mother has learned to keep herself grounded, she will feel a decrease in the fear and anxiety she experiences and thus less of those highly charged sensations will be transmitted to the fetus. Teaching the mother to communicate with the unborn child, continually telling the child it is “safe, loved and protected” is also highly recommended. After the mother has learned to shield herself, she can be encouraged to visualize shielding her child in a similar way.

To assist the mother in feeling safe and protected, you will also find it valuable to help her connect with the unborn child’s and her own Spirit Guides, including their power animals. You as the therapist will also feel more secure, as you work with her, knowing she has established these connections.

When the mother is in her second and third trimester, you will want to continue to use all of these same safety measures before you move more deeply into any therapeutic work and healing processes. It can be helpful to audio-record grounding and shielding meditations to send home with the mother; or alternatively, give her my CD audio recordings, Journey to Hope and Healing, and Shielded with Light. Both of these recordings are also available in MP3 format that she could download from www.takingflightbooks.com.

When you assist a pregnant woman to heal the wounds and scars of unhealed grief and trauma, you help her to create a significant and positive difference in her life and future and in the life and future of her child. Ponder the impact on the lives of the many others these two healed people will then be able to make, and hold in your heart that through your knowledge, skill, genuine love and care, you will have been the catalyst for the healing of many.  

SWL front insertJourney to Healing insert card

Nature as Healer: Reestablishing Sacred Connections

©Jane A. Simington, PHD

“What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can
comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking
person with a feeling of humility.”

Albert Einstein

 

Summer is upon us, and for many, this season awakens a yearning to reconnect with the natural world. Deep within us, what is stirred as we watch a thrilling thunderstorm, gaze in awe at a majestic mountain range or marvel at the roar of a great waterfall?

Banff rainbow trees

Early peoples associated their own bodies and their spirituality with the Earth and with naturally occurring events. Carvings and stone monuments remaining in many parts of the world remind us of their beliefs that the Earth was their benevolent Mother; from her womb all life emerged, and into her loving arms all life returned.

Our ancestors believed that the Earth Mother provided places of the in-between where they could more readily connect with the spiritual forces. At these places they conducted sacred ceremonies in an effort to keep Her fully alive and thus ensure their own physical and spiritual survival and growth.

As did our ancestors, Earth people of today acknowledge that many of our most sacred experiences occur during times and spaces that are in-between, spaces such as where the shore meets the ocean, where the grasslands meet the water’s edge, where the mountains meet the sky, and where the prairie meets the forest. The in-between times occur at dawn and at dusk, at the change of nature’s seasons, as well as at the turning points that mark the changes of the seasons in our lives. The in-between times and spaces are sacred times, holy times. An energy surrounds these times that can be built upon and used as a catalyst to heal, for during these times we can be more readily tripped into sacred experiences, ones that help us recognize the sacredness of these spaces and which show us that we do indeed have support and help from the spirit world, and that we do indeed live, work, and play in parallel realities.

During my bleak mornings of grief and my dark days of depression, days when I felt abandoned by everyone and everything even by the universe; during my evenings of soul pain, when I lost all understanding of the God of my childhood and had not yet shaped the God of my now; and during the nights when I felt miserably alone and often somewhat suicidal, a teacher whispered, “Spend time alone gazing at the clouds, walking in the meadows, experiencing the forests, and lingering by the water’s edges. It will renew your spirit and rekindle your desire for life and to be among the living.” Acknowledging her wisdom, I trod many paths to fill the deep need for my soul to reclaim its relationship with the places where human life and the spiritual worlds meld.

As a therapeutic helper, now working with those who have experienced significant grief and trauma, I recognize that their difficult experiences have interfered with their abilities to be grounded in the Earth Mother, leaving them feeling out of balance and disconnected from everyone and everything, even from the Divine and all sources of spiritual help. To help those I work with reestablish their grounding and spiritual connections, I encourage them, once each day and regardless of the season, to get their feet on an outdoor path.

Connecting with the Earth helps us more readily connect with the seasons and the cycles within our own lives: spring, summer, autumn, winter, birth, growth, decline, and death. As we change and grow, the seasons offer constant reminders of the transformational forces all around us.

Becoming more aware of the Earth’s processes and seeing ourselves as part of the whole helps us let go of our need to control life. We are reminded to accept the seasons and changes as a part of the unfolding of the universe within and around us. Just as the fertility and newness of spring have been celebrated for tens of thousands of years we, too, can plant the seeds of newness, the ones we sorted during the days and nights of our long and bitter winters. We, too, can feel our own power as we rise to greet the summer morning’s sun. We, too, can gather the fruits of our harvest as we once again prepare for our quiet times in hibernation. Being thus connected, we are more able to recognize that there are really no beginnings and no endings. Being thus connected, we recognize that, even in death, there is no real separation.

 

Solstice Nights Offer Winter Dream

©Jane A. Simington, 2014

Those of us who live in the Northern hemisphere will soon be experiencing the longest nights of the year. While interpretation of the ever-increasing darkness surrounding the Winter Solstice varied among ancient cultures, archeological findings indicate our ancestors believed that during the Winter Solstice the Earth is more closely aligned with cosmic forces and thus prayers made during these times are more likely to be responded to than are those made at other times of the year.In many cultures, during the winter festivals, symbols of the Great Bear were used to depict the Earth’s closeness to the cosmos and the appeal for the rebirth of the sun. Like the bear going into its earthen cave to hibernate and to digest during the long, dark nights what was previously ingested so it can burst forth hungry for newness when the sun again shines brightly, we, too, with the lengthening darkness spend longer hours in deeper sleep. For many of us, the longer hours of deeper sleep result in an increase in dreaming.

 winter sunrise

Dreams have been a topic of fascination and intense study throughout history. Carl Jung, the first psychotherapist to view dreams as soulful messages noted that a dream that is not interpreted is a letter from the Gods we have not bothered to read. Today, dream therapists recognize that the dreams which capture our awareness during the long winter nights are frequently those that hold symbols of change. The need for change is often symbolized by dreams of death. To dream that you or someone you know is dying rarely announces a physical death, but usually symbolizes that something is dying (or must die) so something new can be born.

Our Winter Dreams often come in three parts. In the first portion the dreamer is generally provided an overview of what has been. The second part symbolizes what needs to change so that, with the return of the sun, we, like the Great Bear, can charge forth from the darkness of our inner cave into the dawn of a new beginning. The third portion of a dream gives us a glimpse of what will happen if we take action on what is being symbolized by the middle portion of the dream.

The fading light causes us to acknowledge that this dormant time allows us to amass energy for our next great movement forward. Being thus connected with the seasonal changes in our own lives, as mirrored by the cyclic changes in nature, we bless the darkness knowing that it is always darkest just before daybreak, and that very soon a door will open through which the returning light will stream.

Join me on Friday evening December 19 as I lead a Winter Solstice ceremony to open the workshop, Exploring Our Winter Dreams taking place December 20 and 21.

 

Threads of Gratefulness Woven within the Fabric of Life

©Jane A. Simington, PHD., October, 2014

“It is not a matter of brain damage; it is a matter of life or death.” Bill signed the consent; I was unconscious. The fall had fractured my skull and thrust my brain forward crashing it against the frontal portion of my cranium.

Post surgery, during moments of semi-consciousness, I became increasingly aware of my inability to see. Each time I slipped back into unconsciousness I begged three large Beings of Light to open my eyes. Weeks later, Bill told me that my failed attempts to force my swollen eyes open had caused me to become more and more agitated, to the point of where I was pulling out life supporting chest tubes.

jane gratitude centre 1

Those events occurred three years ago. While it took months to heal the many symptoms caused by a brain injury and the psychological effects of the trauma, today I am grateful for life and for a body and brain that function well. Every time I run along the lakeside, I recall the days when I had to be aware of the exact placement of each of my feet so as to ensure I would not fall. I am grateful to have regained balance. Each time I answer a student’s question, I breathe a silent “thank you,” knowing that both my long and short term memory are once again intact. I am thankful for my sight and hearing, especially because the location of the damage to my skull and brain makes the retaining of those senses a miraculous gift. I am grateful for my husband Bill who held and stroked me for three days and nights, assuring me he was there, and knowing his touch and reassurance were the only things that would calm my anxiety enough to keep me from pulling out tubes, and keep me from causing permanent damage to my eyes from my attempts to force them open.

As a nurse, when I worked with an unconscious patient I always believed that an unconscious person could hear what was being said to them. While I have little recall of most of my unconscious days, I do have some memory of Bill’s supporting words and because of my experience I will continue to encourage people to speak in loving and caring ways to those who are unconscious and to those who are dying.

I am grateful for what my time in the realm of the unconscious taught me about the Spirit World. For much of my life I had a belief in Spiritual Helpers. That belief has been substantiated and has become a knowing for I witnessed and was cared for by Spiritual Helpers when in a state of unconsciousness and I witnessed them once again after I gained consciousness. I now know, not just believe, that I have help and support from a spiritual realm.

October is the month when we pause to take stock of our abundance, and in turn give thanks for all we have received. I share my experiences and the gifts I garnered from those experiences trusting they will inspire you to reexamine your own difficult life events. When you do so, I encourage you to recognize and share with others all the golden threads of gratefulness that because of those events, are now beautiful parts of the wonderful fabric of your life story.

 

Wind and the Seasonal Changes of Life

 ©Jane A. Simington PHD, September, 2014

As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone;

And the place thereof shall know it no more.

– Psalms ciii:15-16

Early this day, as I stood to welcome the sun, I was acutely aware that the whispering breezes were announcing “change.” I lingered to identify from which direction it came. I believe that Spirit rides on the wind and the message Spirit brings depends upon the direction from which the winds blow. This morning, the winds of the West announced that one season was ending and a new was about to begin. I pondered how, during my career as a nurse, I was so aware that when the Wind of Spirit ceased to blow, one way of being had ended and a new way was about to begin.

Autumn trees by Jane's lake

The following information and strategies has assisted many caregivers who choose to help the dying free up their Spirits, so when they cease to breathe, their breath is freed from its restless tides to rise and seek God unencumbered.

1) Recognize the three stages of dying.

Outward focused: The person continues to be interested in the outside world, especially in anything related to their family. Visits and conversations about present events are still desired.

Inward focused: The dying person is reviewing every aspect of life to determine what yet needs to be said and done. During this stage it is helpful to share “remember when” stories. Describing shared experiences can help the person feel a sense of satisfaction with the aspects of their life being reviewed. During this stage, the dying person finds the radio and television annoying for these “noises” distract from, and interfere with, the important task of reviewing life with the goal of bringing a peaceful closure to relationships.

Future focus: The person who is close to death is focused almost solely on the afterlife. During this stage many have dreams of a spiritual nature, and visitations from loved ones who have already crossed-over. Listening respectfully, with an open mind and heart, to anything the dying person chooses to share about such experiences is of great value to the dying person as well as to the listener. Being gifted with sacred stories can alter life in many positive ways.

2) Recognize the difference between pain and suffering.

Both from a clinical and research base, it is recognized that suffering is more than physical pain. When the dying person’s spiritual, emotional and relational concerns have been addressed they can relax and focus on what is of immediate importance, which is to bring peaceful closure to this life and move toward the next. When there is pain that is uncontrollable, even with medication, often the source of the suffering is a need to forgive or be forgiven. A question that can be helpful during such times is: “What do you want/need and from whom do you want/need it?

3) Use the Hand- Heart Energetic Connection –

A loved one can give a lot of energetic support to the Spirit of a dying person by using this Therapeutic Touch technique. To do so, hold the dying person’s right hand with your left hand and place your right hand in the middle of his or her chest. Then using your breath to draw on the light and love energy from above, bring this energy into your own heart’s energy centre and send as much love and light down your right hand and into the dying person as possible. Sending positive energy in this ways helps the dying person feel connected to the energy of the light source. Many energy practitioners who are also nurses testify to the value in using this technique during times of suffering and during times when the Spirit of the dying person is getting ready to transition.

In Conclusion

Because of my varied life experiences, I have been gifted to witness many infants take their first breath and have been with many of all ages as they took their last. I am grateful for these opportunities to witness the Wind of Spirit and its association with these times of great change. This morning as I pondered the wind and reflected on these associations, I recognized that as the West wind whispered change, it was not only announcing a change of the seasons in the natural world, it was reminding me that the Spirit of the Wind blows through each of the seasonal changes in life.

A Time for Renewal and Transformation

©Jane A. Simington PHD, 2014 

This morning at dawn,
prodded by a magical stirring in the air,
I wandered a wooded area
to capture signs of spring I knew would be there.
The Geese are back, the Robins too;
Pussy willows? I saw a few.
Wild things need no temple; they need no bells to ring.
The breezes coming from the South
have told them it is spring.
In this outdoor cathedral, standing on holy ground
I marveled at the lessons of rebirth that I found.
The unborn beauty beneath the earth
again reminded me,
That life renews with joy, and peace, and immortality.

My time in nature always brings a deep sense of awe and gratefulness for the many lessons gleaned from seasonal changes. The metaphoric similarities of the repetitive cycle of birth, death and rebirth bring promise of renewal. Since ancient times, spring festivals have been based on this theme and those still held in sacred circles around the world continue to honor our Human-Earth connections. Such ceremonies acknowledge how the external reminders of spring parallel a rekindling of light and warmth in our inner world. In Aboriginal cultures, the metaphor of the movement from cold and darkness into warmth and light is that of the journey of the Great Bear from the cave. Hibernation is brought to an end, by the warming rays of the Eastern sun. Hungry and eager to ingest the goodness and warmth of spring, the Great Bear leaves behind the cave’s cold and darkness.

Springtime can be any time when the light increases in our mind and in our spirit, for anytime this occurs, an increase in our sense of freedom follows. A butterfly’s process of metamorphosis and release from the entrapment and darkness of the cocoon is a common symbol of the transition from darkness into light and freedom.

geese Jane's lakeSpringtime and all of its reminders of renewal provide a great opportunity for recognizing that difficult life experiences have two separate aspects: the destructive aspect and the transformative aspect. During the destructive aspect we feel robbed and stripped of what we once had and have no longer. We grieve and we mourn. Yet, our long days of darkness, our times in the caves, times in the cocoons, change us, transform us. When we emerge from the caves, when we crawl from the cocoons, we know we are not the same beings that entered.

As spring replaces winter, I hope that the seasonal changes awaken for each of us a renewed hope in the cycles of life and death and transformation. May the increasing hours of sun deepen our recognition that every year spring brings bare earth to bloom. May the seeds we have sorted during our long winter days and nights, and selected for planting, be fertile and sprout with many new leaves in the light and warmth of the spring sunshine.

 



Beyond Christmas Grief: Reducing the Anniversary Reaction Effects

©Jane A. Simington (2013)

 Anniversary reactions can be times of intense emotional struggle for the newly bereaved. Anniversary reactions are experienced usually for a number of years following a death. These often occur at times that held a lot of family time and are often associated with ceremony and celebration. Following the death, the bereaved will often feel an increased sense of loss during such times. Each anniversary makes the more aware of the finality of the relationship they have had.

 tree

Here are some activities I have used both personally and professionally helpful. While I have titled this handout as Christmas and Grief, most of these strategies can be applied any time there is a need to prepare for an anniversary situation. It is well recognized that “preparing for” can alleviate much anxiety. When we are “prepared” we tend to move through the experience with more emotional ease than when we are “ caught off guard.’

 

    

1) Acknowledge that Christmas is coming and that this may be a difficult time for you and your family.

 

I find that acknowledging and planning help us get through difficult times. It is when we allow things to simply happen, for example, if we just “float” into Christmas, that we can more easily get caught off-guard and become overwhelmed.

 

2) Avoid being caught up in what you should do and waste a lot of time and energy on feeling obligated.

 

Instead, decide what it is you really want to do and then place your energy into planning for that, by making a list, letting others know and perhaps even asking for help to ensure what you want to take place does indeed happen. If you do not plan ahead it will likely not happen.

 

3) Remember there are no right and/or wrong ways to celebrate Christmas.

 

There are many lovely restaurants that now offer a beautiful meal. Some even have soft music, gentle songs and harp playing on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They are becoming so popular you must make sure to have a reservation well in advance. A week at the Ocean, relaxing in the sun at an all-inclusive resort may be better than any amount of grief therapy you could receive this season. What about a ski weekend? One older woman decided to spend her first Christmas alone serving meals at a community kitchen for the homeless. She told me it was one of her most fulfilling experiences.  Could someone else do the cooking this year? Is it essential to have a turkey dinner; would a roast of beef work as well? Can you serve buffet style instead of a sit-down dinner?

 

4) It is okay to create new traditions

 

After my son’s death, I found it important to acknowledge that Christmas would never be the same for my family. Once I acknowledged that I was able to make the decision to do my best to make the season and the day as good as possible. And from then on, even though it was not “great,” it was “okay.” Making that decision, freed me up to make the choices that were right for me and my family. Part of making those choices involved creating new traditions. In making those choice I discovered, that the best way to make it “okay” was to create new traditions. 

 

Remember, all traditions started by somebody changing the order of the way things were done. If you don’t like what you do this year than you can change it again next year. You may try hanging a new ornament in memory of your loved one. Donate money to a favorite charity using the amount of money you would have spent on your loved one’s Christmas gift. Create a collage of favorite past Christmas pictures and honor the good times had. Decorate your loved one’s picture frame in a beautiful Christmas motif. Place a planet on the grave-site, or donate a plant to be placed on the altar in your church.

 

5) Honor your feelings and let others know you will need to do so.

 

When you accept an invitation, it may be important to tell your host and hostess, this is a difficult time of year for you and that you may only be able to stay a short time. Then allow yourself to leave when you need to.

 

6) Spend your time only with friends and family who can support you.

 

You do not have the energy right now to pretend. Be with those who are comfortable with your need to cry and to sometimes be withdrawn and alone. Be with friends who are comfortable when you talk about your loved one. Friendships change during grief as do family relationships.

 

7) Spending money on yourself and looking nice, does not dishonors the one who has died.

 

Buying a new outfit, wearing makeup or jewelry, and spending money on a massage, manicure or pedicure or even on travel are all excellent self-care strategies. These in no way indicate you are not grieving, nor do they say you do not treasure the one who has died. They do say you are trying to move through this difficult process in the best way possible

 

8) Honor your true feelings

 

Cry when you feel sad and lonely and also allow moments of joy to creep in. It is okay to smile again. It is even okay to have a laugh or two. 

 

9) Take good care of your physical self

 

Eat nutritionally; get some physical exercise. Limit alcohol intake. While it can initially make you feel relaxed. It can quickly depress and make your feeling erupt out of control. It is also easy to make it a habit of “drowning” our sorrows. Limit caffeine intake; it can interferes with sleep which is so needed during times of grief.

 

10) Find beauty in the season

 

Let the sights and sounds and smells ofthe season enter your empty spaces. While this will not evaporate your grief, it is a step forward – and that is what grief recovery is all about…one small step at a time.

 

11) Go for a winter stroll.

 

Spending time in nature is a very healing strategy. Nature helps us remember the cycle of life and death and by doing so brings new hope and promise into our lives. Many find nature to be the greatest healer. It was for me, personally. Beginning a “walking out of doors program,” was the best thing I ever did for myself. I can now honestly say “ I walked my grief away.”

 

12) Give yourself permission to add some peace-filled moments to this Blue Christmas

 

This particular Christmas will be a part of your life story for the rest of your days. Make a conscious effort to include aspects, that many years from now, when you recall this season, you will be able to encourage another, by telling them of the things you did which helped you make this very difficult season a little bit brighter.     

Giving and Receiving Appreciation and Gratitude

A Grateful Response

© Jane A. Simington, PHD

One Canadian Thanksgiving weekend some years ago, my dog Buddy, and I walked farther and lingered longer than was usual. Mesmerized by the magic photoand beauty of the season, the colors and fragrances were too delectable to turn from easily. The scent of overripe cranberries, wafting from a nearby grove, prompted memories of other Thanksgiving weekends. The tartness of those savory wild berries had enhanced the festive bird during many celebration times in my youth. Taste and smell memories of cranberry jelly spread thickly on warm homemade buns stimulated my gastric juices, reminding me that lunch had been hours ago.

Movement on the path ahead, where no movement should be, drew me from my reverie and from its source. Although the dimness of the twilight made it impossible for me to determine the circumstances, I realized that something black and white was struggling in a frantic effort to free itself from some entanglement. Inner twinges, not of fear but of urgency, jostled me forward. The nylon webbing from a once-round bale of straw had imprisoned a young magpie.

Sensing my approach, the frantic bird escalated its attempts to gain freedom, only to entangle itself even further in the mass of green fibers. Kneeling, I examined the fragile wings, legs, and claws. How I wished for scissors or anything sharp or knife-like. Checking my pockets I noted with gratefulness that, although I did not have any such object, I did have gloves. They would not be of help in removing the webbing, but they would certainly protect my hands from the magpie’s beak and claws.

As a child, when I helped my father relocate the mature hens to make room for new chicks, he would encourage me to cover their eyes as I carried them from one pen to another. I recalled how this had often put them in a sleep-like state. Trusting that if this procedure had worked for the hens, it just might work now, I reached with a glove-covered hand and secured the head of the captive bird. It was then but a simple maneuver to slide the other glove over the magpie, hooding its eyes. Whispering, I assured the frightened creature I would do all I could to free it from its prison. The reassurance and the glove-hood trick worked their magic! In seconds the frantic bird calmed, and although I could no longer see its face or eyes, its stillness and lack of movement indicated that the procedure had produced a sedating effect.

There was much to do and time was of the essence. I needed to take full advantage of the remaining light, for whereas at dusk this task was going to be difficult at best, in darkness it would be impossible.

As I feverishly set to work, it became obvious that, in its struggle to free itself, the young magpie had become more entrapped with each movement. Its razor-like claws had badly frayed the twine, causing its legs to be tightly bound in a gnarled mass of twisted fibers. Methodically, I unraveled the web, one frayed thread at a time. The last flush of lavender was barely visible along the western horizon when the final ragged string dropped from the young bird’s claws.

For the first time since I had discovered this captive, I remembered Buddy. He was a hunting dog. Why had he not paid attention to what was unfolding in this straw pile? The dim light, his failing eyesight, and his chance to linger in the gopher mound had certainly been in the bird’s favor. Yet now, and as though my thoughts had aroused his curiosity, he appeared. His approach quickly brought the dazed bird to full alert. What if its wings, its legs were broken? What if it could not fly? I had been so intent on the task at hand, so focused on freeing the magpie from its captivity, that I had not paused to wonder about the effects that the tight bindings and its own struggles might have had. Recognizing that magpies need to fly to stay alive, I questioned whether I had spent all this time freeing a magpie that could not survive.

My doubts were short lived. Free from the glove and its bindings, the alarmed bird, wobbling into a hop-like gait, quickly gained enough flying ability to land safely on a nearby fence post. Relieved and satisfied, I turned homeward. I went only a few steps when the young magpie circled above me three or four times before flying off into the darkness. I knew I had been given an expression of gratitude.

Since all birds are considered to be symbolic messengers from the Spirit world, I accepted that I was receiving a soul lesson. From the magpie I learned to be more aware of gestures of appreciation and to recognize that appreciation and gratitude can be expressed in both verbal and nonverbal ways. May this time of Thanksgiving be a time of both giving and receiving appreciation and gratitude.

thanks*Excerpt from Simington, J. (2013). Through Soul’s Eyes.