Upon the ground, a feather lay
White and grey and fine.
While up above,
A mourning dove
Perched upon a branch.
She sang a song of sadness
From the Ponderosa Pine.
Why are you so sad, I asked
And she said, in calm reply,
I have a lost a feather,
To me, as precious as a child.
And so, I mourn…
I simply cannot fly.
Feathers are powerful little things. To Native American tribes, feathers symbolize trust, honour, strength, wisdom, power, freedom, and more, and have long been used in ceremonial dress.
On that same road trip, I attended a Pow Wow in Albuquerque where I took some pictures of beautiful dancers. The importance of feathers was obvious.
Now that I’ve had a chance to look again at the words that came so forcefully that day, and after letting them settle, I understand better their meaning—which is weird being that I’m the one who wrote them, but you know, sometimes, the obvious takes a while to reveal itself.
I didn’t know about that saying (Feathers appear when angels are near) until today. Truth be told, I don’t put much stock in angels and other celestial beings.
I do know about loss. I know it can be debilitating, and I know that grief is inevitable. It is also personal, non-conforming and, thankfully, evolutionary.
Losing something (big or small), or losing anyone—to death or to the death of a relationship—or just as costly, losing yourself, can be paralyzing. The loss may be different, but the weight of grief is the same: we think that surely we will never fly again.
But somehow we do. We find strength—through kindness, through beauty, through nature, through counselling, and often, simply through the passing of time—and we carry on.
Sometimes, we even become a stronger version of ourselves.
The next time a feather lands at your feet, stop and pick it up—it could be the universe trying to tell you something… or, it could simply mean some bird out there is one feather short.
The interpretation is up to you.