We think we have it all figured out. We, as a culture know all the answers. We follow the scientific rule that we hav all been taught in school. Everything is cause and effect. If you can't see it happening then it didn't happen.
Consequently we all know about the arrogance of our culture. We all know the story of how Galileo was ridiculed for believing that the earth was not the center of the universe. And we are all familiar with the story of how Columbus was thought a fool for thinking the earth was round.
And even though we know these stories we are still blinded by the same arrogance of "If I can't see it It doesn't exist. Isn't there possibilities in the universe that are unexplained by science? Isn't it possible that there are rules to existence that we don't have a clue about?
OK. On to the story of the feather. It is a story that touches on the possibility that we don't have all the answers and that there are things to be seen that we have forgotten how to look for.
It was a few years ago and I was going through an extemely difficult period in my life. I had just gone through an extremely painful separation from a woman that I flat out adored with all my heart. The emotional scars were scarlet and throbbed. My soul was in agony.
I was drifting though each of my days wondering how to regain my sense of self and how I could rebuild. -scratch that, I wasn't even at the point where the thought of rebuilding could even enter my mind. I was an emotional wreck. Half of me had been taken away.
When a friend asked me if I wanted to do some packpacking I jumped at the chance. I thought that a retreat to nature would be good for me.
We spent days driving through parts of Virginia and West Virginia, We hiked portions of the Appalachain Trail and spent our nights by a campfire under an amazingly vivid sky.
One day we were riding along a road way up in the Blue Ridge Mountains inside Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
Its beautiful mountainside driving and way up high in the mountains. There are many treacherous drops and lots of slow curves. Some of the bigger drop offs have stone retaining walls built along side the road.
Me and my friend were driving along this one section, when we broke out of the tree line into an open area with an amazing view along one whole side of the mountain range. There was a stone retaining wall on this side (to our left) about waist high and sitting on this wall, way up in the mountains in the middle of nowhere was the biggest blackest bird I have ever seen. I would imagine it was some kind of a crow but the darn thing was at least two feet tall.
Here's where the story crosses a threshold
And that bird just looked into the pickup truck we were driving in and right at me. he bird and I made solid eye contact and something happened. I don't know how to describe it. Something just happened.
Then the bird slowly opened its wing - which had to span at least five feet and with one long, leisurely and muscular flap it just hopped off the wall and disappeared down on the other side. One single feather came off its left wing and fluttered to the road.
I was in shock. My friend who was driving, had stopped the truck and the two of us just looked at where the bird had stood just moments earlier. We got out of the truck and walked over to the spot and I picked up the feather. We peered over the stone wall but there was nothing but a steep drop down into a tree filled valley that stretched for miles and miles.
I just looked at that feather and we just stared out at the terrain, hoping to catch a glimpse of the bird but it was nowhere to be found. We got back in the truck and drove off.
After a few miles my friend broke the silence. "You know this might sound funny." He said. "But I swear that bird looked right at you."
The statement shocked me -maybe it wasn't just my imagination.
Funny thing is that from that moment on my life began to change. I had turned a corner and begun to heal the emotional scars in my life. Maybe I am making more of it than I should, or maybe I just gave this a symbolic meaning that helped me in the healing, or maybe there really was something more. Something more than I am used to seeing and understanding. Something more than I was taught in grade school. I wonder what Columbus would say about this?
To this day, many years later, I still have the feather and I still return to it in times of need.