The new school year is underway, and for the second morning in a row, our 15 year-old son, Mateo, is in a glum mood. Muttering in monosyllables and casting dark shadows around the house, he rushes out the door, impatient with his slowpoke parents. Despite feeling somewhat disgruntled about being back in school, he's still in a hurry to arrive there an hour before the bell rings, so he can visit with friends, and we're simply not moving fast enough for his taste.
When he and Zet finally drive off, I find myself feeling angry and frustrated with Mateo's behavior as I head out for my daily walk through the neighborhood. I don't want to deny the depth of these feelings, but don't want to stay stuck there either, so I decide to amp up my workout. Interspersing the walking route with some lung-challenging, heart-pounding stretches of 100-yard wind sprints, I feel my mood shifting, and the clouds start lifting from around my heart.
Heading back to the house, I encounter a brown and white striped feather lying on the driveway, a few feet from our front door. Preoccupied with my thoughts, I walk right by at first, giving it just a cursory glance. But then my brain slowly registers it as being a wing feather from one of the red-tail hawks that I vaguely noticed circling our neighbor's yard earlier. It demands attention.
I return to the spot and stand still, mesmerized by the sight of this small, slender gift from the hawk, and from Spirit. Taking a deep breath and feeling the full distance this plume fell, from the clear blue sky overhead to the dry, brown, drought-stricken grass where the feather lies nestled at my feet now, I stoop down to pick it up and examine it more closely.
"Step up higher," it seems to say to my soul. "Shift your vision. Take time to see your life from a higher, wider, larger perspective. Remember that no one or no thing can control your thoughts or actions. Take time to feel gratitude, not just for this feather, but for life itself. And for the love of your wife, son, family, community - and the many opportunities they all present for you to learn, to grow...."
After thirty years of meditation, contemplation and spiritual education, I'm still not certain about the exact nature of this voice I'm hearing. And I don't know where this feeling comes from. But I do know enough to pay heed to the advice. To let go of my need to be "right" about my opinions of Mateo's behavior, or anything else. So that's what I do, to the best of my ability, with as much humility as I can muster
Back in the house, I place the feather on my altar and offer a brief, silent prayer of gratitude. Then it's time to begin washing dishes and start tackling the things on my To Do list for the day, but at least I'm feeling much more at peace than I had been a few minutes earlier. And, at least for now, that's good enough for me...