Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Dove Hunting

Well, She's everywhere , isn't She? The Spirit, I mean.
Someone asked if I owned anything like a sculpture of a dove, which they could use as a focus for an evening course on the Holy Spirit. After a futile tour of my home I offered that I might be able to find a seagull feather at the lake if she thought that would do. The hunt was on.

Before I could chase seagulls on that October Saturday, I had to join my husband in cleaning up the garden and stashing summer furniture in the garage. After an hour of marital negotiations as to which of the garage’s current contents could be given away, my husband was pleased to be left alone to store the rest of his junk in peace.
I drove to a park at nearby Lake Ontario, and started beachcombing for feathers. The shore at this part of the lake is covered in egg-sized, round stones, and what washes up is more likely to be broken plastic bottles or straws, not anything pretty.
There is a huge population of ducks, geese and seagulls, so you’d think feathers would abound, but
I couldn't find anything remotely feather-ish.
I eyed a pristine white swan, imagining what one of her giant feathers would look like, but she eyed me right back with a swan’s usual fierce, warning glare.

The fall weeds and the lake views were beautiful on this sunny cold day and I was glad to get the exercise, so I continued along a paved lakeside path to get to the next beach.
After a few minutes, I saw a tiny white fluff of feather on the mowed lawn beside me, and then another and another. A bit of hope sprouted. 
But what good are tiny fluffs for a symbolic display?

I stuffed the bits of feather into my pocket anyway. My search continued. I had to get closer to the water again. For the first time ever, in the years I’d been walking here, I ventured off the paved path to push my way through waist-high purple asters and dried goldenrod stalks, right down to the water. No one else was on this part of the beach where rock piers jut out between pebble-covered coves.
It was glorious. Who cares about feathers? The Creator was here.
Spirit wind blew strong at my back. Great Lake waves rushed toward my running shoes. 
As each wave ebbed, the retreating water draining through the stones made the most beautiful hushing sound, a Spirit song.

I started seeing lots of dirty bedraggled feathers, black ones and white ones, the quill still rigid but the plumes half gone. I guessed they had been dropped out in the lake and soaked and tumbled and finally dragged through the sand and stones until they were total wrecks.
Is there some spiritual lesson in their appearance?

What had begun as a task transformed into a walking meditation. Again nature’s ancient and powerful elements were giving me glimpses of the Mystery. God, you are frighteningly strong if you spoke this wind into being.
You are a brilliant engineer if you created bird feathers.
The way water, sun and sand produce driftwood art manifests your unfailing plan to redeem death’s destruction.

What if I don’t find the feather we want for the display?
Sometimes God stoops low enough to give us these little kisses even while we must still wail in confusion over abused women and new wars. Sometimes, childlike, we pray for a parking place or a sunny wedding day and are given exactly what we asked.
 Other times there are no divine hugs or kisses to be found.
I was getting tired of walking and was reminding myself not to get obsessed. It actually wouldn’t matter one bit if a gull’s feather never appeared. I decide to go home at the end of this beach section.
Alone at the lake, amid beauty and careless debris, I gave thanks for the pleasure of walking with the Holy One in her beautiful world.

Hidden secrets, big and small, also reflect God somehow. We can’t always find God in the ways we hope. I was ready to accept that I didn’t find the feather I wanted.
And then, surprise. When I saw it, I smiled knowingly at the One who was smiling at me – a feather, half hidden under a log, camouflaged by nearby speckled stones and sticks. Yes, amid black feathers and ruined, grubby once-white feathers, I found one whole pure white feather.