For the past few years, I’ve found feathers in all the places I’ve called home. There have been a lot; meaning, of course, a lot of homes and a lot of feathers. Whether it was the magpies of the Laramie Valley, the geese and red tail hawks in the Badger Creek watershed, or the sandhill cranes and great horned owls of the SLV, I’ve ended up with a lot of feathers in my hat. Literally.
That strip of leather around my head has held its share of feathers, to the point where I’d only keep a feather if it was better than the one already in my hat band. I have found all kinds of feathers, from all kinds of birds: jays, wrens, owls, hawks, even a mountain bluebird wing. I have feathers tooled on my saddle, too. I figured that the place where I’ve spent the majority of the past 5 years was worthy of such an adornment.
I was like a feather finder. If there was a feather to be found, there was a good chance I’d be the one to find it on my ride out. And I really don’t know why that is. I never really look for them. I don’t even like birds that much. But their feathers are always there, covering my path.
I thought, maybe it’s just because I’m observant, or because I spend so much time outside. Maybe it’s because I spend a lot of time looking down, at tracks or antlers or little desert plants, from a high vantage point. Maybe somehow it’s some tie to Forrest Gump, that iconic feather landing on Tom Hanks’ knee. Maybe we are “all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze.”
Then it hit me, like Sunday afternoon sunshine through a west-facing window.
Psalm 91:4. “He will cover you with his feathers, under his wings you will find refuge.”
The first time I heard that verse, I was in Target and saw it on a mug, and I dismissed it. On the surface, it didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t recognize the symbolism. I didn’t recognize that it was exactly what I was looking for, in all those different places I lived for the last several years.
And in that moment of realization, I saw so clearly that no matter where I go, God’s got me. He’s covering me in His feathers and giving me refuge under His wings. He gives us all a nest, a place to feel secure, but He also gives us the strength we need to build our own wings and fly in faith under His care. We are never truly alone.
I’ve tried to keep outright religion off my blog for a variety of reasons, but I will never apologize for God’s presence in anything. I will never apologize for His hands at work. I’m not writing this to try and preach to you, or try to convert you to my beliefs. It’s just what I believe, and where I find meaning. And to me, this means a lot.
Last weekend, I was in northern Michigan with my family. We were all getting out of the truck to go in to church, when something caught my eye. Dozens of tiny grey feathers, tail feathers and wing feathers and downy body feathers, scattered all around under a tree. Honestly, something probably died there. But once again, I was finding feathers. Being covered in feathers. Something missing in my soul came alive again. I was home.
For years, I’ve felt torn between staying and leaving. Every cross-country move and every time I came back felt so achingly bittersweet. I couldn’t keep the strength to fly while I settled down in one place. I couldn’t create community when I kept packing up and leaving. They felt mutually exclusive. I was craving the chance to build my wings, while at the same searching for a place to build a nest.
Now, it seems I’m being given the chance to do both at the same time.
Time to fly.
For the Birds – Miranda Lambert
Snow is Gone – Josh Ritter
(The photos in this post were taken by my friend Caroline in 2017.)