grief

crippled goldfinch

I had this sign on Monday but it has taken an entire week to write about it. Why? Well, my hope was that most signs would be encouraging….but then I started tripping and saw a crippled goldfinch. I decided to pay attention but wasn’t sure if I wanted to share it. Then I wrote about tripping and friends and family responded a lot about balance in their own lives. So…..

Walking  along a cobble stoned pathway to work on Monday, a goldfinch surprised me. It was male, easily identifiable by its bright coloring. I am used to luring goldfinches with nijer seed. They are a special sight and not something commonly seen in  a barren place, all concrete, no green.

But there he was. I followed him and he kept hopping. Never flew away. I realized he did not fly away because he couldn’t. A goldfinch that can’t fly. Hmmm.

A friend who has been reading my blog encouraged me to go deeper with the signs. Delve into some of the archetypal or symbolic meanings. So I looked up goldfinch and then promptly did not write about it all week. I needed more time to wrestle with it. Not unlike Jacob at Jabbock. It is always in wrestling with our angels (and demons) that we discover more fully who we are. And often who we are in relationship to others.

Well, that sounds good but actually I was just hoping I could ignore it.

Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch (ca 1506)

Since earliest times, birds have been messengers. From the story of the dove and Noah’s ark to the carrier pigeons that brought messages to the front lines in war, our flying messengers have always been with us. Here are just a few suggested meanings some from history and some from the woo-woo world:

  • Because of its song, the goldfinch is often referred to as the “wild canary”
  • In medieval art, because they feed on thorns, goldfinches represented the passion of Christ and is sometimes known as a “savior” bird.
  • They help us understand the value of change (their coat changes color from winter to summer)
  • A sign that we can resolve family conflicts in a healthy manner.
  • They remind us to understand the power of our unique voice, our “song.”
I asked myself, what of the finch are the words I most need to pay attention to:
  • male
  • unable to fly
  • family
  • need to resolve conflicts
Well, hell, that does not sound like fun.
As I look back over the week, both of my boys, husband and son, lost their bearings. We lived with so much conflict this week.  None of us could fly, none of us could just be ourselves.  I think as a family we were crippled. The events were nothing particularly intense, but our reaction to the normal family stresses were not normal. Precisely because we are not living in normal anymore. That is just the simple reality of the world we live in right now. At that fateful trip to my doctor a few weeks ago, he asked me,
“Have I told you my definition of a normal person?”
“No, you haven’t.”
He smiles, as he brings the stethoscope to my beating heart,
“It’s just someone you don’t know yet.”
Our family made it through the week.   If I had read my sign earlier maybe I would not have been so stressed by all of it. So emotionally attached to it all.  Compassionate detachment, perfected by the Buddha, is not running away but rather being present to life with no strings attached. That is hardest to do in the midst of a busy, crazy and sometimes perilous family life. I mean a normal family life.
It’s also hard to do when a crippled goldfinch crosses your path on a Monday morning. 

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