Some years ago, I was strolling through the park when I found a feather.
Whenever I see a fallen feather, I slow my step and breathe in more deeply.
I interpret it as a cue to calm down and not overthink. To become aware of my body, my breathing, my feet touching the ground. To be lightly yet firmly present.
The same way that we take the sunrise as our cue to wake up.
The feather is for me a wake-up within waking. I think you understand.
I don’t mean to suggest that I believe Nature takes the trouble to drop me such cues deliberately, when Nature believes I need them.
(I’ve heard an anecdote that Paolo Coelho only starts writing a novel when he finds a fallen feather on his windowsill.)
What I mean is that nature’s chaos, the process which we can say led to the separation of that feather from the bird that once wore it, has an element of calm to it.
The calm of our knowing chaos is inevitable, that it keeps occurring, that one day it will surely upset us.
I picked up that feather without thinking about it. I did it instinctively. It seemed the right thing to do, for no particular reason.
Last Christmas, I got an empty white frame as a gift, among other things.
The frame reminded me of the feather which I had all but forgotten in a shadowy drawer.
I picked the feather, laid it on a few blank pages, and framed it.
Now I keep it on a shelf near my desk.
Whenever I look at it, it brings me a sense of calm. It anchors my attention and stills my breathing.
Even at night, when it’s surrounded by shadows and a curtain of darkness, it still has a wise, calming effect.
I do not know what bird dropped it or what has become of that bird.
But the bird and the park and that walk, they all come back to me wordlessly, thoughtlessly, whenever my eyes rest on the feather in its frame, whenever I breathe in its lightness and its calm…