Atavistic Medicine

I found a dead bird today in the car park at the office. It was beautiful in death as it must have been even more so in life, but it was still beautiful. Yellow, red, dappled black, grey and white. A blazing crown of scarlet gave it an appearance of a deep and conscientious thinker. Its pale yellow downy belly gave it a look of gentle warmth and kindness. It must have collided with the office building; driven into it by the turbulent winds we have had these last couple of days. I hope it felt no pain.

I picked it up; took it home. It was significant for me because I rarely find beauty amid concrete, steel and glass. Only ugliness, disrespect and reflections of the synthetic in which most of industrialised man chooses to live and that I so much despise.

As I often do, when faced with an unexpected gift of natural beauty I turned not to the constructs of my own culture to research its possible significance, but to the experiential wisdom of a culture long frowned upon and supressed by my own. I looked toward Aboriginal culture to explain just what it was that nature had gifted; the beauty she had let me find from her realm amid the ugliness of my own.

It was a female Sapsucker. According to Ojibwe lore her medicine is to teach us how to connect with the earth and how to ground ourselves in nature. What a shame she had to be found dead on a concrete car park pavement to do so for me, but with the day I had been having I needed that, which perhaps somehow nature knew. She normally shows me Hawk on the way to the office; sometimes as many as five. Their medicine is to guide in mind, body and spiritual aspects of our journey; to help see clearly the bigger picture and understand the path that must be taken…… But today she didn’t show me any …. And today I heard of something with which I didn’t know how to deal. Something quite significant. Something quite worrisome. I needed to be re-grounded in order to know what was best I do about it.

And there was Sapsucker, beautiful in death, whose medicine was to do just that. Coincidence? Who really knows? I don’t. But the older and theoretically wiser I become the less inclined I am to believe in coincidence when it comes to natural occurrences. The more inclined I am to recognize or perhaps atavistically remember the connectivity between our own spirit and those of all else, and so to accept that perhaps our brothers from other cultures, who arguably require shorter measures of atavism in order to remember and understand that connectivity, might be on to something.

The dream catcher in the bedroom, made for Karen by our friend raised in the old ways on the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve, now has feathers attached from the wing of Sapsucker along with those of Red Tail Hawk, Peregrine Falcon and Blue Jay, as does the sheath I made for my old Nepalese bush knife that always accompanies me into the back country where the ability to remain grounded is essential.

Tonight I will sleep on the troubling issue with the moon shining through the dream catcher where now reside Sapsucker’s wing feathers which will cast their shadow above the bed. Tomorrow I will drive to the office and will be looking to see if Nature will show me Hawk, and how many, for it always seems the more I see the better the day turns out.

Coincidence? Perhaps …… but I think not.