A little over a week ago, a small finch moved in with us.
Well, not really, IN in, but pretty damn close.
We came home one night and noticed a tail feather in the corner of our side porch eaves. There’s not a lot of space in which to perch, so this was quite a feat—a noteworthy and curious accomplishment.
In the morning, the bird was gone.
When we came home that night, the bird was back, eyeing us from behind a random nail lodged in the corner to support a string of lights we had used long ago.
On the third day we named the bird Larry—after Larry Bird, of course.
On the fourth day my youngest son started to chronicle Larry’s residence on his SnapChat feed (LarryBird Day4…) shared among the neighborhood kids on our street—all of whom embraced Larry as their own.
Animals—especially the feathered ones—are often messages sent directly to us from the spirit world. And kids, pure spirits as they are, tend to be the ones to bring them to our attention.
That’s the power of the divine feminine at work—it’s all around us if you know to look for it.
So on the fifth day, I Googled the significance of a finch, and learned our little bird visitor was an “omen of joy”, suggesting peace, freedom and positive changes are just around the corner.
I also learned that Larry was, in fact, a female—but we decided to keep her name, with a nod to Johnny Cash’s song A Boy Named Sue.
All of this felt significant because the entire week my little family had been holding its breath waiting for test results from a biopsy I’d had to determine if I had uterine cancer.
Every night I would look at Larry and Larry would look at me.
Was Larry a sign? Was this wishful thinking? Was this my imagination?
Could I dare to hope that all would be well, even though it didn’t look good? Could this little bird be here for me?
I mean why else would you spend the night sleeping in a cramped corner, crouched around a nail, fluffed up and barely protected from the elements?
Have you ever had those moments of angsty waiting where desperate desires and fervent prayers in your body swirl with the chaos in your mind?
Doesn’t that feel like the space where so many of us are these days—trying to grab a few blessed minutes of shut eye, finding a bit of peace next to a random nail in the corner of a life—nearly 3 years into a pandemic, in the midst of an existential crisis, with a divided nation, a faltering economy, a sick and tired populous, the days getting darker and darker?
Silent night….holy night….
Amazing grace….how sweet the sound….
Oh come, all ye faithful….joyful and triumphant….
The call came last night from my midwife, fifteen minutes before five women would be arriving at my candlelit office to explore the topic of the feminine in the second gathering of my On Being a Woman circle.
Her voice was loud and clear: “Good news, Lael. We didn’t see any cancer.”
And while she went on to talk about next steps and I lit more candles for the gathering, I thought of Larry bird—and how s/he had been a feathered candle burning on the alter of my soul as we approach the darkest night of winter next week.
It takes courage to have faith.
It takes some shelter to keep a candle lit.
It takes a village to make life holy (wholly).
As we sat in our circle of women last night, we listened to a live version of Amazing Grace, sung in four-part harmony by women. I asked them to silently and energetically invite all the women in their lives—and our world—into our circle to join us.
I invited my late sister-in-law, Grace. My two nieces. My son’s girlfriend. And Larry.
This is what women know how to do intuitively in these times—gather in circles, witness each other, and sit with all that is unknown, messy, hard, and much bigger than us.
We allow ourselves to be held—and we hold the space for others to do the same.This is how we can lead.
Midwives know it. Hospice workers know it. Anyone in recovery attending AA meetings knows it.
But do you know it? Do you see the capacity you have inside you? And if you do, do you use it—or do you wait for someone else to do it first…to make it more comfortable, safe, familiar?
Because I will tell you in all honesty: the only thing that makes it more comfortable, safe and familiar is practice. Lots and lots of us practicing.
How does leading with feminine energy look? Embodiment.
Which is good news because you if you’re reading this, you have a body—which means you have everything you need. No excuses.
Author Kelly Corrigan talks about this beautifully in her toast she put on YouTube entitled Transcending: Words on Women and Strength, bringing to light that “lean and catch” thing women do for each other.
I watch this at least once a year to remember—because we are trained to forget this power we have. That we can use.
Especially in the heart of winter, the heart of the feminine—when things feel closest to the bone, tenuous, and vulnerable.
Leadership can be as blessedly simple—and powerful—as allowing feminine energy to course through our bodies.
I brought this into my circle of women I gathered that night—as a way for us to remember this innate power can we bring to leadership, often because we’re given more license to use it than our male counterparts are.
“The great work of our time is to bring the feminine into this culture”
Jungian analyst Marion Woodman speaks about so beautifully in an interview by Oprah on women and power—the only way to understand the feminine, she says, is to experience it.
Get it in your bones. Remember, again and again.
The heart of winter? That’s prime-time for the feminine to take center stage.
It’s why we like to gather by fires with loved ones, snuggle, and talk in hushed voices.
In my circle, I told the story of how I imagine the wheel of the year (for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere) turning in my mind’s eye—a visual inspired by my days running the 4×400 meter relay in track where the baton was passed between runners for each leg of the journey.
At Summer Solstice (June 21), the Sun hands the baton to the Moon, and leadership is powered by lunar (feminine) energy through the summer and into the fall until the days gradually get darker and darker, leaves and flowers fall away, things get closer to the dirt, and we (animals, people and sap) retreat inside and underground.
Where truth lives.
Where wisdom can be found.
Where our soul voice lives.
Where the seeds and medicine take root.
Until Winter Solstice (December 21), when the Moon hands off the baton to the Sun, and leadership is transferred to solar (masculine) energy, darkness recedes as our days grow longer, new growth breaks through our soil in response to the light, and we (animals, people and plants) emerge from the cave and reveal ourselves above ground.
Around and around we go.
So as we approach this home stretch—the final push from the dark womb of the year—with Winter Solstice coming up next week on December 21st, I’m casting around with candlelight for some last bits of truth and wisdom, insights and whisperings in my soul.
I don’t need to see what they are to know they matter—that’s trust.
I don’t need to believe they are real to know they are true—that’s intuition.
I don’t need to understand what to do to know how to be—that’s wisdom.
So here’s to the power of the feminine to help us see our way forward in the dark.
Here’s to the the dance between the sun and the moon that happens without us—for us.
And here’s to a bird named Larry—who quietly held vigil on my porch through it all.
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