“Red bird came all winter / firing up the landscape / as nothing else could.”

–Mary Oliver, from Red Bird, Beacon Press, 2008

4209191074_39cc3e7255The brightest of flash of red you’ve ever seen. Startling in its brilliance, and made more so by the fact it perched on the bare branches of a shrub long into its winter’s sleep. I stopped my car, sure I was imagining it, confident maybe a scrap of wrapping paper had been blown away and into the shrub. But no. There he was. His tiny head looking one way then the other. His beautiful redness a drop of grace on a landscape washed that dull brown-green-gray that comes after many days of winter rain.

Because many days of rain we’ve had here in Central Kentucky, though I must acknowledge ours has not been nearly as bad as other spots around the nation. The world, I’m sure, even. So I hesitate to even point out the rain, or mention that yesterday I was seriously considering whether or not we should book passage on an ark of some sort.  And then I wondered, and even posted on Facebook my wondering–that perhaps all the rain, it’s really the world weeping for all that has gone wrong this last year. For all the heartache. For all the violence. For all who mourn or are weary and torn or are having a difficult time seeing into the hope a new year can offer. Maybe all that rain, it’s the Universe’s heartbreak made known in a way we humans can understand, the raindrops actually the tears of our collective conscience.

Because it has been a year. Globally. Nationally. In my own community. Personally. And I know so many folks who will enter 2016 with nothing in their lives quite the same as it was a year ago. Because they’ve lost something or someone. Or gained something or someone. Or finally faced a difficult decision. Or have known deep grief or very present pain or are Just. So. Tired.

I know what it is to cry out to whoever might be listening, “When will life feel easy again?”

Perhaps it never will. For any of us. A dear friend and great life mentor reminded me this week that life, it comes with dizzying highs and devastating lows. And in the midst of it all, we persevere. We hold on. We trust that this one thing we’re in the midst of, it is not the last thing.

We ask for help (not my strong suit people…maybe its yours). We drink more water and breathe more deeply and take long walks and we trust that come night fall, the moon will rise again and in its healing light some sort of new and lovely thing might be made known.

And we look for red birds. Popping right out of the darkness and reminding us of the life that pulses at the edges of our heartache.

Please know that I do not sing of puppies and ice cream and rose-colored glasses. I’ve no time for that anymore, and while perhaps that is to be lamented, it is also to be celebrated. I know things now. And so do you. And one thing I know is that there is, in each of us, a strong and mighty core that if we’re very lucky, and have folks walking with us along the journey, is capable of just about anything.

Your heart will still be broken. Your soul will sometimes feel shattered. Your checkbook will often feel crippling sometimes, still. Relationships will fall apart. Things won’t go the way you’d planned. You’ll wonder how you got to where you are.  Because the promise hope offers is not one of ease. Of all going just as we’d imagined or assumed or wanted. Still….

…because the promise is this: that there are red birds about; that life is waiting; that it’s possible to move to the other side of this present reality and into something so beautiful it just might make us believe in the song of the angels again.




photo credit:<ahref=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/98799884@N00/4209191074″>Cardinals Everywhere</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

3 thoughts on “

  1. Hi Julie, Love this post and the photo. I’m working on a cardinal painting currently, and curious if the photo is yours and if I could have permission to use as a reference? I’m also curious how you got the shot? Take care and Happy New Year, Melissa Draut

    Sent from my iPad



  2. Julie,
    I remember when I was about your age I discovered that we all begin to “acquire a history” which includes those highs and lows you speak of. Prior to that time, life seemed to be one event after another. But all of a sudden, a historical perspective seemed to exist. I have decided after many more years that perhaps this is the beginnings of the wisdom we attribute to the elderly? It seems to me that it is maybe just a part of the process of becoming “fully human”. Although our histories are not always easy to bear, they do let us become more compassionate, more able to respond to the lives of those around us. So, it is with mixed blessings, I welcome you to the world of historical perspective!


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