I found a dying bird the other day. Sahalie and I were taking a much needed holiday break and set off for a walk, crunching through the ice that Portland decided to gift us with for Christmas Eve. I was carefully watching the ground, (afraid of slipping and falling and breaking a hip), when I spied a tiny bird shivering in the gutter. Following my instincts, I swooped down and picked it up. Spots of blood showed on its beak and I surmised that it had been hit by a car and had little time to live. My heart tugged. No creature should die freezing and alone in the gutter. Cradling the bird in one hand and holding a bag of poop and Halie’s leash in the other, I spoke half to the bird and half to my dog as I carefully picked my way home. “No, leave it, Halie. Its okay, little bird, you’re not alone. Stop it Halie. Let’s go home. Poor baby, poor little bird.” I sounded like a mad woman. The warmth of my hand translated itself to the bird and the shivering stopped. I opened my fingers a crack and it blinked at me. I would have felt elation but there was more blood on its beak and I knew better. Had he lived, I would have taken it to the Audubon Society as soon as it opened. The bird died while the humans and baby dog celebrated a dark and snowy Christmas Eve. But, as I left it out in the woods near our house, I realized that it was enough for me that I’d followed my instincts and offered what comfort I could to a fellow earth creature as its life ended.
It was just one of many moments of growth and reflection that 2017 gifted me with.
It’s an understatement to say that it was a growing year for me. Many years have been growing years (the year I fought cancer and wrote four books leaps to mind), but my awareness of that growth has trebled. Between meditation and journaling, the year’s lessons have taken on profound meanings. Perhaps my heightened awareness is simply an symptom of growing older—the impermanence of it all has settled sharply in my chest.
A few of the things I’ve learned this year:
- I’ve learned both the importance of community involvement and the importance of personal boundaries.
- I understand the interconnection of our country and our world in a whole new way.
- I’ve learned how the mentalities of scarcity and abundance impact our entire world.
- I’ve learned how important positive female relationships are in my life.
- I’ve learned more about how our democracy works than I ever learned in school and I’ve learned how it’s currently being threatened.
- I’ve learned how important and precious that democracy is to me.
- I’ve discovered the perils and rewards of radical honesty and I’ve learned the limits of my own courage in regards to that honesty.
- I’ve learned how important that moment of space between stimuli and reaction actually is to the quality of your life and your relationships.
- I now know just how vital mentorship relationships are and how they are the lifeblood of female growth and maturity.
- I also know that mentors can come in the most unlikely places. Among my mentors for the year, I count an astrologer with a bent for human justice and healing, (No, I don’t really believe in astrology, but her intuitive, humane and feminist writing is glorious), a ghost writer, whose compassionate and well-researched Action Check List for Americans of Conscience has deeply impacted my activism, and a former lawyer in New York whose Resistance Live broadcasts have informed me of the inner workings of our government and made me think about female leadership in new ways.
I’m sure many people will agree with me that 2017 has been a shit-show of a year but as I set my intentions, goals or resolutions for 2018, (I hate all those terms, btw. They’re so cheesy and don’t even cover how sacred this process is to me), the growth that I’ve achieved this year directly impacts how I’ll proceed next year. Or, in writer terms, every line I have written, every character trait deepened and every plot point informs what comes next. I wish I had a way to tie up this blog with a deep corresponding lesson about the dying bird, but I got nothing, so I’ll just leave you with my love and hope for 2018. May it be a brighter year for all of humanity.