Nature Wisdom

With Pat Tuholske, Naturalist

Shadow of the Bird

“Where there is much light, the shadow is deep.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The shadow of the bird has intrigued me since first capturing my attention. Two decades ago I was working outside on our back deck when bird shadows began floating across the wood’s surface. Glancing up, I saw nine vultures catching a thermal above the house. The Cherokee refer to vultures as peace eagles so I took their shadowy greeting as a good sign.

The shadow of a bird is easiest to see on flat open surfaces at high noon on a sunny day. A perfect alignment of sun, bird and earth. A mysterious dance between the sun’s ray and the bird. The brighter the light, the more potent the shadow. Glimpsing the fleeting shadow, I no longer feel earth-bound and soar with the bird gracefully at one with the air.

The summer of 2012 I started seeing bird shadows too often to ignore. Shadows swooped across my windshield while driving, darted through the woods on a hike, plunged into the pond as I swam. What message was the shadow of the bird sending? Was I to follow this doppelganger? Was a phantom path awaiting discovery?

Nature speaks to me in symbols and signs. Always alert to the wild world’s messages and lessons, I soon had my answer to the spectral omen. A random mosquito fed on me transferring West Nile Virus from an infected bird. My journey with the shadow world began.

West Nile virus is transmitted to birds through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Since West Nile virus was discovered in the United States in 1999, the virus has been detected in over 300 species of birds. Although some infected birds, especially crows and jays, frequently die of infection, most birds survive.

Sharing a deep bond with birds, I too am surviving the challenge of this nebulous affliction lurking in my spinal fluid, brain and nervous system. The initial shock of the diagnosis has worn off. My highly active life is now slow-paced. Communication is strenuous, focus is difficult, sensory overload is ongoing and intense. I forgo teaching, seminars, fairs, concerts, theater, and travel. I no longer try to push my way through or say yes to every request. The bird has given me the gift of simplicity and slowing down.

This virus has become my constant companion with whom I am making peace. We all have our challenges and I encourage you not to run from but embrace your shadow. Go easy and give flight to your hidden essence. Release your shadow to swoop, explore and dance with the light.

Jung says the shadow is the seat of creativity. Through heightened senses I now see, smell, and hear more. Exploring the silhouette of my inner core, I am compelled to spend time alone with ruminations of my own mind, deep emotions and profoundly simple acts. Letting the strong light of sun cast my shadow long… I am here… I am whole… I am human illuminated. I wrap the shadow of the bird around me like a cloak of power.

Part two in September: The Wisdom of Stillness

Check out Pat’s “Nature Chronicles” for musings on the Human-Nature relationship. Go to pattuholske.com. See her wild wreaths and remedies crafted from Ozark native plants at willowrainherbalgoods.com.