The other day, an oriole on a watering can reminded me of an important truth.
A few years ago, when my aunt died, I was looking after her estate. Although my aunt had been a very challenging presence in my life, I had a deep affection and love for her. In my grief I was still present enough to appreciate the sharp and analytical mind that had enabled her to keep her affairs well organized, her investments sound, and all her ducks in a row well into her 80’s.
I remember sitting in the dining room with all of her bank statements and bills and investment portfolios spread out on the large table in front of me. Much of this stuff may as well have been written in Greek, because I’m an English major, not an accountant. Occasionally I would find little notes of encouragement from her scribbled on the top of files – she knew I would be looking after things when she was gone, and while she seemed to have complete faith in me, she understood that I would not be enjoying this part of it.
So as I doggedly worked there in a sea of papers and spreadsheets, punctuated by little jolts of love as I found her notes, I was startled to see a bright, beautiful oriole at the dining-room window. It was perched on the window ledge and it was literally pecking at the glass, as if to get my attention. I caught my breath and was spell bound, it was so close and it stayed at that window for almost a minute. Cocking its head, looking at me.
When it flew away I smiled. I felt as though my aunt had come to visit and offer me her blessings, perhaps it was her way of telling me not to give up. Regardless, I was just so thrilled to have an oriole at my window.
And then, a few moments later, this same oriole appeared on the opposite side of the dining room, at the other window. It had flown right around the entire house, to peer in this other window and peck at the glass.
And as I sometimes do when nature speaks directly to me, I burst into tears.
I felt all my aunt’s love flow over me and course through me in that moment.
I felt so blessed and so loved and so at peace with the process before me.
I whispered “thank you, thank you” to that tiny orange bird until it finally flew away. I have held this memory in my heart ever since.
And so last week, as I was once again working on my personal and business income tax papers – a task I can easily find any reason to put off (procrastination) and about which I can feel defeated before I even begin because I don’t think I’m good at it (perfectionism) – I looked out the window and saw an oriole. It was perched on the red watering can next to our vegetable garden. It hopped on and off that watering can a couple of times. It turned this way and that. It cocked it’s head at me.
I threw open the window and spoke to it. Whispered words of welcome and love and joy to it. Because of course every time I see an oriole I know my aunt it with me.
And then it dawned on me that I was once again at a desk doing accounting work…and that she was lending me the power of her presence. Lending me her expertise, her business savvy, her confident, analytical mind. She was telling me, you can do it, I’m here to help. So just keep going.
Flowing from her to me through the oriole was all the wisdom and know-how she possessed. How do I know this? Because I could feel it. I was not alone with my task, and I no longer felt so intimidated by it.
I learned (again) that I could do hard things – especially when I called in my ancestors, the wisdom in their bones and blood flowing to me and within me.
And so that blessed oriole reminds me, my aunt reminds me, that I can ask for and receive help from those who came before me. The gifts and talents of our ancestors are available to us. They flow to us on the wings of the birds.
Whatever hard tasks lie before us, many of them far harder than filling out an income tax form, I know this: we are not alone. The ancestors walk with us. And they have done hard things before.