Dance of the Bird

by Shannon McArthur

An aimless walk transforms into a moving meditation, a death is honoured and children are shielded from trauma. And a post for my blog! An incidental evening, indeed.

The children go back to school on Monday; finally the teachers’ strike is over.

I went for a walk tonight. I haven’t gone for a long time and I didn’t know where I was going when I left. I just rose from meditation and went out to greet the sky, and put my feet upon the Earth. As I walked, I spoke to Her, saying “I don’t know where I’m going, please take me where You will.” And I walked down the first block and considered going down the alley behind the Garden Gate, the organic garden that I volunteer at, but I didn’t. I walked on and saw the schoolyard where I had done QiGong in the early morning light a few times last summer and noticed a young person sitting on the grass alone, under a tree, and I thought, “I don’t want to disturb him” and walked on. But it occurred to me that if I went to my spot in the middle of the field from the other direction, around behind the building, I could do the Dance of Peace and Reconciliation that Joanna Powell-Colbert taught us at the Spring Retreat on Whidbey Island, so long ago. (OK, not all that long ago; it just seems like forever!) I felt drawn to it; it pulled me, and I let myself be drawn.

As I rounded the back of the building I saw a puddle of white on the field of green and I wondered what it was – did a mower catch a white garbage bag or roll of toilet paper? When I got closer I realized it was nothing so mundane–somehow a seagull had met its end, and his beautiful white feathers lay like a blanket below his corpse, a picnic laid out for wasps and bugs. An ignoble end for a graceful flyer, inspiration of stories as well as memories of a far-off past. I paused a moment, saddened, then moved to the centre of the circle, upon the rim of which he lay. It was my destination. A circle limned in the grass about 20’ across, in the middle of the playing field where the children would come on Monday.

What would happen when the kids came back?! Meditation is supposed to be quieting the mind but there was that bird just laying there. There was little quiet to be found. Something different was required…

The Dance of Peace and Reconciliation is a moving meditation honouring the four directions, Father Sky and Mother Earth. This is how it’s done…

As I move, I say on the in-breath “Love” and on the out-breath, “Peace” and below I’ve used (*) as in and (o) as out.

Stand facing East, right hand rises up body-centre to heart (*) and then out to the side (o), creating one wing. Next the left follows the same path (*) to create the other wing (o). Fly like a child to the right (*) and then fly to the left (o). Straighten out (*) and then dive to the Earth to deliver Peace (o). Accept Love energy in return (wrap your hands around a ball of energy) and stand (*). Apply the energy to the sacral chakra (2″ below the belly button), where it can do the most good! Now, raise the energy up to your heart as Peace (o), (where IT can do the most good!) and then, like a fountain from the heart, Love is raised in both hands (*) to the Sky where you give Peace (o) and receive another ball of love energy! Bring it down to your heart (*); step forward and thrust (o) it to the East. Take that ball to your heart and sway back (*), knowing it is Love. Keeping your feet planted, twist-turn to face behind you and thrust the ball to the West (o). Grab the responding Love ball and bring it to your heart (*) and face forward (South), then drop your arms; palms down to send the energy into the Earth, giving Her Peace (o)!  She gives you double love in return as you start the sequence again – as you raise each hand, draw Her love up through your body. The dance is complete when done once for each of the four directions, seven times each, or 21 times for each of the four directions.

When I started the Dance, I didn’t know I was going to do more than one round. Nor did I know what, or if, I would do anything about the bird. But it seemed to me that I had been brought there and that I had been given a problem that I needed to figure out. That day was the first time I ever did 21 rounds and by the time I was finished 20, I knew what needed to be done. The last round I devoted to honouring all directions, and expressing my gratitude for All That Is.

During the first 20 rounds my thoughts revolved around the bird and what I would do, while I tried to quiet my mind, concentrating on the movements. Revolving through the directions, I noticed one of the school garbage cans was about 60’ away. I debated whether it was an appropriate method of discarding the remains. As I turned, I looked for a discarded bag – or anything that I could wrap it in. I even thought seriously about using my t-shirt and walking home in my bra – it’s black; nobody would notice (really?!) I rationalized that the bird was going to end up in the garbage somewhere; that’s the only place available to me here in the city – of course, now I think I could have taken it to the Garden and buried it but I would still have had to do it shirt-less. And find a shovel… But I had choice, and my decision was carried out this way:

I went over and talked to the wasps and bugs saying, “I’m just going to move your meal; you can come if you like” and picked the bird up by its wingtips. There was a moment when I thought it would fall apart but it didn’t. It must have been only a couple days dead even though most of the insides were gone. How did he die? Was it only a bug picnic or did a predator get a meal? I didn’t get any answers but, during the last turn of the Dance, I came to feel that the feathers were a gift for me for putting him to rest and saving the children from the trauma of seeing his mortification. I accepted the gift of some of his beautiful perfect white feathers! They will be cleaned and wrapped with thread and beads to become tokens of Spirit. A worthy end I think for the mortal remains of this high-flyer, All in All.