Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bird with Lace Wings


I ditched grading and yoga today. In my desperate attempt to cling to the bliss of spring break, I left work, put on my hiking boots and revisited a lovely spot not far from my house. I saw a coyote slinking around the creek, lizards mating, cocoons, a giant millipede (yikes!), and these cotton candy-like tufts of seeds being blown across the canyon.

On the hike, trying to escape from a blaze of tedious, work-related thoughts, I thought about those moments before thoughts start to form. You know the ones. You witness something spectacular--an overpowering smell, a marvelous sight, or an enrapturing song. Moments arise when you're just "there," and your mind stops. For a moment.

At one point during the hike, I noticed something flying overhead. I had one of those thinking gaps where I simply experienced. It was like a black bird with light beaming through its wings just happened.

Then my mind started up again. My first thought was "bird with lace wings." It didn't even seem like a thought. It was more like a flicker of energy, this gentle label. I looked longer, though, and my thoughts formed a more cohesive (and depressing) story. It was a crow. It didn't seem to be flying too straight. It had patchy spots in its secondary feathers, where pieces were missing--due to illness, a fight, I don't know. Maybe it couldn't chase after food or other birds very quickly now.

I'm describing a process that happened in less than the blink of an eye. I saw something so startling it shocked me out of that powerful blaze of thoughts. Then, a story started to form, and things quickly went from good to terrible. The holes in the crow's wings that had initially inspired the beautiful thought, "bird with lace wings," immediately took on a very sad quality. Talk about an Easter moment: how quickly birth and death occur! A bird happened, my thoughts flared up, and my mind kinda stabbed the whole experience to death by forcing relentless thoughts on it.

I'm reminded, again and again, how tremendously powerful our thoughts are. Forget weapons of mass destruction: it's our thoughts that do the most damage of all. I suppose that's why we crave yoga and meditation. We set time aside to allow those moments before thoughts to happen. We observe our mind (and body!) in action. I think Bikram puts it as "You walk the dog or the dog walks you!"

How powerful these thoughts can be, huh?


hannahjustbreathe said...

"Bird with lace wings." That is a WONDERFUL image. I am not surprised at all that you formed a story around that so quickly---that image begs a story!!!

thedancingj said...

That is very cool. I have (ironically) thought quite a bit lately about how language is the enemy of experience - when you start trying to put too many words to an experience, you stop HAVING the experience and you collapse it into just the words. Have you read "Blink"? I love Blink. It's about the way we can sometimes process information WITHOUT thinking much better than we process it consciously. That's kinda like what you did - stop THINKING so much, and then you can actually SEE these cool things.

Yolk E said...

Thanks for your comments!

Juliana, I LOVE Blink. Love Malcolm G. in general! So much of Blink just blew me away... I will never get over how he deals with prejudice. And if you like that, try Outliers. It's not quite as gripping, but it's almost there, and I learned so much.

I think the way you put it--"language is the enemy of experience"--is spot-on.

Funny how language is an enemy of experience, yet it's what is bringing us together right now. *cue Twilight Zone music*