After finishing writing the words about alligator under the right eye of my quilt Raptor, I wanted to start working on the words that would go under the left eye.
The raptor eyes were the first thing I drew on this quilt. And they remained the only thing for weeks. When I looked at them I knew they were Vulture eyes. But over time I began to think that Vultures are not really the kind of bird that most people take to. So I started to play with the idea that they belonged to a more noble bird, an owl or eagle maybe.
I’ve been hearing about the book Animal Speak by Ted Andrews for years. So many people I know have it and reference it all the time to find out the symbolism of an animal. But somehow I never thought of getting a copy for myself. Then, when the bear died in our pasture, Jon bought the book to see what he might discover about the bear.
I picked it up last night, read some of it before going to sleep and had the dream about alligator.
I decided to try again. Before starting the writing under the right eye, I looked up Vulture. And what I found was a powerful and spiritual, misunderstood bird.
When I think of Vulture, all those cartoon images come to mind. Ugly and mean, they eat dead things. I wonder why I don’t see, instead, the way they ride the thermals rarely flapping their wings. Floating through the sky, looking to do the dirty work of cleaning up the potentially bacteria creating carcasses of animals killed by someone other than them. As unappreciated as garbage men in a city, until they go on strike.
That’s the practical part of Vulture. Spiritually, Vultures ability to soar and float with ease, to seemingly defy gravity, is a symbol of leaving the mundane, and material behind. In Animal Speak, Andrews writes:
“One of the mystical secrets believed to be held by the vulture is the ability to levitate. Levitation is the law of spirituality”
And this is where the movie, The Fits, that Jon and I went to see on Sunday, comes in. And if you’re going to see the movie, (which I highly recommend) stop reading here because I’m going to spoil the ending for you.
In the movie, Toni is an 11 year old girl figuring out who she is and how she fits in with the other girls around her. As much as she wants to be a part of the dance team in her community center, she also has a strong sense of her individuality.
One by one, the older girls on the dance team being having seizure-like fits. They’re reminiscent of the girls in the play The Crucible. Soon it becomes apparent that any girl who doesn’t experience a “fit” is becoming an outcast. While some of the girls are videoing the other girls having “fits” and gossiping about them, Toni is frightened by them. She becomes defensive, believing her older brother who says they’re all in the mind. Just before Toni has her own “fit” we see her outside, standing alone in a drained community swimming pool, staring up at four or five Turkey Vultures floating above her.
Soon after that we see Toni in the community center. We’re watching her feet slowly begin to dance, the accompanying sound track is a woman singing about gravity. Slowly Toni’s feet leave the ground and, as in a flying dream, she starts to literally float on the air. She’s levitating. Like a Yogi, or a Witch or a Vulture, she defies gravity not allowing the mundane experiences of the physical world hold her down.
Suddenly I’m seeing Vulture as a noble, powerful and mystical bird. One who came to me to lift me up from what I thought I knew. To show me how to float above my work and see it and myself for who and what we really are.