“Those who have a chickadee as a totem will learn to express the truth in a manner that heals, balances, and opens the perceptions. Truth is shared in a manner that adds cheer and joys to your own life and the lives of others”. Ted Andrews “Animal Speak”
The little wooden birdhouse was on my studio when I moved in. I always imagined it was made by Harold Walrath who had a workshop in the old School House after it was moved to the farm in the 1960’s.
One year, a bird made a nest on top of the birdhouse and hatched a bunch of babies. But I’ve never seen a bird make a nest inside the house.
I was working on my Koi quilt when I heard some noise behind me. There on my studio window, sitting on the rock between the little carved donkey and howling wolf was a chickadee. She was holding some dried grass in her beak. The bird looked so natural sitting on my window sash, the same size as the wooden elephant on the opposite end, for a moment I thought she was there intentionally.
All it took was the slightest movement from me to spook her into trying to get out through the glass window. She only bumped around for ten seconds or so before finding her way out the open door.
By the time I got out the door myself, the chickadee was already sitting in the doorway of the birdhouse on my studio, the makings of a nest still in her beak. In a moment she disappeared through the small round hole.
Whenever an animal enters my life in an unusual way, I turn to Ted Andrew’s book Animal Speak, to see if I can find meaning in its visit.
I read that the chickadee’s black cap is associated with thinking and the bird itself with truth. Andrews writes “…it also enables us to express the truth more joyfully within our own life”.
That idea struck me.
It made me realize how I often associate telling the truth with being difficult, as something that will inevitably hurt someone.
Recently I told my mother a truth that I avoided saying for so long because I knew it would hurt her. But by not saying anything, with my silences and excuses, I was hurting her in another way.
“I don’t know which is worse,” I said to her through tears. “To tell you or not, but at least what I’m saying is the truth”. And then I let her know that I didn’t visit her more often because when I do I suffer terrible panic attacks. She didn’t ask any questions and said she only wanted me to be happy and she appreciated my phone calls.
I was grateful to hear that.
I don’t know if my truth-telling was better for my mother or not. But for me, speaking my truth freed me of an obligation that had become unbearable. And as sad as that truth is, now at least we could talk more freely, the question of how often I visit, no longer the elephant in the room, an unspoken secret.
Speaking this truth was a way of me putting myself and my needs above my mother’s. It was a way of protecting myself and after I had done it, I felt both a strength and a softening inside of me.
I don’t have to be on the defensive or silent anymore.
And perhaps I can be more honest in smaller gentler ways instead of big dramatic ones.
For Mother’s Day, I sent my mother a card with flowers on the front and inside the words “I couldn’t have picked a better mother”. I never would have sent a card with that message in it before, because I wouldn’t have meant it.
But this year I did mean it. Not because she’s perfect, but because my mother, being who she is, helped to make me who I am.
And for the first time in my life, I like who I am.
This doesn’t change the past or how it affects me today. But because I’m more accepting of myself, I can be more accepting of her.
As I was writing this I found a thin piece of grass on my desk that fell out of the chickadee’s beak when she flew out my door. Is this truth-telling mother, making a nest for her chicks, an affirmation of my own truth-telling?
Perhaps it’s time for me to change the way I perceive and express the truth. Because now I know that the truth, though it can be painful, can also be healing.
And it also allows me to be who I really am.