Lesley Whittaker’s Bird Spirit Medicine Homework following Karen Stead-Dexter’s talk to Devon Dowsers, July 2020

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In a fascinating talk, Karen had explained Bird Spirit Medicine and sent notes about how to seek it. I tried to find a time, but it wasn’t happening. One morning my regular family of 3 crows brought their latest addition (noisy, flappy) to meet me and I wondered whether they were bringing my Medicine, but dowsing said no, they were just introducing us to each other. I was delighted to meet the baby, and congratulated the family.

The weather was damp and very windy, with a leaden sky. I walked to the village shop feeling rather low, then wondered about continuing down a nearby lane, a regular walk for me. I was reluctant because the day before, the hedges had been hacked to bits by a tractor with a flail mower. I was very despondent about the waste of fruit, seed and nuts, and the torn branches.

As I approached the end of the lane, the thought grew stronger that I needed to go down it. I set off into the gale. The telephone wires were singing, and the trees were lashing heavy branches in full wet leaf. It was July but it felt like December. Head down into the wind, I passed the end of the wounded hedges, and reached untouched ones. Suddenly, my eye was caught by a movement on my right and a skylark rose into the sky, beginning to sing. The clouds were heavy but glaring, yet I could track the bird’s flight all the way, tossed in the gale. How could anything so small struggle against the weather and write a symphony at the same time? I was immediately cheered, and encouraged. I couldn’t stop smiling, and I called out, “Thank you!” though my voice was snatched away by the wind. Immediately, from the field on my left, another skylark rose, equally battling the gale but undaunted, singing as it went. Stereo skylarks! I had never imagined such a thing. This was my Bird Spirit Medicine, I was in no doubt.

I continued to watch both of them, which is in itself unusual, sending them love as they flew. “How can I honour you?” I shouted into the wind. I was full of joy, and yet also aware of a sense of deep melancholy. Finally, they returned to their fields, silent. My emotions were brimming as I turned for home. I just had the message, “Write about us”.

This time of Covid 19 Lockdown, with heavy anxiety felt by so many; the disappointments; the overwhelming new ideas which I needed to work on; all crowded in as I walked back, but this time, with the wind behind me.

I knew that I had to accept my emotions, feel them, and communicate them to others in the book I was writing at the time.

So, when the second Zoom session with Karen arrived, I told of my experience. In the days following, I had heard Vaughn-Williams’ The Lark Ascending broadcast twice, quite randomly. Poems to Skylarks were appearing everywhere. People were talking about them. And I was writing about them.

I felt very privileged to have received their gift.

Karen listened to all our accounts of our Bird Spirit Medicine Homework, and gave us insights into the meaning of the encounters. I had tried to find out what my encounter with the Skylarks could mean, and saw that they were associated with joy, and spirituality. Karen’s comments seemed much deeper. This was Heart Medicine, going deep into the emotions and shaking them up; soar into the winds and lift off; keep the joy. The significance of the two birds was to achieve a balance in life. I understood that in my sadness about the battered hedges, there was also joy to be found that the skylarks were still there, their crops not yet cut, their nests safe.

I have walked the lane many times since, but all the birds are silent now, even the sentinel blackbird who sits on the telegraph pole. It’s the time of moult, of shaking off the old feathers to emerge in new ones.

I pass the place where two skylarks sang for me, and I smile.

Credit : The photo of the skylark https://www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/wildlife-in-norfolk/species-explorer/birds/skylark

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