In my tarot deck, the Fool card shows a young man innocently stepping off a cliff, with only a rainbow—a trick of light and water, a beautiful illusion—there to uphold him. Step out in faith, the card says. Stop trying to control your life. Trust the universe (God, Spirit, the spirits, the Great Mystery, whatever term you’re most comfortable with) to uphold you.
For the longest time I’d been sensing that the universe wants me to do just that: Surrender Fully, to really and finally Let Go. Toward the end of 2005, just before Mom became so very ill, I said yes, but I placed a condition on it: that the universe would covenant with me (and do so in a way that I couldn’t ascribe to the wishful voice in my head) to keep me safe, to protect me, to be my shield and bulwark and pillow and fortress and comfort and mate.
So one night last December, Mom and I were out looking at The most magnificent sunset. (I remember one such magnificent sunset at college, thinking that this was my “sign of promise” or covenant from God, the way the rainbow was for Noah. I had forgotten that tidbit until now.) At any rate, as we’re looking at the sunset, I notice a male cardinal on top of the spare refrigerator in our garage. As we watched him, he flew into the house.
I found him flying around my bedroom, alighting for a moment, crashing into the mirror, trying to dodge the ceiling fan (which was on, low), and generally getting more and more panicky. Rather like me in real life.
Then he flew into the living room. I opened the front and back doors, and closed everything else off, but he flew from one plant shelf to another plant shelf to the breakfast nook and back again. I tried to coax him, to no avail. I asked the bird spirits to connect with him and lead him out; nothing happened. I tried communing with him psychically; zippo. I spoke soothingly to him. I went after him with a broom.
Meanwhile, his mate was chipping for him, calling him insistently and loudly outside, demanding to know where he had gone. Maybe it was his mother, and he was an adolescent, but I think it was his mate.
After about 45 minutes of this, Mom noticed that he was flying from light to light; maybe he was being attracted to them? So I turned on the outside lights, and turned everything else off. Within two minutes he had flown out the front door, heading toward the light (as it were!).
I thought it was simply a lovely little encounter with nature until the next morning, when I realized that I had asked for some incontrovertible proof that the universe wanted to take care of me, and by golly, I got it: that bird was me (and flying into my room first was just a clue). Here was this big, loving, gentle guy who wanted nothing more than to protect him and take care of him and keep him from panicking, and all he could do was fly around and be frantic. Finally this guy takes a broom to him, not to scare him, but to direct him—that’s the universe dealing strongly with me when I go spiritually deaf and blind. All that bird wanted was to go toward the light and find his Mate. But first all the lights needed to be turned out….
Symbols don’t get much clearer than that, do they?
That afternoon I took a nap. I dreamed that I was climbing Something for the longest time. When I got to the top, I saw that it was a tree—with a bird’s nest in it. The universe wants to give me a home, a safe nesting place, high in a tree, free but secure, away from all harm.
One thing I’ve discovered since then: It isn’t a one-time thing. Surrender needs to happen over and over again, we need to rekindle the altar fires every sunset and sunrise. Many days I find I’m not very trusting. But the days I do, I learn all over again that to abandon oneself to the Great Mystery is the safest (and most fulfilling) thing one can do.