Out of the Blue

A wing and a prayer

Disccomfort Zone

by Stephanie Piper

The bluebirds are back. Returning home from work, I come upon three of them drinking from a puddle in the driveway. They glance up, startled, and then fly off, flashes of iridescent blue in the late afternoon sun.

They have come and gone all spring and summer. Superstitious peasant that I am, I associate their presence with good luck, or positive energy, or at least the possibility of happiness. When I see one in the morning, my heart lifts. I believe it will be a good day.  

The first time I saw a bluebird, I was standing on the doorstep of a local psychic. I had come to interview her for the old daily Knoxville Journal , and my sighting seemed too pointed an omen to ignore. She opened her door, and I said, â“I just saw a bluebird. I've never seen one before. What do you think it means?â” She told me it was a sign of good fortune. She also told me that I had a blue aura, which means loyalty and fidelity. She told me lots of other things, some of which sounded like pure baloney and some of which sounded oddly true. She told me I would get a promotion soon, and in fact, I did. I have forgotten most of what she said, but I remembered the bluebird part.

For years after that, I never saw another one. And then, strangely, they began to appear. I would see them on winter walks in February, season of bare trees and pale skies. They seemed to be in disguise, pecking away at the frozen ground, cloaked in brownish-gray plumage. Then they would take wing, and that heart-stopping cobalt blue would rise above me, and I would feel, just for a second, like a visionary.

I read once that the older you get, the more like yourself you become. I'm mostly Irish, hard-wired for legend and myth, and nature has always held mystery for me. In school, I was a failure at biology and chemistry, recoiling from clinical investigations of the beauty and order of the universe. I preferred the phenomena that defied logic, the events with no reasonable explanation.

Once, struggling with a career decision, I made a sensible list of pros and cons and examined the situation from all angles. I sought advice from wise people. I slept on it. And then, still baffled, I looked for a sign. If I saw a bluebird that day, I would take the new job. By dusk, I had seen none and thought my fate was sealed. As the daylight faded, the doorbell rang. The UPS man handed me a package, an early birthday gift from my youngest son. I opened it and found a beautifully carved wooden bluebird holding a small vase. I took the job. My arid spiritual life began to bloom, my vision to expand. The path, winding stubbornly uphill for so long, smoothed out for a while.

The winter was dark for me this year, the path rocky and treacherous. When I looked out the window one March day and saw two bluebirds perched on the power line, I wondered if it was some trick of my imagination. My bird book tells me they prefer open fields and farmland, that they are rarely sighted in suburban backyards. But as they swooped down and headed for the feeder, there was no mistaking the color of their wings.   

They come and go. I have heard that there are special birdhouses you can buy to attract them, special food to lure them into taking up permanent residence. I have invested in neither of these items. I want their motives to be pure. I want them to come because they are bringing me a message. And I want them to stay until I find out what it is.

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