There are days when I crave solitude. As an introvert, I need it. As a caregiver, I don’t get it very often. And yet one of my most profound periods of stillness occurred last year. At Samhain I fell, breaking a bone for the first time in my 45 years. Not one to start small, my body picked my shoulder. Shortly after I lost my job and a big part of my identity for twelve years. By the time the Yuletide season blew in, I was depressed, feeling betrayed by my body and my life, in pain, and not able to move much. What there was time to do was go within, a luxury I didn’t often have with a 60+ hour a week job and a mother with early dementia.
So, I did the only thing I could. I crawled into a cocoon of solitude to heal my body and soul. Often in modern life we don’t take enough time for these things. It’s not our fault. Many of us work crazy hours, strive to care for those around us, often waking up tired and going to bed even more exhausted. It shouldn’t be this way. We don’t hunt our food, most of us don’t shiver through cold winters, but the stress…It gets to us. And sometimes our higher selves protest, forcing us to slow down. Sometimes for all their effort, we don’t listen and they have to make the tower fall to get our attention.
Looking back, I see the stillness that followed my release as magical. For the first time in years, I had the chance to be silent and really listen. And what did I hear? I heard that I didn’t like the way I was showing up in the world. I heard that I hated the job I’d just lost, that it was slowly sucking my soul. I heard the call of crow.
One day, shortly after the fall, I was in my spot in a recliner, wrapped in blankets, covered in concerned dogs (little canine nurses who were determined never to leave my side), and meditating on where my path would lead me and how I could best use my unique voice in the world when I heard a horrible ruckus outside. Crows. Very excited crows. Drugged up on Vicodin, I shed my blanket and care team and very slowly made my way outside, holding walls and door jambs to avoid slipping on the ice. The cawing continued as I made my way off our deck. I looked up to find dozens and dozens of crows in the old, giant cherry tree in the back yard. Crows are not uncommon in my neighborhood, but I had never seen anything like this.
I’ve always been fond of these birds, but it felt like they were there for me. It’s felt that way ever since. They’ve come up many times over the past months, even in a session with a Shamanic practitioner I worked with in the spring. As we journeyed together, I felt crow pecking at my throat, removing a bloody cherry pit from it then felt myself flying with black, inky wings. You can imagine how surprised I was when my teacher announced with no prompting from me that the medicine he had brought back was crow medicine. Crows and finding my voice, my true voice have become a theme over the past year. And all of that grew out of those first sad, contemplative days and weeks of solitude that I now see as the best thing that ever happened to me.