When grappling with major life events, or facing life-altering decisions, some of us often seek – and see – signs.
Signs from the universe that help us make sense of loss, or allow us to see a door opening, an obscure path beckoning.
Signs which we can interpret to mean we’re not alone, or that the choices we’re making are the right ones.
I’m on the cusp of just such a life-altering decision. After months of pondering, researching, calming my fears, feeling the pros and cons in my bones, muscles and heart, and pondering some more, I’m almost certain I’ll be relocating later this year.
Moving. Across the country.
Selling my home. Buying another.
Scary. Exciting, too, but…lots of trepidation.
What if it’s a huge mistake?
It’s that fear that has me open to, and more sensitive toward, signs from the universe that yes, I’m on the right path.
Silly. But irresistible.
Of course, I realize and understand that we see the signs – and make the interpretations – that suit our goals and purposes, fulfill our biases. But still. What’s the harm in being open to the idea that the universe might offer us solace when we most need it? That it might nudge us in one direction as opposed to another when a decision must be made?
An example: The summer of 2013 I was in Idaho, writing my book. I didn’t know what I was doing, in way over my head. What to include, what to cut? Was it biography, or memoir, or both? How much local context and history should I include? Who on earth would want to read it, especially if I inserted myself into the story?
I was also struggling with the loss of my beloved Alaskan Malamute girls. In June of that year, Maia’s life ended a few months after her 14th birthday. In March she had pushed lymphoma into remission, dying on her own schedule, of old age. But just two weeks later Meadow was diagnosed with bone cancer, and six weeks after Maia’s passing, followed her in July. I was an emotional wreck. I worked through my grief that summer by running in the forest, visiting the same trails the girls first helped me explore starting in 2005, leaving some of their cremains in special places where I had taken photos of them, marked by small, off-trail cairns that Finn, Conall and I visit every summer.
It was a summer of intense inward reflection.
I spent mornings running in the forest with Finn, and days and evenings lost in memories of my childhood as I wrote my book. It was on one such trail run with Finn that, thinking about how I was writing from the perspective of a child immersed in the Boeing test pilot culture, the book’s title suddenly came to me: Growing Up Boeing. I had struggled with a title for months! There’s much to be said for the increased creativity that comes while running.
On another morning trail run with Finn that summer, I marveled at the cumulonimbus clouds forming over the mountains around us. “Thunderheads,” I thought, a description my father used for them. As I ran, looking at the clouds, I remembered a particular flight in a Cessna with my father and brother over Idaho in the 1980s. Thunderheads played a significant role in that arduous flight, and again in 2008, when my father was ill in the hospital. As he lay in his bed, intubated and in a drug-induced coma, I talked to him while stroking his limp hand, tethered to the bed rail, his skin thin and fragile. On the drive to the hospital I’d seen thunderheads. I asked him if he remembered those thunderheads over Boise years ago, that bumpy and scary flight. He nodded, ever so slightly, the first sign I’d had since his hospitalization that he was aware. Hope for recovery flared. He did come home, but he passed in 2009.
Those memories, sparked as Finn and I ran under thunderheads in 2013, made me realize I should include that story in my book, as well as similar personal anecdotes, turning the book into a biography-memoir.
Thunderheads became my sign from the universe – my father’s energy residing out there – that he was always with me, subtly guiding me, as he always had when alive.
Whenever I see thunderheads against an open blue sky, I say, quietly, “Hi, Dad.”
Signs can be anything meaningful to the individual seeking them.
A couple days ago I had a new sign from the universe. Or more precisely, as with the thunderheads, from nature here on earth.
Nature and I have a thing going on.
As I sat at my computer the early evening of Saturday, March 13th, drafting and posting a blog post, the setting sun made its way through my house, casting its warm glow upon a print hanging on the wall in a corner of my office. On only a handful of cloud-free days, when the sun’s angle is perfectly aligned so that its light shines through the windows of my bedroom, across a hall and into my office, would it highlight this small portion of wall where the print hangs.
The print has emotional significance and sentimental value.
It’s a photo of two horses, nuzzling noses, clearly close companions. The print was a gift from my oldest friend Kelly, mailed to me a few years ago for no reason other than she thought it reminded her of us. Kelly and I met when we were thirteen, in seventh grade. Her family had moved into my remote neighborhood, and I was delighted to finally have another female my age living nearby. We quickly bonded over a love of horses, my father driving us to ride at a farm where horses could be rented by the hour. We’ve remained friends all these fifty years later, despite distance. More than once we’ve vacationed together at a dude ranch in British Columbia, reaffirming our bond with each other and with horses. And dogs; my dogs got to enjoy the dude ranch as well.
Kelly’s choice of this print as a gift, then, was particularly meaningful. It has pride of place in my office.
So, what to make of the setting sun highlighting that corner of my office, now? I’ve never noticed that happening before. The sun highlighted not only the horses print, but that bit of brightness cast light reflected on the glass of a framed magazine article on the adjacent wall.
The article was the first for which I was paid as a freelance writer (for The Bark magazine). It was about animals, and animal law. Is that significant? And why is just one of the two horses in the print highlighted by the glow of the setting sun?
I appreciate that there are no real answers, and I can create any interpretation I like.
Here’s what I’m going with:
Of the two horses,the one on the right, the one highlighted by the setting sun, represents me. Why? Because of the two of us, I have longer hair – now gray – and a lighter complexion, while Kelly is dark-complected with short-cropped, black hair.
What does the sun’s highlighting portend?
Well, given it’s brightness is also reflected in the glass of the framed freelance article, and more particularly, focused on the photo of the dog on the issue’s cover, I choose to see this as a sign that now is my time to shine.
To write. To create. To publish. To thrive.
To follow my long-held desire to write a book about dogs, wolves, and wilderness. A book about our deep connections with dogs, derived from wolves, and how they make us better. How wolves deserve our respect and protection, not fear, hatred and killing. About forests, and wildlife, and nature’s abundance and gifts, too much taken for granted.
To create and embrace a new life.
To be happy, with my dogs, with myself.
I’m good with that.
Feature image: thunderheads over the valley, May 30, 2019.