Sentimental Signs

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.

thunderheads, trees, wildflowers
Thunderheads over the forest, May 31, 2019.

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.

The sunset that cast the sentimental light.

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.

print of horses with sunlight
Print highlighted by glow of the setting sun.

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.

wall with photos, window
Sunlight on print of horses reflected by the glass of a framed article.

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.

It’s true: I’m not just a fool for fool’s spring and a fool in love with nature, but also – I admit – a sentimental fool.

I’m good with that.

Feature image: thunderheads over the valley, May 30, 2019.

34 thoughts on “Sentimental Signs”

    1. Great article; thank you for the link! It’s so true; sometimes we need to relax our brains to allow the key concepts to materialize.

      The epilogue to my book is a dream, one in which my father featured prominently. He was in a particular aircraft, which, upon waking, puzzled me. But the dream was so vivid, I knew it was important, but why? Eventually it hit me, like a slap on the face: I’d forgotten to include his role in that airplane model in my manuscript! I made the correction, and because the dream was so clear, and emotionally significant, I turned it into the epilogue.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The meanings you’ve interpreted in those signs have meaning for you, and that’s enough. You are an excellent writer Rebecca and I would love to read your book. Wherever you decide to move, I wish you the very best. Perhaps that will be the place you write your book! I’m a fool for nature too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, thank you Shelley, for all your kind words and encouragement. My hope is that once I relocate, I’ll feel free to write what has been churning in my head for years but would make me persona non grata where I currently live. Plus, I’m excited to experience a new sense of nature as well. All good!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good luck in every thing you decide to do in your life. I have moved many times in my life and each new place was exciting. Such a touching story about your father. Good luck with your book.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A very emotion-filled post, Rebecca. The way the sunlight focused on that print truly was a sign. We too had concerns about moving to a place far from friends and family. It ended up being the best decision we ever made. I hope your move works out for you as well. Listen to the signs…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Here’s the thing: you know I am a 100% “a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got do” believer. But (and like mine it’s a big but) your love for those snowy mountains and flats really shines through in your posts. Going to be tough to replicate, at least in places that don’t confuse dogs and wolves/coyotes. Rootin’ for ya!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks. I worry about what I’ll miss, but I’m excited about what I’ll find. I love to explore new places. My goal is to find a place – Vermont? – that has four seasons and mountains. Even if the mountains are really just hills 😉

        Like

      3. Thankfully you can’t see or hear the wine that just tried to exit through my nose as I read your comment.

        I’ve visited Kansas. As a child. Way too many times. My parents were born and raised there. No thank you. Same for neighboring Nebraska. Or anywhere in middle America.

        Give me a blue-leaning rural state with lots of trees and trails, and four distinct seasons. Oh…Vermont!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Duuuuuuude. I just came across your log and what a post! Signs. The universe sending signs conspiring with you. I take that advice from the Alchemist all the time and I often look up at the clouds and the sky and think of my dad too. Wishing you luck on new adventures and high five to signs leading the way 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Vermont is wonderful, haven’t been in years. My daughter was looking at teaching jobs in Vermont as she wants to teach in different parts of the country. It’s Virginia this semester. Her dream of teaching overseas went the way of COVID, so she adapted.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I love that interpretation and I am super pumped that you are going ahead with the book. I’ve been wanting to read it since you mentioned possibly writing it a while ago. It took us some time to make our big change in life and there were certainly signs I’m glad we didn’t miss. Life has been so rewarding since! You still thinking about Vermont?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Leaving Idaho will actually give me the ability to write about certain things freely (e.g. wolves, ranchers), without fear. I’m already relaxing, knowing I’ll be leaving.

      Yes, Vermont/New England is the goal.

      Your journey from homeowner to full time RVer has been inspiring, Lee! Especially with two big dogs in the mix! As I always say, change is good. Scary at times, but ultimately, good 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to have a hard time moving away from those ash scattering sites and maintained rock cairns. When I moved away from my mother’s cemetery to a distance where I could no longer visit, I found a ‘cancer garden’ that placed memorial bricks in the ground for a donation. I rarely go into the garden even though I’m frequently at the medical center it adjoins, but just knowing she has a marker there helps me feel more connected to her, like I didn’t move away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very perceptive, Jeff. Early on, thinking about moving, I thought, “No, I can’t leave the girls alone in Idaho.” But I reminded myself that some of their ashes also reside in Washington state, on favorite trails there that I rarely visit, and I still have a small amount of their ashes in a box. In addition to the small cairns I created in the forest, I’ve collected and brought home some rocks in my pack, intending to build a memorial cairn in my wildflower garden, putting the rest of their cremains there. I never did. Maybe that’s another sign: I put off building that cairn because deep down I knew I wasn’t going to stay?
      Once I realized I could move the unused rocks to my new home, along with the rest of the girls cremains, I calmed down. I’ll still have them with me.

      Liked by 1 person

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