She is one of the more than two dozen or so Snowy White Egrets who are part of my neighborhood.
Well, Sheila is what I call her. Her family may call her something else. God knows her name by heart.
She appears at my dock in the early morning. In the mid-afternoon, she appears in my side yard, which you see above.
Sometimes, she appears with her mate, whom I call 'Harvey'.
It was Rosh Hashanah. I found myself singing 'Hava nagila' around the house. 'Harvey and Sheila' was probably inspired by that.
Or, maybe I'm thinking of Alan Sherman's modern parody of that old folk song.
She is very graceful - especially so, given the awkward shape of her body. Her legs are incredibly long, as is her beak. And yet, she moves and walks and flies with great, effortless beauty.
I love it when she stretches her neck and throws back her shoulders, looking around my front yard as if it were the grounds of her royal palace.
Sometimes, it simply takes my breath away.
My curiosity about egrets and herons has lead me to learn that they are monogamous. They mate for life. Indeed, the male apparently gathers the material for the nest and the female builds it. There's something about that which appears to my sense of egalitarianism.
Harvey and Sheila. Partners in life. Together forever. Without the blessing of the institutional church.
According to Greek mythology, egrets and herons were thought to be messengers of the gods. My curiosity about that leads me to question why she comes to me every day - twice a day - to the same spots in my yard.
I've been sitting with that question, that wonderment, for a few days now. I don't have an answer, and I suppose I won't for a while, but I view it as a good 'sign' that, in this time of discernment, I should have a new 'spiritual friend' and companion in this journey.
Actually, I've been thinking about the term 'Be Tipul'. It's a Hebrew word for 'in treatment', which is also the name of an award-winning Israeli television drama created by Hagai Levi.
The program has been adapted for audiences in the United States, Serbia and the Netherlands. In the US, it's an HBO series called, interestingly enough, "In Treatment" - one of my favorites.
Being in a season of discernment is much like being 'in treatment'. The first is a matter for the soul. The second is a matter for the mind. Both processes lead to the heart as they overlap and sometimes intertwine with each other.
At the core of both expressions of these two sacred pieces of work are the relationships that give meaning and depth - and so, challenges - to our lives.
Sometimes, understanding the psychology of a relational dynamic helps us understand our relationship with God. At other times, it's our relationship with God - often as understood in our relationship with Jesus - that helps us to reflect on and understand the psychological dynamics of our relationship in a new way.
I remember hearing Carter Heyward once say that our most intimate relationships are a reflection of our relationship with God - and our relationship with God is often reflected in our intimate relationships with others.
I'm discovering new depths to the profound wisdom and truth of that idea every day.
As I watch Sheila pick over the crusts of bread I've left for her among the pebbles in the yard, I realize that I am doing pretty much the same thing - sorting through what to take, what is going to feed and nourish me, and what to leave behind.
Through it all, Sheila is graceful. She gently moves pebbles around with her beak, her long neck stretching in a lovely, long, slow arch. She is not so preoccupied with her task that she isn't aware of what's going on around her. She is clearly alert for any sign of predators or danger, but she remains calm, centered, focused on the task before her.
She is also generous, often taking a crust or two of bread back to her nest to share with her mate or her young.
Sometimes, Harvey joins her. To my amazement, they never squabble over the bread they find, unlike the gulls who squawk and fuss and fight. The gulls always make me giggle, when they don't disgust me. Their cries sounding very much like the gulls in the film, Finding Nemo: "Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!" (As the character Nigel says to them,"Oh, would you just shut up! You're rats with wings!").
Harvey and Sheila share their find with each other, sometime gently feeding each other from their bills. It's a beautiful sight - one that sometimes, in moments when I'm feeling particularly vulnerable or worn out, reduces me to tears.
I recently remembered that 'hava nagila' means "Let us rejoice!" It's often sung at Jewish weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. The last line,'Hava nagila v'nismeḥa', means 'let us rejoice and be happy!"
Which, like discernment and being in treatment, are two different things which, when they intertwine, can lead to a deeper experience of both.
When I see Harvey and Sheila out there in my front yard, I find myself singing 'hava nagila' sometime later in the day.
It reminds me of my favorite scene from "Finding Nemo".
Dory says to Marlin, who is trying to find his son, "Hey there, Mr. Grumpy Gills. When life gets you down do you wanna know what you've gotta do?"So, I just keep doing what I know how to do: Listen. Learn. Sort. Take and eat what's good. Leave behind the rest. Receive with gratitude the kindness of strangers. Share generously what I have with others. Be mindful of signs of danger, but stay focused on the task at hand. Try to be graceful. Return to your nest when your work is done.
Marlin, disheartened about the failure of their task thus far says, "No, I don't wanna know."
Dory, starts to sing, "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim."
And, sing - especially in those moments when my soul is troubled, my mind is confused and my heart is broken.
It's the best treatment I know for this season of discernment.
I think the ancient Greeks may have gotten it right. Harvey and Sheila may be Snowy White Egrets - only two of the more than two dozen who live here - but they are bringing me powerful messages from God.
It is the call of the Spirit of Jesus, our Rabbi and Resurrected Christ. It is the song that was sung by the cosmos at our birth. It is the song we take even to the grave:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Let us rejoice and be happy!