What the Bird Said

chickadee by  tinyfishy
photo by tinyfishy

I had been for a run in the forest, and now, back home, I stopped to rest, sitting on a mossy rock near my house.

A chickadee flew down and perched on the cedar tree above me. “I know about you,” she chirped to me. “We’ve heard your story. It seems as if you’ve followed the advice that gaia gave you two years ago, and changed your life in many ways. But you are still obviously lonely and full of grief. You still haven’t found what you’re looking for. So tell me why this is, why you’re so sad in this place of such astonishing beauty?”

“Well, first…” I replied, “In my dreams, and songs, and ideal world, I can be who I really am. I don’t have to pretend to be something I am not. When I discover a woman who’s beautiful and smart and passionate and grounded and full of energy, I dream that it’s easy to just express my feelings to her and, wordlessly, we fall in love, and express that love, endlessly and effortlessly. I don’t want to work so hard to find and sustain love. But it seems the women I want to love are not interested in me. And I’m not interested in loving the women who are, at least not in the ways they want to be loved. So I’m discouraged, and feel guilty, and just tired of trying.”

“Still thinking far too much, I see,” chirped the chickadee. “If you’re going to be one with gaia you’re going to have to learn to trust your senses, your feelings, your instincts, and stop letting your head get in the way. Listen to your soul song, it tells you that the real you is destined to love, to fall in love, again and again, and whether that love is reciprocated or not does not matter. That is who you are — you know that. All you can do, when you find someone you are drawn to in that primal way, is make the offer, the invitation — be clear and honest and authentic about how you feel. Instead of getting discouraged by rejection, learn from it, and try again. If it takes a hundred or a thousand rejections before the ones you choose to love accept that love, and give you what you want in return (perhaps only their presence), then that’s what you must do. That is what you live for. So live – fly! – my poor sorrowful friend. Have the courage of your convictions.”

“Here is my first question for you –” she continued. “What is holding you back? Why are you still afraid, or unable, to be authentic, to put yourself out there, to be who you really are, raw, damaged, and extraordinary? What do you have to lose, now?”

I thought about her question, and as I did so she asked “What else? Why else are you so sad, so full of grief?”

“I want my life and my relationships to be easy, joyful, playful. Natural. But beneath the smiles and laughter, as I get to know people, there is only darkness, sorrow, anger, self-hatred, shame. The relationships I long to be uplifting turn out to be disheartening, burdensome, a chore. So while I want to find like minds, to play, to be close to people, I end up fleeing, disappointed and weighed down, preferring my own company.”

The chickadee looked at me incredulously, and then sang, slowly: “You know why this is; you’ve said it yourself a thousand times. What you perceive in other people is your own imagining, what you want them or expect them to be, not who they really are, since you will never know who they really are. So the darkness, the sorrow, the neediness, the emptiness you perceive in others is simply a reflection of what you are projecting, reflected back at you like in a mirror. And this darkness, this lack of joy and playfulness in you is not something you should be dismayed or dissatisfied with. It is a terrible, terrible world your human kind has created. You are right to be filled with unbearable grief. No one else can ‘cure’ those dark feelings by being a ‘sink’ of joy and playfulness that will draw out and heal all the grief and pain within you. You must know that you cannot expect others to ‘fix’ your sadness.”

“So here is my second question for you –” she chirped, quietly. “Why are your expectations of yourself, and of others, so absurdly high, and why are your judgements of yourself, and of others, so bitterly harsh?

There was silence for a moment, and it began to rain. “Go on,” said the chickadee, “loneliness, grief… there is more; what else is causing you sadness?”

“I still haven’t found where I belong,” I replied. “I know it’s someplace natural, someplace warm. But the places I find, as beautiful as they may be, are too cold. They are unaffordable, which means most of the people around are people who have given their souls for money, people I abhor. And these places are unsustainable. They are living on borrowed time, waiting for the bulldozers and chain saws and “developers” to desolate them, turn them into everyplace else. Into wastelands. So I am still homeless.”

“Still stuck in human clock time,” replied the chickadee. “You cannot live in fear of the future, grieving what has not yet happened, regardless of its likelihood. As for finding your place, you cannot expect it to announce itself to you. You must pay attention, listen, hear its call. This place you belong, your home, will require you to become a part of it. You will have to learn about it before you can do that, before you can belong to it. You have lived so long inside your head that living in the real world as part of all-life-on-Earth will not be quick or easy for you — you have a lot to unlearn. But first you have to open your heart and your senses and your body and your intuition and really be present with all these parts of you, all these non-intellectual, visceral ways of knowing, to find your true home. As long as you are stuck in your head you will never find it.”

“That brings me to my third question for you,” she continued. “Why, with all the unlimited freedom you have now, is it so hard for you to just let go? To just be. To weep. To free yourself from your stories about the past and future, about what others think of you or might think of you, and about who you should be or what you should do. To walk away from the prison of self-colonization?”

I sighed. A fog was rolling in.

“There is yet more behind your sadness, isn’t there?,” chirped the chickadee. “Go on then — loneliness, grief, homelessness, and…?”

“Directionlessness, I guess,” I replied. “I want to discover what I’m meant to do, and that means I have to find who I’m meant to collaborate with. I want to find people who share my beliefs, my ideas, my intentions. But all that is so contextual on where you’ve come from, and my journey of learning and discovery has been so unique, so privileged, so solitary, that whenever I think I’ve found people who want to do the same things I want to do, and who share my view on how to go about doing them, I discover that either I misunderstood or they did, and that what I want to do and what they want to do are completely different, completely out of sync. I keep thinking that I’m ‘too far ahead’ to find collaborators, but I suspect it’s not that at all. We all sail alone, and the waters I’m sailing in aren’t those of the mainstream culture or any of the alternative cultures out there. I’m in my own ocean, a culture of one, of my own imagining, and I’m despairing of ever finding other intelligent life in this empty place I’ve taken myself.”

“Artists are often solitary creatures,” replied the chickadee. “Whether you realize it or not, you are already doing what you’re meant to do. In everything you write and talk about you are, in one way or another, ‘re-presenting’ natural life in contrast to life within industrial ‘civilized’ culture. You’ve described yourself as ‘vegan, earth-loving, poly, unschooled, nudist, intuitive, anarchist, hedonistic, and a dreamer’ and in these attributes you personify the natural life you re-present in your imaginative and creative writing. This is your gift to the world, what you’re meant to do. Carry on, because there is much more work that needs to be done here. Most people still can’t imagine another way to live, and until they do there is no hope for your poor befuddled species.”

“As to how to find collaborators, people who share your worldview on what needs to be done, and who would want to work on that with you, perhaps my fourth question to you may help you address that. My fourth question,” she chirped,”is this — if someone were looking to collaborate with you, how would they find you and persuade you to work with them? In other words, Where would you look for you?

We just looked at each other for awhile, and finally I nodded and thanked her and asked if there were something I could offer her in return. As she flew away she chirped: “You’re already doing it.”

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18 Responses to What the Bird Said

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention What the Bird Said « how to save the world -- Topsy.com

  2. Dave, please consult the web for resources on depression and consider whether the symptoms apply to you. Depression is a physiological condition and will not be resolved by reflection or resolution.

  3. Evelyn says:

    Thank you Dave.

  4. Shirley says:

    Beautiful … thank you

  5. Nathan says:

    I like it when you write things in story form. You should probably do it more often. Having got round to reading the Dark Mountain manifesto I can see that you heading in that direction whether you like it or not. Write more stories.

    Incidentally, since depression was brought up, there is a difference between that and sadness, I think.

  6. Christopher says:

    Or you can try this site…


    the narrator is John Kirwan, ex-All Black, a proto-he-man, who suffered serious depression, and was able to work his way through it. He agreed to front a campaign about depression in NZ, and the results have been astonishing. Increased numbers of males seeking assistance, and increased awareness of the issue.

  7. Christopher says:

    And I liked the way you wrote about your experience.

  8. Paul says:

    Reminds me of what I heard earlier today in a podcast, a conversation with Charles Eisenstein at 2010-06-14T22_52_01-07_00.htm (34:10-35:41): “We have to feel these buried hurts, these buried wounds, that we’re born into, …. [Only then can] the new story begin.” “It clears away the debris of the old story, and then we’re really ready to create.”

  9. Jon Husband says:

    I keep thinking that I’m ‘too far ahead’ to find collaborators, but I suspect it’s not that at all. We all sail alone, and the waters I’m sailing in aren’t those of the mainstream culture or any of the alternative cultures out there. I’m in my own ocean, a culture of one, of my own imagining, and I’m despairing of ever finding other intelligent life in this empty place I’ve taken myself.”

    So unaware …

    “Artists are often solitary creatures,” replied the chickadee. “Whether you realize it or not, you are already doing what you’re meant to do.

    So aware …

    My two cents ? At this stage of your life you could just keep writing and meditating and walking and exploring, etc. and writing some more .. and accept that this is what you do, and that there’s no final answer, and let the rest fill itself in as it will. The world is bigger than you. We all have the same final home.

  10. Lena says:

    “I want to discover what I’m meant to do, and that means I have to find who I’m meant to collaborate with.

    Your sharing your journey with us is what you’re doing now, and which I personally find priceless. Many of us don’t buy into the idea of unlimited sustainable growth, and despair at the logical consequences of what humans continue to do to the planet. We may be “doing” in more practical terms than you — organizing local communities to relocalize, attempting to increase awareness generally, engaging in political action, whatever. But you’re navigating one of the most difficult, painful, and complex realms, which is how to deal with the pain, the frustration, the anxiety, and the fear we all experience. Artists — in particular good writers — are leaders in the emotional realm. That’s where your contribution comes in.

    I don’t know if this is what you’re meant to do, but I think you’re doing it well. Yours is one of the only blogs I bother to read.

    You are NOT alone.

    You may be clinically depressed in addition to situationally depressed. May be worth checking into. And no, you will NOT lose your ability to write.

    I hope you find many reasons to smile. Like chickadees talking with you. Thank you for doing what you do.

    Warm regards,

  11. John Dowler says:

    very thought-provoking. It seems like your writing is your direction. Very resonant.
    Would you like to share this on Dreaming Island as well?

  12. Martin says:

    What Jon said. And what the bird said. Thank you for this. Keep going!

  13. Amy Barnes-Leung says:

    Hey Dave- In your writing I find me and shades of me- a lifetime of longing and a lifetime of searching. This piece of writing is, for me, your most profound and honest. You also speak for and to me with immediacy my own struggles between aloneness and needing to be with others and the countless disappointments in not being able to find unbounded love. For me, I have been let down many many times by people whom I thought really wanted to be with me for me but in fact, I merely acted as an object, a function or tool for them. I also come to realise through my own experiences that to feel the joy and boundlessness it is also important to notice the sadness, disappointments and confines within most relationships. I do not hold the view from my own experience, that disappointments etc are preludes to joy etc. I often experience those emotions as being all present just that at times certain feelings are foreground while others fade into the background and so on.

    I do not share the concern of others who have responded about ‘depression’ as we all actively depress and repress- you are the best judge of what’s going on for you. What I have noticed through looking at our collective psychological capacity is a diminishing capability to hold sadness and darkness. In some circles, these emotions have been labelled ‘negative’. As I am writing this now I make a connection with Gaia and it is not surprising how we cannot sit with hers and our pain and suffering. So perhaps our disconnection and dissociation from aspects of ourselves at the individual level is manifested x nth at the collective level.


  14. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks everyone. And thanks to Amy for saying what I was hesitant to say, about depression. I have suffered from it on and off all my life. I’ve tried several solutions, from diet changes to lighting changes to sleeping changes to psychopharmaceuticals. I’ve concluded from those experiments and from my observations that if you are not depressed by the terrible world we live in today then either you’re living in ignorance, delusion or denial, or there is something wrong with you.

    I would agree with Stephen that depression is a physiological disorder (our body’s response to other health problems, including stress and trauma), and if trying to think our way out or get counseled out of that works at all, it is because we want it to work (and just about anything will work under the same circumstances) — for awhile. But fundamentally the only way to ‘fix’ a physical illness is to remove its cause, and in the case of many/most of our modern diseases, those causes are endemic to modern civilization, and are not going away. There is method to nature’s madness in all this.

    Having said that, if depression reaches the stage at which it is completely debilitating, I believe (though I am not offering advice here) that psychopharmaceuticals may be worth trying, in that the ‘cure’ may in those cases not be worse than the ‘disease’. And while I agree with Amy that we do have a diminished capacity to hold sadness and darkness, I would not blame anyone for trying whatever ‘cure’ they might consider worthwhile to deal with their depression or anxiety, as long as they do not have inflated expectations. I have lived with the Noonday Demon, and while he no longer incapacitates me, he is always lurking, never too far away.

  15. Theresa says:

    Seems like the loss of a parent, a formal separation, retirement, and a move across the country – all within a short few months – is a lot to adjust to. I’d give it some time. Be well.

  16. Ed says:

    You’re okay, Dave. … and you’re head is screwed on right, and your heart and soul are intact too. I agree with your self-diagnosis about physiology, and post #15 too, and if you’ve got that lovely terrain, places to walk, birds (and trees, and rocks) to talk to, you’ll find your way out of it. So go take a walk, or ten, and just be who you are where you are how you are. I went through something similar post 9/11 .. it may be happening again because of the Gulf… and I am “doing it”.

  17. Melinda says:

    Your great, big, heart will see you through.

  18. Peter says:

    Hi Dave,

    Thank you so much for putting everything out there.

    I am confident that an altered state of consciousness could wake something up in you to transform your sense of self into one of greater joy.

    Please google ‘holotropic breathwork’. I have many more resources on different alternatives if you’re interested. I feel that you’re craving to see beyond your ‘rational’ mind. Rumi explains the opening window of altered states:
    “No end, no end to the journey
    No end, no end, never
    Become like the sky
    Take an axe to the prison wall
    Like someone suddenly born into color
    Do it now.”

    Blessings to you,

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