Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have a fear of birds…maybe even an irrational one, that somewhat parallels the fear I have of rodents. Maybe my fear of birds should be greater (or less??) as they will eat the mice, but so much for keeping things even. I fear them both. Not that long ago I was playing the game with my sisters of “What would you do and for how much?” That’s not the official name of the game, as I don’t think there is one, but that pretty much sums it up. The question posed in that particular game was… “How much money would it take for you to spend the night in a small car (think Prius or smaller) with a raven?” I didn’t have to think long on this….
“Minimum to even begin to think about it…$100,000”
When I asked one of my kids this, their first response was,
“Can I kill the bird?”
“Kill the bird????? Are you SERIOUS??? I don’t even want to touch it!!!”
“Mom, calm down. We’re just trying to assess to game rules…”
So, this is how I preface my blog post. I’m afraid of birds…
Today, while making our way to Rabanal del Camino from Astorga, our last few km’s was a rambling hike through the woods, a scene very familiar to the both Susan and me given our love of hiking. Not long into the trail, we came upon a falconeer, in a small tent, trail side, and dressed like a character from Camelot, complete with a big falcon (I need some assistance on this one…. falcon is the only word I can come up with… I can’t be specific on a type here..). He was collecting donations for an organization that provides funds for children with cancer and for a monetary donation of your choice, you could hold his beautiful creature. I immediately said, “NO.” Upon hearing that, he began to push me a bit to the point that I was beginning to feel somewhat defensive so began to walk away. I’ve got to say that he was a very kind man, and all thoughts of “pushing” were coming from my perceptions, not the reality of the situation, especially given the fact that my defenses were up and fear was temporarily during the car. After a few steps, I hesitated, then turned around and meekly said, “OK. I’ll do it.” Granted, I was still terrified, but felt the need to push myself. I had to see this as an opportunity that had presented itself in the most unlikely of circumstances and on the Camino, no less….seeing it for the gift that it truly was.
So, I put the glove on and he set “Julia” on my hand. I’ve got to admit that feelings of terror, quickly melted into, “I’m doing this! I’m holding a big bird!!” This all fell into place nicely with what I’ve been going through for the past 2 weeks on the Camino…. pushing my edges, finding my fear, walking into it and realizing that I’m not going to die or drown or be attacked by a big bird, but rather come out of the situation just a little bit more strengths than what I had entered into it with. The more those thoughts sunk in, while holding the very large bird on my gloved hand, the more comfortable I felt. The falconeer sensed that and in a joking gesture and with an exaggerated wink, said he was just going to walk away and have a break for a bit and would be right back. I smiled but gritted my teeth and of course he understood, smiled and retrieved Julia from my outstretched hand.
After the falcon had been returned and the glove removed, he gestured me back to his table and asked me if English was my language of “choice.” When I said yes, he showed me a paper with a sentence typed in several different languages that in English read,
“If you want to see the most beautiful thing in the world, look here…”
Next to the paper was a closed box. He then motioned for me to open the box. I opened it and not all that surprised me, found a mirror. “Oh, a mirror….nice…”
To which he answered, “No, not a mirror at all. It is YOU. It is you.”
He said he only does this with women as he’s tried it before with men and they either make fun of it or will look at the mirror and comment on the sky or the trees or the people in the background, rather than the person looking back at them.
This was a gift today. Truly a gift. I faced my fears, then looked at them in the mirror and lo and behold, the person looking back at me looked just a tiny bit stronger than the one I saw earlier that morning… the one who was anticipating a new day with new experiences and a journey to a new place, but in reality had no idea.