I’m in Charlotte, in a monk’s cell of a motel room, the night before I take my Boards. I’m 50% confident in my studying, 50% surrendering to having to wave a white flag on the battlefield of multiple choice. At my ordination, a compañera of mine in the wild and woolly world of Asheville clergy, Priestess Byron Ballard, reminded me that I will be tested, and boy howdy was she right (as I anticipated, but you never know how). Heading here I first had to swing up to Greensboro, travelling the same stretch of road both ways. It was a day job function; visiting a treatment facility, rubbing shoulders with many of the same colleagues who flock to such gatherings, handshakes, hugs, and well-rehearsed but nonetheless heartfelt spiels, all of us delicately maneuvering toward the door in batches.
On the way to Greensboro, I was taken by a graceful thing… a white feather dancing above the endless pushing crowd of autos. What an “Other” among everything within that eye-blink, an exceedingly natural word among a chorus of synthetic language. Everything for that second- save for my own marginal “control” of my own crowd pushing steed- faded into that pirouetting white feather. From our own personal memories and meanings derived from finding and encountering feathers, to their ancient connotations as symbols of communication made from this world to divine realms as traces left behind by Deities and Angels, feather-finding has significance. It subtracts the ordinary, just as it punctuated my otherwise NPR-soothed commute with waltzing other-worldliness.
My drive from Greensboro to Charlotte was not without some degree of anxiety, as it represented the final phase in preparing to take this test, one that has been years in coming. All of the studying, the remembering, mnemonic devices and endless lists and of meaningless words I have in my head as garlands of otherwise unrelated letters designed to catapult me over a mythic yet bureaucratic boundary all come to some form of closure in this final stretch of road to the Queen City. I have been relatively calm about all of this. I have come to a sort of peace, a degree of surrender, relief without even knowing whether I will pass or fail this test. That perhaps is passing already. Because it is so easy to become entrapped and beholden to a fate that has not yet revealed itself, leaving one helpless in the moment. I’ve had my time on this planet wriggling in fear and worry, now is the time to breathe, to “know what I know… [to] sing what I said” à la Paul Simon:
“…I said who am I
To blow against the wind?
I know what I know
I’ll sing what I said
We come and we go
That’s a thing that I keep
In the back of my head.”
I was very much in my head on the drive to Charlotte on at same stretch of roadway. Little did I realize until I saw it, but I was in the exact same place where that feather was dancing earlier. How did I know? Because I saw a white feather dancing in the wind, above the cars, this time on my side of the road. And what was startling about all of this was that, in this space, I could see skid-marks , traffic cones, some shredded fencing, and a downed light pole. I’m not kidding. Take from that what you will, total coincidence or some kind of psychospiritual happenstance, but I cannot deny that dancing feather was meaningfulness waiting to happen for all of the eyes watching it, for surely I was not the only one that caught sight of such brilliance. Just as graceful as that famous moment in cinema of the windblown plastic bag in American Beauty, just as ominous, but just as open to what you make of it. It is what it is, portentous or merciful, what have you. Because of that now completed image, a diorama of dance, I feel I’ve been offered a great preparation for the test, The Test, and being tested. So have all of the possible witnesses today. The answer to the question posed by the feather is not multiple choice, however; it’s fill in the blank. There’s no answer key to be found on the internet or in expensive books. It’s a thinker, and the correctness of your answer is only something that experience uncovers.
I’ll share my best guess, and strategically on tests your best guesses are “umbrella answers,” the most comprehensive. While this could be total bullshit, I think my answer posed by the dancing spectacle will be “it is.” Because that’s all I’ve got, that’s all I need to see that holy moment as; something transformative. How, in the course of three hours, can a single feather remain in one spot on a crazy highway where coincidentally there’s evidence of a violent car accident? I have no Earthly clue, other than, “it is.” And that is amazing, and more than enough for me to have confidence in Otherness lurking about. “It is” exceeds the knowledge any clinician can display on a computerized standardized test, and a kind of knowledge that I cannot dare to fathom, but merely am left to marvel upon, jaw agape, on the same wavelength as a box of rocks.
Whether I fail or pass tomorrow, I feel good enough knowing that every layer of lacquer we brush on ourselves to make us look more important by way of positions and titles held is no match for a feather, which weighs nothing, and is shed from a being that knows in its blood and bone how to soar.
Let that be good enough.