8/27/20

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Okay, break out the woowoo. Break out the whackadoodle. But really, I am not crazy, even though in the last ten days, I’ve dealt with the following:

*oldest daughter starting her semester of teaching at a university during the COVID era.

*youngest daughter starting her sophomore year at college during the COVID era.

*granddaughter preparing to return to school in second grade after our district school board decided it was perfectly fine for elementary school students and their teachers to go back five days a week face to face…during the COVID era.

*mammogram to check for any more breast cancer – I’m clear.

*ultrasound to check nodules on my thyroid to make sure they’ve not become cancerous – I’m clear.

*shuddering through the horrific shock waves from Kenosha, WI, which is about 45 minutes from here.

It’s been just a liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitle bit stressful.

So this past Saturday morning, I was more than a little anxious as I prepared to go pick up a rental van to move my daughter Olivia to college. I got into my car, Hemi, my Chrysler 300C Hemi (this is important to note). I was driving this car, not the convertible, Semi, to the rental place and leaving him there all day while we moved Olivia. I got in, started the car, put my seatbelt on, and glanced to my right in preparation to start backing out. Something caught my eye and I looked down.

There was a feather on my passenger seat. A very neat, perfect feather. Not ruffled at all. Perfect.

I threw the car back into park.

Many people know of my terror of birds. I don’t like them. I can admire them from afar, but keep them the hell away from me. My two attacks this summer with redwing blackbirds left me traumatized and housebound for weeks.

But…here’s something odd. Throughout my adult life, when there are stressful things going on, or when I am in need of some encouragement or comfort, feathers tend to show up right in front of me. I have a blue vase in my office, filled with these feathers.

One feather of note was in 2015. My friend and mentor, Ellen Kort, Wisconsin’s first poet laureate, died on the same day that my novel, Rise From The River, was being launched. I took a walk that afternoon, grieving that, not only was she not going to be at the launch, but I wouldn’t even be able to call her afterwards to tell her how it went.

As I walked up the far side of our bus depot, a long sidewalk surrounded on both sides by concrete walls, a feather floated down and landed right at my feet. I picked it up and I recognized it. It looked exactly like the drawings of feathers that are on the cover of Ellen’s poetry chapbook, If Death Were A Woman. I met Ellen for the first time at a reading for this book. I treasure my signed copy. Ellen wrote, “To Kathie, Celebrate life! Keep the words flowing!”

I have.

I came home that day, pulled her chapbook from where I keep it on display in my classroom, next to a photo of my hands holding the book as I taught from it at an AllWriters’ retreat. I found some glue and I affixed the feather from Ellen onto her book.

I knew she was with me and watching when I presented my novel that night.

There have been many other feather moments. My full vase attests to this. I can’t explain them. They just happen.

And now there was this feather on my passenger seat. The seat where my daughter rides along when we go somewhere.

Now the importance of it being Hemi. If the feather landed in Semi, I likely would have just laughed and brought the feather in to be with the others. Semi’s top is always down. A feather could come from just about anywhere.

But this was Hemi. During the summer, I don’t drive Hemi much – I’m in the convertible until the snow flies. Hemi was locked tight, all his windows closed, his sun/moon roof sealed tight. I hadn’t driven him anywhere in weeks, before this morning when I decided to take him to pick up the van. I do get into him to move him into the city parking lot when I want to back Semi out of the garage. But he remains closed at all times. There was no bird feather in that car the day before. There was no way a bird feather could get in my car. And yet…there it was.

I was worried about both of my daughters. One teaching at university, one attending university. Reports were everywhere of COVID running rampant within the first week of classes in schools across the country.

My girls!

But there was an impossible feather in my car.

I let my shoulders relax. I took a deep breath. And then I moved my daughter into her dorm room. And when I returned home, I brought that feather inside. It sat beside my computer this week. Whenever I found myself worrying about Olivia, or worrying about Katie, I held onto it, like Dumbo’s magic feather. And now, I’m tucking it into the vase with the others.

It’ll be all right.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

The feather on my car seat.
I brought it inside.
My vase of feathers and Ellen Kort’s book with her feather.

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