(Image from Ask A Biologist)
If you’ve never read Richard Bach’s novel Illusions, here’s the reason it features a blue feather on the cover: the humble messianic figure, Donald Shimoda, gives Bach an exercise in manifestation by saying that if you think of a blue feather hard enough – imagine it, concentrate, visualize it in every detail from the color down to the hooklets – then somewhere in the near future a blue feather will show itself to you. It might be a real feather. It might be a picture you happen to see. It might appear in any one of a dozen other ways, but sooner or later it will show up.
I’ve experience this for years, by accident and design alike. Whenever it happens I refer to it as “my latest blue feather”. In fact it’s been so common for such a long time that I never even thought about writing about it here on M&I until this past week, here in this journal where I usually write about stuff that’s new, newly rediscovered, or changed in a major way. The blue feather has always just been there.
The reason I thought to write about it now is that it showed up in a couple of noteworthy ways over the past few days: first after a round of frustrated nostalgia, and second as possible protection.
A couple of weeks ago I’d been on a nostalgia trip for my old metal detector. I’d gotten it as a Christmas present from my parents when I was 12 or so – my love of finding old things was strong even at that age. It was a Radio Shack Micronta 3100, not exactly the model a serious professional treasure hunter would be using. In fact, it was probably considered just the opposite. (Not an unwise choice, though, as a gift for a 12-year-old.) But it was mine, and I thought it was a beautiful and fascinating piece of machinery, and I used it often over the next few years. I don’t remember ever finding anything more than the occasional modern coin or bottle cap, but that never deterred me for long.
(Image from Canadian Metal Detecting)
Fast forward to my early 30s, when I loaned it to my then-girlfriend’s stepbrother. She and her family lived next door to a battlefield, and their property had been used for a field hospital back in the day, so now and again things like bullets and buttons would turn up. The problem was that her brother kept holding onto it, and onto it, and onto it. The girlfriend and I broke up, and still I didn’t get it back. Nor did I get it back before I moved out of the area.
Fast forward to now. Now I’m a homeowner on a piece of land that’s been settled for a long time, and shows traces of its past inhabitants in things like old log cabin sites, stone walls, pieces of ceramics, and so on. I started thinking about going over the property with a metal detector – not thinking about it seriously enough to go buy a new one, but I did start waxing nostalgic about the one I’d owned once upon a time. The more I thought about it, and the more I missed it (and growing increasingly frustrated about never getting it back), the more I envisioned it: its weight in my hands, the whiny signal it made when it found metal, how much I’d adjust the dials here and there depending on what I was hoping to find, the little surge of a thrill I’d get as a kid when the needle would jump to tell me I’d found something.
Two days later I walked into the local thrift store, meaning to browse for books and bookshelves as I’m occasionally wont to do. And there, right in front of me as soon as I walked in the door, standing up against the counter where the owner sat beside her cash register, was a Radio Shack Micronta 3100 metal detector. In working condition. For $10.
It’s now sitting up against the wall in my Book Room ,waiting for a nice day when I have some time to go hunting with it across the land behind my house.
The second blue feather I want to post about just happened today, and was somewhat more expensive, but it may have also been a warning.
This past week I’d been looking with trepidation at a giant dead limb hanging over my driveway. Actually the whole tree is dead, but overall the tree itself is still solid; it’s this particular limb that had me concerned for both my car and my wife’s, since if it fell it could take out both cars without breaking a sweat (or likely even breaking in general). A couple of days with high winds exacerbated my fretting.
This isn’t a job I could do myself, but I’d been reluctant to call the local tree guy; he did good work taking down a dead tree next to my house last year, but followed that with some serious high-pressure up-selling to get me to trim and cut more trees around the property, to the tune of a minimum of a couple thousand dollars that I didn’t honestly think were necessary to spend. I didn’t feel like dealing with that again – but that still left me with the issue of reaching out a little more distantly to find someone trustworthy.
Then, walking my dog this afternoon, going a way I hadn’t planned to take until deciding to let my dog choose the route on this nice day, I ended up passing a neighbor’s house as he was getting a tree in his front yard trimmed. I didn’t think anything about it until the tree man hailed me by name.
It turns out that it was someone I’d known for years when he was a regular patron at the library where I work, until he moved farther out. He didn’t come out my way regularly, but he’d known this neighbor for a long time and would still come out to do tree work for him despite the distance. We chatted for a few moments, and then at my request, he came to look at my giant overhanging limb of doom. He looked it over, he thought my concerns for the limb and non-concerns for the tree itself were both justified, and quoted me a price of about what I was expecting it to cost.
So from a metaphysical standpoint, I suspect this was a blue feather I was wise to not ignore: if the limb really was about to come down as I feared, then I was presented with the chance to have it cut down before it did.
Of course it might not have been a blue feather in particular. It might have simply been one of those “coincidences” that manifest just when you need something. (I put “coincidence” in quotation marks because from that perspective, I don’t believe in coincidences).
Either way, I was happy that both showed up just when they were wanted and needed – and I never mind a gentle lesson that reminds me to keep paying attention.