Miracle in the Park

Bird and gazebo

What is a miracle? Well by their very nature, miracles defy explanation. I can tell you that when I experienced one, it was so profound and deeply personal I resisted talking about it for some time. I have since come to the conclusion that it is important to share a miracle, for it is a gift, an inspiration that gives healing and hope to a person (and ultimately a world) that sorely needs it.

It seems to me that miracles are answers to truly heartfelt prayers, requests made with the unshakable faith that they can be delivered. And, the deeper we go within ourselves and connect back to God, the bigger the answer that may come back, one that says, “Okay! Here it is. You can’t miss this one!” Bible stories say that Jesus could perform miracles at will. Perhaps these were answers to a bigger prayer, a plea from the heart of humanity to be shown what was possible in the realm of God. I just know that a miracle came to me when I released the need to figure it out on my own, and when I humbly asked for help.

Miracles undoubtedly take many forms, perhaps the most dramatic examples being those of inexplicable cures for the terminally ill. Mine is a quieter story, one born out of a feeling of isolation. The answer eventually revealed itself one special afternoon in Albert Park, Auckland, New Zealand. It didn’t, however, happen in just one magnificent “boom”. Rather, it unfolded slowly, with teasing little hints of the main event dropped at my feet by messengers from the sky.

Floating feather

Angels, you say? Well, not quite, but these were certainly winged. As I searched, and asked, and prayed, I started finding feathers. I found them everywhere, during walks along a familiar country road, on improbable city sidewalks, and even in outright impossible places, such as a change room in a clothing store. And when they appeared, there was a deep knowing within that they had been left there just for me. The message that resonated with every feather discovered was “There is hope”.

Hope for what? What was I seeking? In a bigger sense, understanding and wisdom, to make sense out of a world where too many people are feeling isolated and separate, anxious and stressed. On a more personal level, I was seeking something to fill my own lonely void. You see, my partner and I had decided to travel for an extended period of time to see some of the world. And, as much as we experienced many wonderful times, there were also considerable trials and stress involved.

There is something about leaving your comfortable little corner of the world that is scary, but ultimately illuminating. I am a friendly and outgoing person, and over the years I have enjoyed many happy relationships and a sense of community. As much as I made a few new friends on the road, it takes considerable time to develop deep relationships. These had always been my main source of happiness in life, and while moving frequently I was finding it impossible to develop new ones or properly maintain the old ones back home. This was unfamiliar and very unhappy territory for me. At the height of this crisis, I tramped up and down a dusty little back road in Australia untold times, asking how I could find that feeling of deep connection that I missed so much. I knew there had to be an answer, and I was determined to find it.

Now, praying was a bit of a new thing for me. I have always felt the presence of God, but I had rarely communicated to this source of higher wisdom. And I certainly was not in the habit of asking for help and direction! Being reasonably intelligent and independent, I had always prided myself on my ability to figure things out. Now I realize how restricting this was; in God’s realm of infinite possibilities, I was directing my life through my own limited scope of wisdom.

Native chief's headress

The answer began to appear with the feathers. Somehow their mere presence helped me to feel better, but beyond that, they also tickled my curiosity. I wanted to know more. I researched the symbolism of feathers and found that they have been held sacred by many cultures and tribes throughout history; hence the fact that the headdress of the wise chief was abundantly adorned with them. Some universally accepted meanings of feathers include “freedom” and “expansion beyond boundaries”. And, as birds could transcend the ground and fly towards the heavens, they were viewed by some as messengers between Deity and man.

These explanations intrigued me. Years before in Hawaii, I had learned enough about the Polynesians to be convinced that there was great wisdom held within the ancient indigenous cultures. One common factor between these cultures worldwide has been a deep reverence for the land and the animals, and a belief that the spirit of the Great Creator exists within all of Creation. They believed that if you were quiet and listened, the Creator would communicate wisdom to you through nature. Well, nature seemed to be communicating with me now.

About a week before I left Australia, the first messenger appeared. I was taking my customary evening walk under the gum trees, towards the sunset at the end of the country road. Suddenly I heard a rustle behind me, and I looked around. No more than seven or eight feet away, a pink galah was standing nonchalantly in the middle of the road, looking right at me. Being close cousins to cockatoos, galahs are both beautiful and noisy. I loved watching them at sunset, as whole flocks would chatter and swoop over the valley before retiring; they always seemed to be having a good time. This one had evidently left his mates to come and say hello.

Pink Galah, Australia

Slowly and quietly I knelt to the ground, and as I did, the galah walked right up. I stretched out my hand and it came closer, but never quite close enough to touch. The bird stayed for awhile though, and walked tight circles around me as we watched each other. After a time, I reluctantly stood up to say goodbye and continue on my way. I started on down the road, and to my surprise and delight, the galah followed! My new friend accompanied me for quite a distance, then eventually took flight and rejoined the flock. The galah showed up one more time for a repeat performance a few days later, perhaps to show me that this had been no fluke meeting.

Soon afterward we traveled to New Zealand, and I was now taking my daily walks on the hard pavement of the Auckland City streets. New Zealand has a very different flavor than Australia, and I welcomed the fresh, crisp green of the city park lands. It wasn’t long before I discovered a gem called Albert Park, and I headed there regularly to nurture my newfound connection with nature.

Albert Park encompasses a large city block in the heart of Auckland, and when I walked in, a tranquil oasis awaited. Entrances from all four sides led down tree-canopied walkways towards an open courtyard in the middle. Here a large, tiered fountain presided, surrounded by luxuriant beds of bright, fragrant flowers. The benches afforded a welcome refuge for sitting quietly and listening to the soothing trickle of water and the wind in the trees.

I noticed right away that the birds love to congregate in Albert Park. Why would they not? This park was abundant with some of the most beautiful trees I had seen anywhere; very ancient looking, with huge, twisted trunks and gnarled roots, straight out of a fairy tale. The fountain provided a socializing and bathing spot for the birds, and they also liked to mooch food from the people relaxing on the benches. I spent many happy hours in the park, and I felt from the beginning that there was something almost magical about this place.

Finally, the magic revealed itself. One afternoon as I got up from a bench to leave, I noticed a pigeon at the edge of the garden. Its iridescent colors shimmered in the late afternoon glow, and I delighted in the beauty. Increasingly I had been learning to truly value the abundance of nature around me, and to communicate that appreciation back. As I passed by the bird, I said a silent, “Thank you for sharing your beauty. I love you.” The sentiment was fervent and heartfelt.

Pigeon, Albert Park, New Zealand

I started down the walkway that led home. As I walked along, I heard a loud rustling to the right and looked over to see what it was. “That’s odd,” I thought, “There seem to be a lot of birds heading to this end of the park.” The number and type of birds was indistinct to me, however, as they were flying through a thick stand of trees.

This particular walkway wound around a large gazebo before leaving the park. It was an ornate, open building, fifteen feet or more in diameter, large enough to shelter small bands for outdoor concerts. It had the usual style of such a building, with a railing for walls and seating all around the inside edge. As I approached the gazebo, I was stunned by what I saw. It was covered with birds!

Every kind of bird in the park was lined up along the railing, covering the seats, and creating a sort of feathered carpet on the entire floor. There were at least three hundred of them, seagulls, pigeons, sparrows, swallows, and several types unfamiliar to me. The birds were all lined up, shoulder-to-shoulder (if you can use that term for birds), and they were all waiting for me. I was so overcome by the sight that I stood frozen in awe. I looked around to see if other people were watching, but it seemed that I was in my own little bubble and the world was oblivious.

After I recovered from the initial shock, I inched closer very carefully, hoping I wouldn’t startle them. I reached the bottom stair to the gazebo and stopped, quietly uttering an emotional, “Thank you!” The birds did not move, except for a couple of pigeons standing on the floor nearby. They approached, and one of them walked down the stairs and made a circle around me, just as the galah had done on that little dirt road in Australia.

After a while longer, the spell was broken and the birds began to fly away. I stayed until they all left and then quietly walked home, feeling a wondrous bond to the world around me. My heart was full of gratitude for the gift I had just received, a realization of the truly deep connection between everything that is part of Creation. We are all part of One. My feelings of isolation had originated in my own small idea of what was possible, and the world around me had reflected that. When I opened my mind and my heart, the answer was there, waiting. And the key, as I should have expected, was love!

 

Floating feather

“Miracle in the Park” Copyright © Susan L Hart
“Miracle in the Park” was first published by InTouch Magazine, New Zealand in their Aug/Sept 2006 issue.