Preening

I have been in a constant cycle of huge life changes for nearly two years now, not the least of which has involved moving multiple times. Because of the utter pain in the nethers that is the precursor to the actual moving, I have been doing my best to consistently pare down my belongings.

It isn’t that I have a problem with having stuff — humans are stuff havers. We love to create beautiful spaces, surrounding ourselves with things that hold meaning in our respective lives. My problem is having stuff for the sake of having it, and letting it just sit in a box or collect dust, no longer being used or enjoyed. It gets forgotten, sometimes broken, sometimes chewed on by mice, and it takes up precious space. I have had to get ruthless in my giving away, selling off, and just straight pitching of things that no longer have a meaningful place in my life, or that, even though I enjoy them, could be better enjoyed by someone I love. It isn’t always an easy process, but once I get past the initial hemming and hawing, I find myself joyful on the whole in moving forward, and I find that I am not missing those things at all.

Since I made the decision to jump states last winter, I have been at it again. Aside from the fact that I have pared down a great deal already, what has made this round of moving so much easier for me than previous times is a lesson I took from a robin this past spring. I was sitting outside taking a break from packing, watching this cute little bird hunting for food with a downy feather poking out from her breast. Watching her started me thinking about the necessity of preening, molting, and shedding in wild animals; and what might happen to a bird if, for whatever reason, it refused to preen itself. 

Preening is a daily, sometimes even hourly practice in the bird world, and is primarily a matter of survival. As amazing as feathers are — enabling flight, providing insulation, and waterproofing — they break down over time, and must be repaired or completely culled. If a bird were to refuse this process, clinging to its favorite feathers as we do our stuff, the feathers would get filthy and matted — stuck together by the detritus of their daily meals, not to mention the meals of yesterday. They would struggle to fly, and would become more susceptible to predators. Given that nests are lined and insulated with precious downy feathers, the bird might find it challenging to properly care for their young, that is, if they could attract a mate at all. New, fully formed feathers would push into the matted mess, causing more discomfort and dysfunction in the life of the bird.

Preening has become a potent metaphor for me in respect to letting things go. It is both an internal, emotional process and a physical catharsis that leads me to a greater sense of self and a knowledge of what I am capable of. If I wish to fly, I must be willing to care for myself in this way. The active removal of things that don’t work for me anymore creates space for more — more beauty, more love, more life, more connection.

Thank you for spending time with me today!

In Gratitude and Love,

Kali