Last year during fire season, as the fires began encroaching upon the periphery of our town here in Southern Oregon, I began to regard the dry, brittle trees standing closest to our house with an anxious eye.
My strong, gallant partner (at the time) quickly got to work, devotedly clearing away the trees and branches that could most naturally lend themselves as kindling, should the fires arrive to our land.
It was a powerful act of loving care and protection that carried a particularly poignant weight. This gesture of protecting our home from the local wildfires came in a moment that found us simultaneously navigating fast-moving flames of a different nature, actively threatening the viability of our sacred union and family.
The icing on the cake of that devoted act was when my partner sweetly surprised me by mounting a few wooden birdhouses in place of the missing branches he had removed.
It made me so happy when I looked out into the trees from our house and saw what he had done! The birdhouses were like a prayer—bringing in the potential for hosting new life. Life that could thrive.
For a few weeks the birdhouses remained empty, but one day a small, black-capped chickadee moved in to the birdhouse just adjacent to our master bathroom.
Every morning while we showered we would watch that magnificent little bird flit and flutter, emerging from her tiny house, perching at the entrance, and then flying off into her day.
In a time that found my heart often wrought with angst and uncertainty, that little chickadee filled me with innocent joy and hope. We fondly and somewhat humorously named her “Hope”, and played with the word, saying silly things like, “Hope comes and goes,” or in harder moments we’d mutter wryly, “Nope, Hope’s nowhere to be seen.”
All fall we enjoyed her presence. She was our precious neighbor, bringing such sweet and joyous medicine. I was delighted to read online that Chickadees as animal totems are symbolized as cheerful and truthful beings who teach us the art of flexibility, along with protection, defense, bravery, and adjustment. All of these energetics were ones we were working with on a daily basis in our home.
Then it got cold, and colder still. Finally it snowed, covering Hope’s house with ice and several inches of snow. I can only imagine how she must have needed something warmer, safer, more stable and nourishing.
And so, unsurprisingly, she left.
Not long after, in the coldest, darkest part of Winter, after eighteen months of carefully making a family together, my partner and his little boy moved out of our house. The fiery circumstances that had burned at the periphery of our home for so long had finally made their destructive way into the very center of our home and family, breaking our tender hearts and requiring us to separate.
One chilly and snowy morning, a few weeks after they left, I got into the shower, and when I turned to look out the window I could hardly believe my eyes! It was Hope! She was back, flitting and fluttering in and out of her snow-covered house. I ran dripping naked through the house, looking for my phone, then quickly ran back to take a picture of her, which I sent to my partner. I texted happily: “Look who’s back?!” And he replied: “She’s so attuned.”
But two days later she was gone again, never to return.
For a little while we didn’t know if his needing to move out meant we were actually breaking up. Through everything we had weathered, our love and passion remained so deep and strong.
It was difficult to accept that such a profound love could be dismantled by an external destructive force. But with time it was clear that the mystery of life was simply choosing a different path for us and our love than either of us could have expected or desired.
Spring came, and tiny green buds unfurled into leaves. Every morning in my shower I would glance to the little birdhouse and make note of its persistent emptiness. I thought to myself—I understand why Hope can’t return. But couldn’t another little bird maybe come and make a home?
I longed for the return of that sweet, innocent joy I had received simply in witnessing a bird being itself. I wondered if maybe birds mark their territory in some possessive way, making it an instinctual faux-pas to move into another bird’s abandoned home?
And then yesterday, on the first day of my children’s Summer break, I rose to shower. And when I looked out the shower window, I noticed, for the first time in many months, there was movement surrounding Hope’s house.
I stood there for a long time, the hot water pounding down upon me, as I took in this startling sight. Big, golden wasps, too many to count, were buzzing in and out through Hope’s doorway. The nerve!
The wasps made me frown. They worried me. I didn’t enjoy their vibe. I thought to myself with a tone of sarcastic cynicism: How fucking perfect.
Their presence didn’t inspire joy, but instead a feeling of irritated defense. I wondered what it would take to remove them, and then I felt a bit futile, imagining it would be fairly impossible to remove them without using poison or causing multi-faceted harm to the natural order of things.
Then, this morning, slowly waking alone in my bed, I curled onto my side, noted the bright light of new day shining in, and openly pondered the reality of the wasps. Quietly, I asked myself: I wonder what Wasp medicine is about?
And so the first thing I did when I sat down at my desk and opened my computer was to look up Wasp Medicine.
I opened a link from Rev. Nancy Schluntz, who wrote eloquently: “As a Shamanic totem, Wasp is a powerful female warrior and healer energy who urges us to another level. She takes care of her own, and fights back when disturbed. She helps others learn the hard lessons of humility and the appropriate use of power—that stinger is not to be used indiscriminately.
She’s also reminding us that resistance to change is self-sabotage. When wasp buzzes by, she’s reminding us to follow her example. Make dreams a reality by actually working on them: plan, persevere, take action, and don’t let anything get in your way. Remember the hive mind, allowing yourself to believe that all things are possible, and that you deserve to have your dreams come true.”
When I read these incredible words, on point in so many ways, I immediately felt a defensive armor around my heart soften. Humbled tears came to my eyes. I thought to myself—Wow, Wasp—my friend and ally. Who would have known? How perfect your arrival is indeed.
I mean, truly. What an astounding and magical mirror all of life is, if only we dare to look and listen.
Undoubtedly, Life can be hard on our hearts. We don’t always get our way. Perhaps it’s even skillful to assume that we get what we need, more often than we get what we want.
Wildfires come raging, recklessly claiming cherished forms.
Things break and fall apart, again and again. And before we can wisely remember that it’s perfectly making space for something new to arise, it just feels horribly broken.
Sweet, joy-bringing birds fly away and we grieve, and then the wasps move in, bringing lessons of humility and hive-mind manifestation.
Ok then, Life. I say Yes to you.
Life says: Are you sure?
I nod firmly.
I say: Yes. Once again, Yes.
Yes, yes, just as you are. Yes to your Love that looks and feels like this now.
Yes to your Love in all the gritty, grueling and graceful ways it lands upon my heart—teaching me, healing me, asking more of me I ever knew it could.
I say Yes to you. I say: Thank you. I say: Bring it on, Beloved. I say: I’m in.