“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the world around you.”
If you were troubled about something and your soul had expressed a need for comfort, clarity, or guidance, by what means could it manifest?
Ann Bolinger-McQuade, whose book signing I attended on Saturday, has provided the means of “decoding the divine messages that are all around us” in Everyday Oracles. A vivacious and endearing woman, the author is of Native American ancestry and was taught by her father to be alert to the communication of an ensouled world. It has clearly made her life a joyful experience.
Ann describes personal oracles as the mysterious messages that can transmit at virtually any time. The oracle could be a number, a song on the radio, the message in a license plate, a bird, a creature, a scent, a sound, the shape of a cloud, and on and on. In a world full of stress and distraction, however, much divine guidance may go undetected.
For those who would like to be more aware, Ann provides five general categories: (1) conduits, (2) mirrors, (3) synchronicities, (4) signs and symbols, and (5) invisible moving sidewalks. She provides many anecdotes that illustrate each category, and there is bleed-through among them all.
One of my favorite stories in the book is about a hummingbird that served as a conduit. A woman was walking her two little dogs in the remote mountain area where she lived when a hummingbird flew right into her face, hovering there so that she stopped in her tracks. The word “danger” flashed in her mind. She picked up the two dogs and ran home. There she discovered a phone call from her neighbor warning her to stay there. A pack of wild dogs had just killed their family dog and a goat and had seriously injured the sheepdog guarding the goats.
Clouds are probably Ann’s favorite form of oracle, and they are an example of the mirror. She seems often to have a camera with her and includes many images of cloud faces, forms, or symbols bearing a particular message. One may not see what she sees, but she says that is the way of it with oracles. What matters is what the intended recipient gets out of it, no matter how trivial it may seem.
Synchronicities are coincidences that seem to be a form of intervention. A very famous example is the beetle that intruded on an appointment Carl Jung was having with a difficult patient and thus caused a breakthrough. Synchronicities can include valuable information coming in from nowhere, a chance encounter that has a powerful impact, and even a mishap that turns out to be all for the best.
In the category of signs and symbols, almost anything can serve. Virtually every insect (as in the beetle), every creature, and every flower is associated with symbolism, which is a language in itself. So are numbers, as numerology explores in great depth. Even the shape of a rock, a tree, or a shadow can have special meaning in a certain context, and dreams are loaded with helpful symbolism.
Ann’s last category is the invisible moving sidewalk in which a series of synchronicities seems to carry an individual in a particular direction or on a particular life path. As Ann explains it, a moving sidewalk transports people to new locations, opportunities, relationships, jobs, and even renewed health. Sometimes it is only much later that one can look back and see the trail of guidance.
The book’s appendix provides a variety of practices, including meditation, walking labyrinths, chanting, and ritual as a way to tune into oracles, but there are many routes to awakening. In my own case, for example, it was walks in nature with a beautiful white Samoyed named Cassie that introduced me to the fact that the world around me was animated and communicating. I would like to share a set of related examples.
For nine of the years that Cassie and I walked together, I was sadly aware of approaching a symbolic gate beyond which I would begin a new life alone. During the last year of my marriage when I lived in Birmingham, Alabama, three incidents seemed to convey the urgency of getting on with things.
In one case, I came home from a summer vacation to find that a chimney swift had apparently entered the house through the fireplace and flown up the stairs into my office. There I found it dead on its back on the window sill, wings fully extended in its failed, desperate effort to escape to the garden below. I took a photograph of the poor creature and put it in my journal.
On a morning a few months later, I was walking with Cassie among autumn leaves by a lake in the state park when I heard something fall to the ground nearby. A few yards away lay a bat on its back, blood beginning to rise in its mouth. Bats are nocturnal, and how and why it fell out of the sky that morning, I will never know. I did know, however, that the creature would be associated symbolically with rebirth after a time of coming darkness. I had brought my camera, and I added another photograph to my journal.
The last sign appeared several weeks later. Cassie and I were heading back to the car from our morning walk, and there lying open on the woodland trail was what I recognized as a “survival” knife. It spoke to me very pointedly, pardon the pun, of the need to cut ties, sever bonds, and set myself free. I didn’t have a camera with me, but I picked up the knife and took it with me. Exactly one month later when Cassie and I set out on the road for a new life in Santa Fe, that knife was in the pocket of my car.
Wonders of guidance and insight can result from being present and aware, and Ann Bolinger-McQuade’s book will inspire readers to cultivate that gift. When we watch the world around us with “glittering eyes,” as Roald Dahl put it, we will see that magic is afoot.