The Feather

The feather rested on the ground, waiting to be noticed. Its lower half, from base to midpoint, is shades of gray, soft and fuzzy. Its upper half, from midpoint to tip, bears an intricate pattern of creamy-white polka dots, each surrounded by a dark gray circle, and all floating on a smooth bed of the same medium gray as the fuzzy feathers.

Guinea fowlThe feather is from the male helmeted guinea fowl that has become a neighborhood mascot, patrolling daily with his two lighter-gray female companions. Their heads, crowned with a red comb-like ridge, are distinctive in their unattractive angularity. Startled, their call is raucous. They are alarm-raising birds, often sharing a yard with chickens to give the alarm when predators appear from the air or by ground.

The feather is singularly beautiful. Each strand is a progression from dark to light and back again many times. Each strand by itself could represent the day in a life of any of us – bright times and darker times. Looking at a single strand, living a single day, we do not see the pattern that this strand or this day helps make. Together, the individual strands come together to form a beautiful and intricate pattern. Contemplating the whole of the feather, the pattern is clear and well defined. How like a life this is, when we look backward and see the patterns woven behind us.

Even the change from fluffy to smooth sections of the feather is reminiscent of the change from one phase of our life to another – such as from adolescence to adulthood, or from searching to following one’s life path.

Looking at the bird as a whole, I do not see the intricate pattern, only that the polka-dotted male is darker and the females lighter, and that their feathers are variegated light and dark. The feather tells me that I need to look much more closely, and to look with my heart and soul as well as with my eyes.

Thank you.

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"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi
"There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together." - attributed to Gandhi
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