My friend Christi moved a unique bird like piece to the front gate next to our building the other day. She found it in one of her many excursions through the world of things other people don’t want, or don’t know what to do with. It sat up against a tree in the backyard, and is really heavy. I watched with wonder as she laid it in concrete before the gate that she fashioned too, out of steel, in the shape of a dinosaur. She told me the bird was a Phoenix, and I told her that it was a perfect spot for such a cool piece. We sat together throughout the afternoon, and into the night as we shared time, “Waiting for the cement to dry.” We laughed that we both had the luxury of such ridiculous time at the moment, and we celebrated that too; over an urban bonfire to roast our vegetables. I love my time with her. She makes use of things in creative ways, and she is totally resilient and self-sufficient. It looks and feels like freedom to me. So, having a Phoenix to cross before getting through our gate is a reminder of what had to die in me to feel that freedom. I just didn’t know that I would have to keep dying to some things, but I do.

Another friend of mine is fond of saying, “It’s a good day to die”, along with a few other words, when he introduces himself. It’s always gripped me, and I really respect him, but most people seem to ignore it. I’ve felt that sentiment every time he says that, and it makes me sit up and remember the promise I made to myself, and to God, when I asked for help to recover from my afflictions. I promised to stay present and to stay connected, as best I could, no matter what happened in my life. I learned that forms changed; jobs, ideas and relationships, but that essential connection remained. I had found a mysterious way of being okay in the world because I valued a certain freedom. In that freedom I found a new happiness, just like the folks I hang around in recovery told me I would. And, I learned something else even more valuable; the pain I have felt about something that I didn’t get or something that I lost was really caused by my own thoughts about it. My thinking could revert to the small, scared child that I was, even when I dressed up in suits, if I didn’t maintain a certain balance and perspective. Friends are gifts that remind me what really matters; sharing time, some food and some laughter. I get up the next day feeling like whatever thought that threatened to destroy me was really something that was passing through me; sometimes it was a pattern that needed to die consciously. And, like the cement slab Phoenix that I must cross to get through the gate, I’m reminded that dying is a good thing while I’m alive. I’d rather die to certain things while I’m alive, than live like I am dead inside. I simply don’t know what is good for me yet, but God does, and so does Christi. She’s resilient, and pretty much free. She’s fond of saying, “Despite all appearances to the contrary, happy joyous and free.”

I recalled those important promises that I made several times throughout this week as I faced some pretty big decisions. I’m grateful for whatever happens in my life to bring me to the depth of that place inside me. I might have been dangerously close to sleep walking through a phase of my life that I sure wouldn’t want to miss, like the cement drying on a hot summer afternoon with my friend, and the delicious vegetables we ate together. It’s all good, when I stop being so critical of life, feeling inadequate, or so brittle that I break when something hits me the wrong way. Most times, like the Phoenix, something new is really being born.

The Roman poet Ovid wrote the following about the phoenix:

Most beings spring from other individuals; but there is a certain kind which reproduces itself. The Assyrians call it the Phoenix. It does not live on fruit or flowers, but on frankincense and odoriferous gums. When it has lived five hundred years, it builds itself a nest in the branches of an oak, or on the top of a palm tree. In this it collects cinnamon, and spikenard, and myrrh, and of these materials builds a pile on which it deposits itself, and dying, breathes out its last breath amidst odors. From the body of the parent bird, a young Phoenix issues forth, destined to live as long a life as its predecessor. When this has grown up and gained sufficient strength, it lifts its nest from the tree (its own cradle and its parent’s sepulchre), and carries it to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt, and deposits it in the temple of the Sun.[3]

And, Wild Horses, by the Sundays, “ has been broken and tears must be cried. Let’s do some living even after we die. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.”

Here’s the link:

Nope, they couldn’t. Not from this love of life.

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