My Friend Herman

Posted by on 11.28.07 | No Comments
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I was soaking outside in my hot tub marveling at the layer of icy white frosting on the juniper trees when my friend, Herman, came to visit me again. He lit on the edge of the tub looking at me fearlessly and curiously. I have dubbed him Herman Mainberger (Herman for short) in honor of a wonderful young German man who brought much joy to my childhood.

Let me explain. Herman (the bird, that is) first appeared about a month ago while I was sitting at the dining room table having breakfast. He is a bird – not sure what kind of bird gray and persistent for sure (like me?). He kept flying into the window until exhausted and then would sit on the sill looking at me with that sideways stare that birds have. I could see his breath on the window.

At first I thought ‘he’ was another intoxicated bird who had consumed a few too many juniper berries. We get a number of those wild ones slamming into windows, but this one seemed different in some way. He has come to visit me every single day since then and Ive been having some interesting dialogues with him as he peers into my windows. This morning, however, was the first time we have had an outdoor face-to-beak encounter so to speak. Normally he appears first at the dining room windows during breakfast, then at the glass kitchen door while Im cleaning up, then at the office sliding door while Im at the computer and at various other times during the day at my office window.

My husband thinks he may have lost his mate and is looking for her but Ive come to believe he is a little mystical teacher, in the disguise of a common gray bird, come with a lesson for me (no rolling of the eyes!). At first I wasnt at all sure what that lesson might be and thought my imagination once again had gone wandering into the woods. But now Im convinced he has come with a lesson for me and that when I get it, he will disappear.

What am I learning from Herman, my gray feathered sweet friend? Well, I wondered about the persistent hitting of his head against the window. What could he possibly be looking for? Couldnt help but see the metaphor in front of my face. How often do I hit my head against the wall looking for something, searching for something Im not even sure has a name. Please dont tell me I am alone in this. I admit to what feels like a predisposition to struggle and resist when surrender would surely be the easier route and this bird has me thinking. . .

My wandering brain took me back to some compelling psychobiological research on human experience in the womb that I read about quite some time ago which has shown astounding results. In Remembering Our Home by Dr. William Emerson, Sheila Linn, et al, the authors write that the earliest hurts a person experiences before and during birth are absorbed and stored in our cells like a remembered tone to which we continue to vibrate sympathetically. I can attest to this with my own children. My son was delivered by forceps against my wishes. He has a strong inclination to refuse help of any kind. My daughter was ready to arrive earlier than the nurses projected and, while they tried to locate the doctor, did all they could to delay her birth. My daughter cannot wait. When shes ready, shes ready! My own mother, giving birth to me in a small convent hospital in Italy, labored for close to five days before I was born. Even knowing that and given the work Ive done around birth trauma, I still vibrate with a sense of having to struggle to do life and certainly an anxiety about not getting there, getting to the purpose of life.

So, although it might seem I am digressing from the topic of simplification, truly I am not. I am just taking my natural circuitous route to get to that point of connection, unlike Herman who can get there the way the crow (or gray bird) flies. Most of the time I dont know where Im going, but always end up in the right place. So bear with me if you will. After a somewhat sleepless night recently wondering what in the world I could write about and then moving on into a recurring theme of what is my purpose yada yada yada, I got up to write in my journal. I wrote a contract with the Universe out of desperation to get a good nights sleep. I called it Contract to Rescind All Notions in effect rescinding notions which include, but are not limited to, a special Purpose in my life (with a capital P), the need to find Meaning in all things, the Need to Understand, and Expectations (which the 12-Step program calls premeditated resentments) among others. It felt as if I had let go, at least on paper, of everything but my underwear! As I signed my name to this momentous document there was a sense of some weight lifting from me.

As with material possessions (and this is where it all connects to consumer simplicity), I am keeping only what is practical, what I love, what serves me. Energetically what Im keeping is The Present Moment, What I Know Nourishes Me (creativity, service, kindness, deep listening, dream work), What I Love (family, friends, home) and the idea that Purpose is not necessarily a capital P but rather a small p. That purpose is simply filling each precious moment we have with the richness of the Sacred manifested in all things around us and to somehow be of service to my fellow human beings. Yesterday, Pico, my winter-chubby Jack Russell, and I went for a walk. As we came upon our mailbox, there stood a magnificent buck we all stared at each other for a long precious moment (even Pico didnt know what to do except stand quietly) and the Sacred was ever so present. I want to capture that feeling of being suspended in grace throughout each day.

I am finding that the material and spiritual paths toward simplicity, clarity and integrity occur simultaneously. The surprising results of my limited efforts so far is that suddenly I do seem to have more time to be with the things that nourish me. Thanksgiving was simple, Christmas doesnt feel burdensome like it has in past years. I am ready to surrender to simplicity and allowing Life to come to me rather than my struggling toward some kind of expectation of how it should all be. I am looking forward to this holiday and especially seeing it once again as a child through the eyes of my awesome grandson, Sammy.

So. . . In the spirit of this greening blog, I will close with one of my green Christmas intentions to be conscious and mindful of how we wrap and give gifts. There are great ideas floating around everywhere: using shiny catalog pages for small gifts, canvas tote bags, just reusable decorative bags in general, using fabric, reusable decorative or painted gift boxes, flower pots, kitchen accessories such as bowls; baskets, posters, even National Geographic map inserts Im told make great wraps. Check out a company I found while in Arizona at Also check out for recycled wrap! And for 100% post consumer paper with soy based ink. Being creative with wrap sounds like fun! Have a blessed and mindful holiday season.

As for Herman…he’s still hanging around my home, communicating with me, and slowly, as I stop trying, I’m understanding some of his wisdom. I’ll miss him when he no longer comes around. But there will be other teachers, and I will keep learning what this magnificent life has to teach…even if all I have is my underwear!




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