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The Signs of Encouragement

Every Sunday morning, Hadley and I make a practice of hiking in the National Forest near our home for several reasons.

First is a lesson in noticing. I walk and I notice—trees, birds, animals, scat, mushrooms, plants, wind, etc. As we walk, I try to take in as much as possible as a way of being mindful. I practice clearing my mind to be present in the moment.

Secondly, it is a lesson in unplugging. I don’t wear a watch or take my phone. I don’t allocate a specific amount of time for our hike. We just hike. For me, it is a form of Shabbot, the Jewish day of rest. In his book The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel explains that for six days a week we wrestle with the world, and on the seventh day we must care for ourselves. These hikes are my form of renewal.

These hikes are a tangible reminder I am but a small piece of something much larger, not the epicenter of the world but a small share of it. I must continue to find ways to weave myself into the tapestry of life that surrounds and supports me.

And finally, these rituals hikes signify the start of a new week.

Last Sunday, as we were hiking, a string of seven wild turkeys crossed our path. Hadley, much to my amazement, didn’t bark or lunge. She just sat down, almost in reverence, and watched as the turkey parade passed 10 feet in front of us. How odd, I thought as we continued our way.

I just could not get the sight of those turkeys out of my head. Seven turkeys walking in a row (didn’t miss that one Euclid), non-plussed by the person and the dog, dappled in sunlight, just making their way in the middle of the National Forest, seemed a bit more than just odd. So, when I got home, I started researching. What was going on with those wild turkeys?

I already knew the importance of the number seven (see Wayfinding blog post). The Pythagoreans invested particular numbers with unique spiritual properties; the number seven was particularly interesting because it consisted of the union between the physical (number 4) and the spiritual (number 3). Seven = physical + spiritual. Okay, Creation, 7 is important. And the turkeys were the second 7 in my life in a short period of time. So, noted.

Searching the internet for the meaning of turkeys crossing your path was fascinating. There were hundreds of articles and resources. I read as many as I could, and noted the similar themes:

  • turkeys appear when you need to balance your energy.

  • turkeys challenge you to grow and change.

  • turkeys remind you that for new things to arrive, you have to let go and make room.

  • turkeys teach you that now is the time to listen.

  • turkeys prompt you to be aware of the blessings in life and be grateful.

  • turkeys call us to pay attention, particularly to those in need.

  • turkeys encourage us to shine our unique light to express our authentic selves.

Not only had I made 7 notes, but the last one, as I read it again and again, hit me the hardest. Letting my little light shine has been a recurring theme song of my life since I first sang the song in Sunday School. Okay, Creation, let my light shine. You, with assistance from Euclid’s straight turkey line, have got my undivided attention.

I sat with the teachings about seven turkeys for quite a while. I could feel there was something in them for me. One more time: be balanced, open, grateful, and helpful; grow, listen, and shine. As I thought about each quality, though I was far from perfect execution, they were familiar because . . . What?

And then I knew. Getting hit with a knowing, for me at least, feels like my heart just grew 3 sizes. The seven turkeys and their lessons were my Wayfinding Principles (reference blog post Wayfinding):

My Wayfinding Principles

to walk willingly, (be open)

listen deeply, (listen)

breathe slowly, (be balanced)

love fearlessly, (be helpful)

live simply, (be grateful)

endeavor creatively, (grow)

and to let my life speak. (shine)

Clearly, Creation was validating that the wayfinding principles I had created for myself were, indeed, the very wayfinding principles I needed to continue in order to find my true self as I walked my own path.

This is how it is for me. The encouragement I receive is very subtle; it is about taking time to notice, having patience to think it through, and working out the message on my own, then having the courage to listen with my heart to what is being revealed.

Seven turkeys in a row on a Sunday morning.

From the bottom of my grateful heart, thank you Creation. I needed this sign. I needed this encouragement. I needed this validation that I am making my way.


PS. Do you believe in signs? And if so, what is the most encouraging sign that you received? Please add your comments.

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