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#98 They show up when we need them

I’m totally amazed every time it happens, even though it happens a lot. Sometimes they arrive in human forms. Other times they appear as books or poems or paintings or a bird flying overhead.

They are signs but only if we interpret them that way, and I do. I do that even though I don’t attribute to them any mystical meaning beyond my own need. But that need is enough.

Jay O’Callahan is one of the people. He entered my life when I was moving from Rochester, New York, to Seattle, Washington. I was burning with the desire to throw myself into storytelling full time. Jay was a star in my storytelling world. When he encouraged me to go for it, I burned his words into my memory and declared myself a storyteller.

Patti Digh is another of them. I’ve never met Patti, but when I picked up Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally in a Seattle book store, I knew I’d found a kindred spirit. I loved the easy flow, the informality, the honesty of her words. At the time, a friend and I were planning to write a book together. I showed her Patti’s book and said, “This is it! This is what our book is going to look like. This is the design I’ve been trying to describe to you.” My friend’s complicated life shifted directions for both of us. And I’m thinking along the lines of ebooks these days, but I still return to my marked-up copy of Patti’s book for inspiration.

When my life was foundering on the broken shards of a marriage and I figured I’d used up my life’s supply of good-girl points, I read and re-read Mary Oliver’s poem, “Wild Geese”, from Dream Work. I cried every time, but the words pulled me through.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

They show up when we need them, the lines of a song, the encouragement of a friend, the sudden moments of grace. They don’t solve our problems or make our lives perfect, but they reassure us we’ve turned a corner. We know, once again, we’ll be all right.


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charles hale - July 17, 2011

Cathryn, once again I am amazed. If you look at my story tomorrow, you are going to laugh. It’s about a man I met years ago. Here’s a passage: “On occasion, if we’re fortunate, the right person appears at the right time…Maybe it’s coincidence, good fortune, serendipity or divine providence. I struggle trying to understand how it is people show up when you need them most, but I must admit, I don’t understand. ” Further I’ve forwarded Oliver’s “Wild Geese” to many over the years.
Our brains must be linked. It makes me chuckle, that’s for sure. Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Jessica - December 29, 2011

This certainly resonated! Patti Digh and “Wild Geese” have both been anchors for me during difficult times.

    admin - December 29, 2011

    Oh, how I understand that! I just sent a copy of Patti’s Live Is a Verb to a friend and shared “Wild Geese” with another. We all need those anchors.

Rebecca - October 3, 2014

Yes, they do!

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