Yesterday morning, I almost ran over a Giant Pheasant on the rural highway that takes me to work. I was in the 63 mile-per-hour zone (the state continues to refuse my reasonable written requests to formally change the signs from 55mph – geez), and as I rounded a corner by the Onion Flats, there stood the bird in my lane looking prehistoric and noble and also totally immobile.
Until that very moment, I didn’t realize that Giant Pheasants were a thing. But when I saw this
except this size,
I was pretty sure.
I mean, it wasn’t exactly those colors. More washed out and muted. But I would’ve gone pale, too, if I found myself on a highway with a bright blue Pontiac bearing down on me at 63 mph, so who am I to judge?
And also, it had tall, road-runnery legs.
And also a ridiculous, bobbing head piece that looked a lot like a peacock.
Oh my gosh! It was a peacock! Except not a peacock because it wasn’t blue and green and iridescent and shiny. It was a peahen. A weary, brown, matte, sleep-deprived peahen who, in her exhaustion, forgot to put on any make-up or change out of her ratty old pajamas and who was, by God and an epic effort of sheer feminine will, doing her very best to put one foot in front of the other and was about to be slammed anyway for not moving fast enough.
Or I might be projecting a tiny bit.
Sometimes, I forget that living in Oregon is different than living in Other Places.
I forget that you might not wave at llamas on your walk or veer sharply in your car to avoid a wayward, overwhelmed peahen.
I forget that there’s anything at all interesting about here. This place. This life.
I forget that there are beautiful, special, wonderful things.
I forget that not everyone spends their summer evenings gathered with neighbors to watch the local fire department conduct a controlled burn of the old house at the llama farm a stone’s throw from our back gate.
And that your kids might not come home two hours late smelling like soot and excitement because their daddy loved the fire too much to bring them to bed on time. And that the same kids may not tramp muddy bare footprints through the back door and the kitchen and down the hall and up the stairs to the laundry room because wearing shoes to a Burn is overrated.
Somehow, our special life slips over and over into the mundane, and I make the mistake of thinking it’s common.
Somehow, when I look at other lives online, their uniquenesses are so vivid and blue and green and iridescent and shiny and obvious – with their travel and accomplishments and fancy head plumes and long legs – that I allow their blinding brilliance to rob me of my story. I let the doubts sneak inside my soul, and I feel shabby and boring and like I’m standing still on the highway about to be run down.
A few nights ago, I had a conversation with a mom I like. She’s always funny and personable and witty. She loves to read and to talk, and I think she’d make a terrific writer. But she told me her life is too boring. “Not like yours,” she said, and that’s rattled and rolled like a loose marble in my head for days now because I’d love to hear her story. What is it like, I wonder, to live your whole life in one place? What is it like to have geographical roots? What is it like to take your child to see the places you saw through your own childhood eyes and to not have your past lost in murky moves that make it forever a fairy tale and also totally inaccessible? What does it feel like to live in your skin? Does it feel like it feels to live in mine? All strange and stretchy and too tight and familiar and lonely and joyful and broken and human and sometimes divine?
And so I write this as an encouragement to you – and a reminder to me – to tell our stories.
Tell stories. Tell stories. Tell stories.
Tell stories like Jesus who showed us how to Love and who our neighbors are.
Tell stories like Nora Ephron so we can watch Meg Ryan fake an orgasm in public and ask to have what she’s having.
Tell stories like my grandmother who was passive aggressive and funny and crazy and wrote poems about squirrels and named herself after me.
Tell stories because they knit us together and put us in each other’s skin.
Tell stories because they define us and root us to history.
Tell stories because they’re the best, clearest path to the truth.
And tell stories because there’s a peahen who’s stuck on a highway who needs to know she’s OK.
And if you have a favorite story that hits you in heart and ties you more firmly to the funny or the mundane or the magical or the meaningful – a story you’ve read or a story you’ve told or a story you’re going to write right now – hit me with a link below, because I want to read it very much.
P.S. I pilfered that pheasant image from Oak Ridge Pheasant Ranch. I image they know the difference between a pheasant and a peahen. Unless there are weary mamas who work there, too, in which case they might make an occasional but well-intentioned mistake, and I think we should all give them a freaking break and a big hug and a hearty, “Good job, mama!” because they probably really need a kind word when they screw up. OK? OK.