Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Unexplainable Things Have a Purpose

“If the wonder’s gone when the truth is known
there never really was any wonder.”
~ from the television show House

Unexplainable things have a purpose. It’s something I believe. It’s not the same thing as “everything happens for a reason” because I don’t believe that is true. That’s insinuating that something somewhere is orchestrating the event. In the natural world, things just are and what matters is how we take them. I believe that sometimes the purpose of unexplainable things is just to exist and/or happen, in order to serve as a moment against which we respond and reveal how we react to things unknown. They can be teachable moments, reflecting our vulnerabilities and levels of openness. We cannot control what happens to us all the time. The only control we have is how we respond to it.

Some people think of death as the ultimate unexplainable thing. We try to make sense of it in order to find some solid ground to stand on when we face it but we also meet the stories of those who have come back from death with disbelief and skepticism. We want to know but we want to know and have difficulty accepting an outside voice as truth, assuring that we can never truly have an answer.

Unexplainable things happen but even calling them that is a misnomer. It’s not that they can’t be explained. It’s more that we lack the understanding or language to put the experience into words that make sense. Maybe because we try to put into words something our intuitive bodies just know. We have multiple senses and each of these have their own language and way of responding to and translating the world around us. We spend so much time trying to figure out if what happened to us could have happened to us, we lose sight of the fact that the experience happened at all. Some of these teachable moments are not as grandiose as death. They can be small events that evoke a larger change within us.

In the summer of ’97 on a Smoky Mountain peak, I wandered away from my house at dusk, away from the chaos of all the people and towards the small creek that ran along the property. I was having one of those nights of feeling like there was no place to be alone in a house that 21 people lived in and I was looking for a little inner quiet. I must have sat on the bank of the creek, listening to the gurgling, rippling and singing of the water off the stones for an hour, unmoving, just being.

I almost didn’t notice the shadow fly over me and by the time I reacted the creature was sitting on a low branch above the creek five feet away. It was the first memory I have of seeing an owl in the wild. It was by the far the largest bird I have ever seen in nature. She was all white, with bits of grey tufted here and there. She wasn’t moving and her eyes took me in. They were large and round and the color of dandelions. She might have had horns, and in some recollections earlier on I was more sure- before my brain started telling me what could or couldn’t be possible.

I held my breath as the owl turned its head around. For the moment that we sat there, the smell of the air seemed to shift, filling with a muskier scent of moldy earth and grated wood bark. I exhaled and the owl spread its wings out and flew silently, not even a whisper, back out over my head and I fell, watching it glide overhead, in fearful intimidation. I remember her wing span was almost as wide as I am tall. In that moment, I felt like I had glimpsed an unaltered state of the natural world. It woke something in me and my eyes were open, seeing the wild in tandem with the modern. For years I studied every kind of owl looking for the scientific name of the one I saw. None fit the initial description of what I saw.

One day I asked myself, if someone told me that the owl I saw was impossible in nature, would I disbelieve the experience? The answer was no. Even though I couldn’t find the correct scientific answer, my nose remembered its smell. My skin remembered the rush and blur of air as the owl swooped in. My eyes remember with artistic grandeur the unfurling of those wings. And my ears recall the kind of silence that accompanies the presence of a predator in nature. I chose to embrace the truth that my interaction with this magnificent creature woke a connection in me and served as the catalyst for the spiritual path I have taken. Knowing the facts and the science about that moment would not diminish the wonder and magic of the experience.

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.
It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art
and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder,
no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-Albert Einstein


  1. Thank you. I needed to read this right at this moment. xoxo

  2. It makes me happy to hear that, Elizabeth. Thank you, right back at you ;-)

  3. You've told me about this before, but reading it here makes it so much more powerful. I loved reading about this. I had a similar experience in Alaska-- not so much with a particular animal, but being there and experiencing the Earth as I did there, completely changed the way I live and see the world.


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