Listening to Eloise
by Ferida Wolff
Eloise, my pet cockatiel, laid an egg today. She laid it on the metal grid that separates the upper cage from the removable plastic bottom. There was no nesting box, no feathery down to cushion its arrival. It was a no-frills birth. When she was finished, Eloise left the perfect white egg and climbed out the door and up the bars to the top of the cage. Then she looked at it curiously from her new perspective as if to ask, What is that? Did I create it? Her ruffled feathers betrayed her bewildered state.
I laughed at her bewilderment because I knew exactly what she was feeling. When I send a book off to my publisher, I become detached from it. The effort that brought it to completion is remembered in a disconnected way, a momentary burden left behind. It comes back bound and beautiful. I stare at it, like Eloise stared at her egg. Did I create that? I wonder.
My grown children visit me, bringing their new poise and confidence. They share the lives they are fashioning for themselves out of the childhood rules, bedtime stories, genetic inheritance, Thanksgiving dinners, friendships old and new. It is hard not to stare in amazement at these glorious creations. Where did they come from, anyway?
This process of creation amazes me. Oh, I understand how babies, human and otherwise, are made. I give talks on how books are born, even how to get the ideas that spark the books. It is the notion of birthing something that is so fascinating. First, there is nothing, then this new something. What is the magic that turns something that isn’t into something that is?
No doubt it was instinct that made Eloise present the egg to the world. But perhaps it was something more, a response to an inner listening. A book comes into being because an idea takes life in my mind and in my heart; I have to acknowledge it in some way. There is a dynamic interplay between the listening and the response.
Eloise had listened and responded. I praised her for the lovely egg she produced. She looked at me, lulled by the soothing tone of my voice, and moved closer. Had I been her mother, I would have spread my wing around her in a birdy hug. I settled for nuzzling my face against her tiny chest. She still had that wild look but she leaned forward a little and pressed into me. We stayed that way for longer than she had ever allowed me to touch her. Maybe she sensed our bond of motherhood. Or intuitively recognized that it was all I could offer her because I didn’t have the answer either.
For me, there was comfort in realizing that the two of us are part of the same larger picture. That every creature has access to an inner knowledge that embraces us all.
Ferida Wolff has been exploring the terrain of the self for over thirty years. She has an MS in Education and holds a certificate in Holistic Studies. As a teacher of Hatha Yoga, she helped her students focus on and listen to their inner messages. She practices Qi Gong and Tai Chi and tends to look at the world from a variety of perspectives. She loves to travel and often brings the energy of the places she visits back into her writing. When in her early fifties, she discovered her inner "Swamp Woman" and has been enjoying the assertiveness of her midlife alter-ego. Her children were both recently married and she finds the role of mother-in-law fun. She is the author of 16 books for children as well as the adult book The Adventures of Swamp Woman: Menopause Essays on the Edge. She can be reached at email@example.com or through her website www.feridawolff.com.