Where are you laying?

Reed warbler feeding cuckoo | Wikipedia

Reed warbler feeding cuckoo | Wikipedia

Confession: this is not an entirely ‘empopo’ poem, nor is it ornithologically accurate. I’ve played with the blackbird’s evolution giving it the gift of identifying a cuckoo’s egg for a start. And the poem needs some branches of context to rest in… Still with me? Good. Because I learned two vital lessons from the cuckoo.

Are you sitting more comfortably than the cuckoo chick in the picture? Then I’ll begin…

Well, I was hanging on to my consultancy career, and the largest and in many ways most rewarding of clients, at the expense of my own creative children. How many other creatives will find this a familiar scenario?

Sometimes we will do anything not to fly. We will even put ourselves in positions which then mean we have to betray another in order to be faithful to ourselves: we must be faithless.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer, in one of my favourite poems of all times (‘The Invitation’), says ‘It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself… if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.’ Of the final sentence she writes, ‘As the original version of ‘The Invitation’ was copied and shared by people all over the world, the most frequent change made to it was to substitute the word faithful for the word faithless… People didn’t like it. It made them uncomfortable.’

Are you ready to be uncomfortable?

In 2018, I jumped into a contract which would have rewound me thirty-years in terms of remit and pressure. I felt as if I had allowed a monster to lay an egg in my nest, but in reality, it was I who was laying my eggs in a nest which was no longer really mine.

I reneged on the deal at the worst time possible for the client. If I’d been radically honest, I might have heard a whisper of doubt before I accepted, and the cries of my creative children as I said ‘I’ll put my life on hold for the next 18 months.’ Listen to that: ‘I’ll put my life on hold.’ This is a terrible phrase because it is a lie. Love never asks for us to put our life on hold. Review, put aside the bulk of our activities, love like never before, but don’t for a moment succumb to putting your life on hold. This is to deny life itself. It’s almost as deadening as the phrase, ‘I have no choice.’

So here’s the poem about homecoming, after I’d broken the news and broken the contract. I arrived at the farm to hear the mournful refrain of a cuckoo, taunting me long into the night. I bought into the European superstition and feared it was a bad omen.

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American cuckoos lay their eggs in their own nest
and they’re considered omens of good luck and not a pest!
— Feathered Fact, Ted Andrews Animal Speak

Eventually I asked my friend Ted (Andrews) what it might be telling me and stumbled upon an amazing reversal of fortune, although it meant travelling (metaphorically) across the pond. It is so easy to believe that what happens in one place will be true in another….

And there are times when the most courageous thing to do is to be faithLESS in order to be faithFULL.

P.S. Like the seasons, these lessons may come around again and again. And sometimes we are the warbler attempting to feed cuckoos who demand time and energies which are not for us to supply. This is nature but we are endowed with the gift of consciousness - we get to choose whether to exhaust ourselves or lay new eggs in a better protected nest.

As always there are unseen gifts ‘waiting in the wings’, and talking of gifts

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