Driving from the library, I was forced to slow the car down very close to home. There was a dead possum in the middle of the road with a vulture looming over it and when I realized what all this was, I cried just a little – not because I was sad but because I was touched. Then I felt happy, and then I felt astonished.
The vulture moved to the side of the road to let me pass and I rolled my window down and said hello as I drove by him. In my rear view mirror I watched him walk back to his meal when all was in the clear.
Up until that point today hadn’t been the best day. A mysterious mood had hit me earlier and I’d planned on investigating it further when I saw the aforementioned sight. This sight was a sign, a message, and this is why I was moved and amazed.
I was moved and amazed because today marked the first day of the Cauac trecena – a thirteen-day period recognized as a time for cleansing, purification and rebirth – and the vulture was its loud and clear harbinger.
Now, I know my love affair with vultures is viewed as creepy, at best, mysterious, but I am indifferent to other people’s square ideas about how I am and what I love. Vutures are my favorite bird and I’m starting to think they’re my favorite creature of all time. This is because what I love about vultures is what I love about myself: we know how to use what others would rather avoid and deny.
Despite being viewed with disdain, vultures have a very important yet thankless job in nature. They keep our ecosystem clean and free of contagious diseases and they are able to parse value from what seems disgusting, transmuting these things into something nourishing and beneficial. I too have this ability. I know how to make use of the dregs of experience, extracting wisdom from pain and finding beauty in all manners of life’s ugliness.
Today I was in pain. But when I saw my vulture he reminded me that none of it was in vain – and that cleaning up my perspective could transform my despair into a wonderful gift.