An aurora borealis charged the night sky with flashes of golden light. The lights exploded and imploded, and a dark bird formed at its heart. The small dark bird grew as it swooped towards me, expanding and flicking its pinions and for an instant hovered. Immobile and transfixed I gazed into the infinite. A great wind seemed to pass and then it was still.
I never told anyone about this experience. For all my life I have pondered this event, somehow unsure what spirit, if any, had visited that night. Years later, I looked closely at an icon painted by Robert Lentz. Lentz had taken up iconography and brought ancient symbols and images into the context of native life and contemporary culture. His icon of the Trinity for indigenous people depicted a wise old white-haired Father, a young and robust brave in native dress as the Son, and a dark umber falcon with gold tipped wings for the Holy Spirit. All my life I had thought that a white dove depicted the Holy Spirit. The falcon is a bird of great power that hunts with keen sight and unrelenting resolve. Lentz’s image opened the idea that the spirit that visited that night was not to be domesticated, but wild, seeking us out until we are caught in its talons and lifted up .It confirmed a childhood suspicion that the ground we walk on is holy ground and the spirit of the people whose bones lie buried here require attention and reverence.
Yet it could have been a white dove. As Jesus emerged from the water and looked into the sun, all he may have seen was her dark underbelly.
For me no voice from the sky accompanied the Golden flames of night to announce I was God’s beloved son. Phew! .
Still, I think, I’ve heard some whispers, and sometimes I pay attention.