I had picked up a friend from her sober living apartment. It was during the first few years of her recovery, and she was between one relapse and the next. Her latest fall off of the proverbial wagon had been a pretty rough one, and it had been some time since we’d been able to talk, so our conversation flowed like a litany of sorrows. She shared stories of withdrawal; memories of hospital beds and suicidal ideations.
I remember puzzling over that word. Why don’t we ever have happy ideations or life-giving ideations? Nobody ever has creative ideations. It’s a word reserved for suicidal thoughts and paranoia. “Tough shit for that word,” I thought to myself.
And then came the feathers.
We were driving through downtown L.A. on the 110 heading south when we began to notice small white feathers floating outside the windows of the car. At first there were just a few, but then more and more until we were literally surrounded by a cloud of feathers. We made some snarky L.A. comments about their origin — “Someone must have down-feather air bags,” or “must be a drive by pillow fight” — but thankfully, gracefully, the cloud of feathers lasted longer than our wit.
The traffic came to a crawl and we gazed up at the towers of downtown through a cloud of white feathers. It was magical. We slowly rolled along the freeway through the heart of one of the world’s largest cities like wide-eyed toddlers in a room of shiny new things. We found ourselves transfixed in awe, suddenly experiencing a silent lightness in the heart of that hard place.
It happened for no reason. I don’t think it meant anything.
This wasn’t a break with the natural order of things. There was no molting angel perched on an overpass raining heavenly feathers down on the traffic below. Something fell off of a truck and got run over. That’s the truth, that’s it. But, the result was a cloud of feathers in downtown L.A., the City of Angels. That’s also true. And this was a moment of grace.
Suddenly the slowed traffic felt like a dream. Suddenly the world seemed a softer place. Suddenly the hard reality of our ordinary lives had taken a magical turn. I just remember finding myself mesmerized and frozen like a figure in a snow globe.
They say we humans fell from grace, but I’m not sure that’s possible. We fall off the wagon, sure. We get run over, yes. We certainly feel the heaviness of this life from time to time. But, let us never fail to find the magic in the midst of it all, to find the feathers in this fight. We can never fall far enough, or hard enough, or often enough to escape the good and everlasting grace of God. Things are sometimes hard and heavy — even angels fall from grace — but we must not have fallen far, because there is lightness too, and sometimes even magic.