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I totally believe in signs.

Signs in all forms, shapes, and sizes; numbers, animals, dreams, odd coincidences, reoccurring experiences, synchronicities, finding and losing things, recurring song lyrics, new words, and chance meetings, to name a few.

Signs make sense to me because I believe in connection. I believe we are not isolated beings, but rather parts of a greater whole. With that, I believe we are connected in a multitude of ways, both imaginable and unimaginable. Signs are the ways those unimageable connections become real to us. Signs teach us, and help us move forward.

For years I prayed one of Anne Lamott’s three essential prayers, Help! in hopes of receiving some type of sign, or some type of concrete response and direction to whatever immediate circumstance I found myself stuck in. Getting a sign would be a fast and easy way for me to move forward.

But nothing like that ever happened. No concrete sign directing my way ever showed up. What I got instead were ”crumbs”, otherwise known as directions, hints, and nudges for me to follow on my own. Helpful, but not the answer I imaged a sign would provide.

I was ok with this, grateful for the crumbs, yet remaining hopeful that someday I might actually receive a sign.

Last week, for no apparent reason (you know where this is going) yet to my sheer delight, I heard a lesser known Jimmy Buffet song, Growing Older But Not Up, on three different occasions. This song has a great line in the chorus that I had all but forgotten:

Let those winds of time blow over my head I'd rather die while I'm livin' than live while I'm dead

Yes, indeed Jimmy! Far better to die while living.

Then I got back to life.

Later that week, while hiking in a section of the Roosevelt National Forest Comanche Peak Wilderness Area, I came across a burn scar created by the 2020 Cameron Peak Fire. The air was eerily quiet, the only sound was the creaking of dead trees. I took this picture.

As I stood in the burn scar, which still smelled of smoke, I marveled at the strength of Mother Nature. The canopy was dead and gone, but the carpet was returning to life. I wondered if, in my lifetime, I would live long enough to see this section of the forest restored to its previous grandeur. I was thinking I should revisit this exact spot every year and take a picture to document the growth and recovery.

And then I heard it. As I stared at the dead trees, as loud and clear as it could be, the lyrics to the Buffett song looped in my head:

Let those winds of time blow over my head I'd rather die while I'm livin' than live while I'm dead

It took me a minute to realize what was happening. Creation, at least for me, does not always make things as obvious. But thankfully, this time it could not have been any clearer. The song in my head and the burned forest before me added up to being a sign. Yes, a sign; finally, a sign.

Before this moment, I had always thought of signs as a way of validating a direction or a decision I was facing. I was looking for Creation to weigh in and direct me. But standing in the burn scar, it was clear that signs were all about being connected and being in conversation with my surroundings in order to really see what I was experiencing.

Signs for me, it turns out, are all about the subtle act of noticing, of really seeing.

It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.

—Henry David Thoreau

In that moment, it made total sense. Creation, I see the sign and I understand its subtle message you are sending me.

I will return to this exact spot every year and take a picture to document the growth and recovery of not only the forest, but of me too. I will stop putting life off for another day, or until a more convenient time. I will get busy living. I will focus on and prioritize life experiences to help me grow.

I'd rather die while I'm livin' than live while I'm dead

And to make sure I do, I will return to this very spot and compare my growth with that of the forest. We are both a work in progress.

Maybe I’ll start with learning to fly fish …


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