Red bird, red bird, what do you see?
Whiteout winter world
Where powdered pine boughs bend
Resplendent, with tiny, twinkling flakes,
Red flier, turns his tail to winter wind.
Aloft, lined up on grey roof shingles, he holds–
Aileron at ready.
in sudden, shining, sunlit sparkles, his true configuration comes confirmed.
Not flier there, lined up to wait,
but bright red leaf–iced and parked, in tie-down on the shingles.
It was all over the internet recently, and as neuroscientists tried to solve the puzzle it posed, they abandoned the work that had brought them together at a large convention to debate it–The Dress: Was it blue or white? Was its trim black or gold? Or, perhaps some other color, entirely? It was impossible to find consensus. Each person who saw it, saw it differently. Like the picture book by Bill Martin Jr., quoted in my title, what we see is influenced by more than our rods and cones. What we see is shaped by what we know, or what we have experienced, or even by our attitudes and assumptions. Often, what we see is what we’re looking for–like the cardinal I was certain had alighted on my neighbor’s roof at the end of a daylong snow storm! I needed to know that wild creatures had survived such bitter cold weather, and so I saw a sign–the cardinal on the roof. So if it’s true that we see what we want to find, how might we train ourselves–and our eyes, both inner and outer–to see not the darkness and turmoil that abound, but the true light that is surrounding us and all of this world? I suggest that it is the heart that is the key to this kind of seeing. When we can go beyond the physical–beyond seeing with our eyes–to seeing from our emotional center, possibilities open. This kind of vision allows an imaginative response to events, or to people, or to information, that may precede their transformation. Thus a painful story becomes a vehicle for healing. A tragic loss may open way for a larger gift. A person from another culture may help us to re-think our own. The transformation that occurred when I looked at that simple, red leaf and it became–in my eyes–the sole avian survivor of snow-pocalypse offered me laughter and hope, especially once I realized the true nature of my vision. Since then, I have become more conscious of the necessity of seeing the world imaginatively. It is imagination that may open way for growth and change. And while it takes work to do this, I believe it is work worth doing. Imaginatively transforming darkness with light is essential to seeing the sacred nature of all of life and is, most certainly, the work of the heart.