My very favorite bird on the Florida coast is the Black Skimmer. They are strikingly black on top, white on the bottom, and have a large wingspan and a very large orange and black beak that looks too heavy for its head to even hold up. The bottom beak is longer and bigger than its top beak, making them look like they have a large underbite. To eat, the skimmer flies along the edge of the ocean with its mouth open in the shallow water until it catches a fish and then clamps the top beak shut around it.
They drop into my line of vision often unexpectedly as I am walking on the edge of the waves, and zoom quickly on by, so I seem to be perpetually off guard watching them. They nest on these shores too, in May, and are fierce protectors of their babies. If I get too close to their nests as I walk by, suddenly I am in a scene reminiscent of the movie The Birds.
They are graceful feeders, soaring on the edge of the water, but so different from other shore birds who either dive for fish or dig in the sand with their beaks for food. Are they cheating? Is it easier or harder to get their food this way? It seems rather random. The skimmer opens his beak and puts the lower one in the water as he flies quickly along the surface, not able to see any fish at that speed, just trusting that one will hit his beak, cuing him to quickly shut his mouth and swallow the fish. They also often feed at night, since they don’t need their sight and there are more fish near the surface of the water then. For comparison, what would it be like if we were blindfolded and randomly walking through a forest of fruit trees hoping for some to drop in our mouth?
The skimmer feeds blindly and with complete trust. And here is the rub. The black skimmer is literally “skimming the surface” – a phrase that our culture uses to imply that we are only giving superficial attention to something. But looking at the black skimmer’s feeding habits, how could anything that we give our complete trust to, be just skimming the surface, or superficial?
Skimming the surface has so many connotations of not doing the hard work, not knowing, not learning what the whole story is, not diving deep for what might be hidden, only catching the surface bling. But how amazing would it be if we could skim the surface of our days, fully trusting our instincts around when to close our mouths around those morsels that will feed our hearts desire? And leave aside all the detritus that doesn’t feed us? Perhaps while skimming the surface for today’s fish, we catch the tastiest, best fish that we didn’t even know existed, and it satisfies our appetite, our heart’s desire, in a way we never imagined.
Deep intuitive trust is something we have largely lost in this culture. No longer does anyone use their taste to test whether they can eat the plants growing near them or listen to the plants to know which one will be able to heal a certain illness. We are not taught to listen to our bodies, to the feelings in our gut or heart for an expansive response of YES or the restrictive contraction of NO when considering whether to trust something or someone.
With generations of our ancestors having lost this wisdom, it is now rarely taught to our children. We go through life usually only able to rely on our minds and our facts, or even more often other people’s minds and facts, which while an incredibly important tool, often leaves us feeling woefully short of trust in our relationships. We trust people we shouldn’t, and we don’t trust people we should. We put ourselves in harm’s way far more than we need to, getting hurt and most importantly, we may not learn to value and trust ourselves.
Trust is like this: if I don’t listen to what is happening with and to myself, if I allow myself to not hear what I truly want, what truly makes me unhappy or happy, if I justify what I do as being ok when it really is not, then I essentially end up not trusting myself. And if I cannot trust myself to be honest with myself about what I truly want, then how can I know for sure when to trust anyone else either, including the Sacred Mother?
Tonight, I want to go out and skim for my dinner. With my eyes closed and beads in hand.