Luck – A Bird’s Eye View

by Jessica Lourey

Something bizarre happened to me recently. It was so strange that I haven’t been able to fully process it even 24 hours later. It involved an impossible feat of physics, coincidence, and a brutal exercise in perspective. See this picture of my car’s grill, noting the 2″ x 4″ openings in it? Hang onto that image because it is pivotal to this story.

But first, I need to tell you that it’s been a difficult few weeks. The end of March, my sister announced that she and her partner of 17+ years are divorcing. He’s a good guy. We love him, and of course we love her. My nieces are grown, but this still affects them. These sorts of lifequakes stir up unresolved family issues and arguments, too, at least they do in mine.

On top of that, my writing retreat business folded before it even got started. After five months of working like mad dogs with only a handful of sign-ups, in early April my partner Allison and I decided this is not the business for us. It was good to step away, but the whole experience is failure-scented.

Finally, my first and probably only nonfiction book releases in two short weeks. In it, I step out from behind the cloak of fiction to share how I turn my life into stories. I LIKE THE CLOAK OF FICTION. That’s why I write novels and not memoirs, for the love of Pete. But the fact-to-fiction process has been so transformative for me, so healing and so much the seeds of great writing, that I can’t keep it to myself. Sharing it is the right thing to do, just like TEDx Talk was the right thing to do, but I’ve still felt like a naked freeway turtle for weeks now, that sensation growing stronger as my May 1 release date approaches.

So yeah. I’ve been on edge lately, pessimistic, overwhelmed, looking forward to something just around the corner that’ll make me happy, promising myself life’ll get better soon. (That’s what’s referred to as Minnesota optimism. You can put up with really cold winters if you spend your time thinking about summer.)

That’s a recap of my recent life up until yesterday, which is where the weirdness begins. I was traveling the 3.5 hours south from my in-laws to my parents. I was driving fast, but not too fast. My mind wandered as I drove. I unraveled the guilt I felt for not spending the previous day with my kids, with Z only home from college for three days and X stressed from all the family changes. I worked through plot holes in Mercy’s Chase, the next thriller in my Witch Hunt series. I daydreamed about the honeymoon Tony and I would finally take when we saved enough money and carved out enough time.

I was mostly feeling relaxed when I crested that hill and discovered…a flock of pheasants sitting on the road, in my path. I gasped. A car was coming toward me and the ditch to my right was steep. I had to stay in my lane.  I slammed on my brakes, but it was too late.

THUNK.

Wikimedia Commons open source

Have you ever hit an animal with your car? It’s one of the top five worst sounds in the world. It’s visceral. It’s hollow and solid and feathers and bone. It’s pain and you created it. I sucked in my breath and my eyes shot to my rearview mirror. I grew up in the country and knew the rules: you didn’t leave an animal to suffer. Please be dead please be dead please be dead. Except…I didn’t see a carcass in the rearview mirror. My stomach dropped. The pheasant must be hung up somewhere on my vehicle. I drove a few hundred feet and parked on the shoulder, scanning the ditch for sticks. I was almost in tears because if I had to remove that poor creature from my car and then put it out of its misery with my bare hands…well, I couldn’t think about that.

And for one sweet minute, I didn’t have to. When I stepped out of my car and walked on trembly legs around to the front, I saw no bird. No feathers. No sign of an accident. I dropped to all fours. The pheasant wasn’t under my car, either. I stood, glancing all around. I felt a little dizzy. No way way had I imagined this. I leaned against my car to catch my balance.

That’s when the flapping began. The pheasant was trapped behind my grill.

Like some rural David Copperfield, that bird had squeezed his chicken-sized body through one of my grill’s 4″ x 2″ openings while the car was traveling at 60 mph. Not possible. (Let me share the photo again here so you can see how impossible this was.) There was no way a pheasant was trapped inside of my car looking at me through my grill like my own personal zoo creature. Except that it *was happening*. I popped my hood, felt the seams along every inch of that grill, scoured the tire wheels and underbody, looked for any other possible explanation, but there wasn’t one. The speed and angle must have been freakishly perfect.

Here’s something they don’t cover in driver’s ed: what do you do when you find yourself on a lonely country road with a huge wild bird magically trapped in an inaccessible part of your vehicle? You get in the car and start driving, that’s what. And then you call your husband who is 40 miles behind and to the east of you and has no suggestions off the top of his head but to be fair this was new territory for both of us. We agreed to meet 25 miles south where his road and mine converged. It seemed like a solid plan until I’d driven all of two miles and started crying. That poor bird. It must be terrified. I couldn’t drive slower because then he’d be there longer, but I couldn’t drive faster because the radiator would heat up faster. I was torturing this creature.

When I smelled burning feathers, I thought, *That is the unluckiest bird in the world. *

I couldn’t keep driving for another 23 miles, not with that poor animal suffering. There was a closer town straight east. Going there meant I’d miss Easter dinner for sure, but I couldn’t keep this up. Ten minutes later, I found myself pulling into a gas station, wondering if I should park with my pheasant facing or away from the store. I decided on facing. He flapped when I walked by.

Inside the gas station, I spotted a couple farmers talking. “Hey,” I said, “I’ve got an odd situation and I’m hoping you can help?”

They gamely followed me outside, and in true Midwestern fashion, did not lose one ounce of their cool. “Well I’ll be damned. That’s a full-grown rooster you’ve got in there.” They chuckled. They told me maybe I’d have pheasant for dinner. They looked every which on my car and came to the same conclusion as me: the only way in was through the grill, and the only way out was by dismantling the front bumper. I didn’t have the tools. They didn’t either. They pointed me toward the police department. The situation could’ve only grown more surreal if one of them took to the air himself.

At the police station, Officer Jeff didn’t bat an eye when I told him I had something weird to show him–you guys, you really do need to visit Minnesota–and as soon as he laid eyes on the pheasant, he jogged back inside to grab a pair of gloves, some tools, and spent the next 20 minutes wordlessly removing my bumper. The longest sentence he strung together came after I asked him what we’d do when we got that poor bird out. I was not looking forward to seeing the shape he’s in. He was surely broken every which way but Wednesday.

I wanted the officer to tell me that he’d take care of the bird. Instead he said, “Hopefully, it’ll fly away.”

Officer Jeff, for all of his quiet capability, was clearly a dreamer.

The top seal of the bumper was finally off. Jeff directed me to pull the lip of it forward and down, keeping out of sight because if that pheasant had one ounce of sanity left, he was going to hide from humans. I was still 99% sure that bird was never coming out and that I’d have to sell my car when a big pile of pheasant poop dropped near my feet, I heard a glorious mad fluttering, and that bird took off. Like, IT FLEW, low and wide, that graceful path that only a male pheasant can fly, most of his gorgeous tail feathers still intact. He disappeared over a hill into the nearby woods. I let the bumper slam back, ignoring the deep indents its left in my fingers. Jeff and I were standing side by side, watching the pheasant fly.

“It’s an Easter miracle,” I finally said. We both laughed.

He reassembled my bumper. Just another day at work for him. I thanked him profusely. Tony pulled up four minutes later and hugged me. There were a couple of those soft poofy underfeathers up by my engine, but no other evidence. We slid into our cars and drpve to my mom and dad’s, where everyone had waited to eat until we arrived. The food was cold, the company good, and I couldn’t stop thinking about that bird. He’d survived a collision with a car at 60 mph, had broken no bones as he slid through the tiniest of holes, and avoided being cooked alive on the radiator as we’d driven another 13 miles.

He was the luckiest bird in the world.

I’d thought the exact opposite when I’d hit him. I know life is about perspective, but it’s a hard truth to remember. Thanks to the pheasant, though, there was no missing it yesterday, and I began to realign my own perspectives accordingly. My family shake-up sucks right now. It really does, but it’s an opportunity for my family to clean out some calcified garbage. I lost $5000 and hundreds of hours trying to start that retreat business, but in the process, I remembered that I’m on this earth to be writing, not travel-agenting and marketing. More importantly? I realized that I’ve been living my life in the future for years now, waiting for the money and the time to finally enjoy myself. The time is now, always, and it was worth $5000 and hundreds of hours to learn that (I hope it’s cheaper next time I have to re-learn that, which’ll probably be in a few weeks). Also, thanks to that damn pheasant, I booked two trips yesterday, one of them my honeymoon, a year after my wedding. Yay! And finally, my book, Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction, my super-personal how-to guide that comes out May 1? Well, as my friend Aimee wisely said, for good or bad it’s no longer my book. It now belongs to whoever reads it. I hope it brings them what they’re looking for.

I’m smiling as I type this. I’m the luckiest bird in the world.


Jessica Lourey is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries. Her latest book, Salem’s Cipher, earned starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist. She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology and a sought after workshop leader and keynote speaker. Visit her at http://www.jessicalourey.com.

New Planets and Old Lore

By Ivo Dominguez, Jr.

I have a new book out called Practical Astrology for Witches and Pagans, and in the last few days I have received many questions and comments at workshops and in emails on the discovery of a new planet in our solar system. Some have asked about the meaning of the new planet. Others have implied or directly stated that every new astronomical discovery overturns Astrology’s claim to wisdom. Here is an answer to these and many other similar questions. Astrology is a sacred science and there is no quick answer to the meaning of another Planet in its canon. Please note that I am capitalizing Planet to distinguish it from its usage as planet in Astronomy. This is not the first time that Astrology has added a new Planet or Asteroid into its system. The process of this addition is slow and messy, much as it is in any science sacred or mundane.

New Planets and Old Lore
© Panpipe

Once we actually know that there truly is a new Planet, so far it is just a mathematical conjecture, then the work can begin. When we know its current position, and the speed and shape of its orbit, Astrologers will begin to add the new Planet into the charts of people whose life histories are well known. By looking at many charts and at crucial periods in their lives we may begin to see clues as to the meaning of the new Planet. Astrologers who are of a more mystical bent may meditate, ask the spirits, commune with their Higher Self, etc. to gain some insight. This insight will then be tested and challenged by a very large community of practitioners. Some Astrologers will try to deduce the qualities by looking at its location in the various theoretical schemes of Astrology. In some regards this is like adding a new element to the periodic table, and some educated guesses can be made.

Here’s two examples of extrapolating upon what is known. We know that the new Planet’s orbit is very far from the Sun and takes somewhere between 10,000 – 20,000 years to complete one cycle. The established pattern in Astrology is that the closer to the Sun and the faster the orbit, the more the Planet is associated with individuals, inherent qualities, and quickly changing events. The farther out and the slower the orbit, the more that it relates to ever-expanding settings such as families, societies, cultures, and so on. Of course large patterns like societies and cultures affect individuals’ lives, but as external events that are internalized. So the new Planet is a probably a marker for very large and very slow cycles. When the new Planet is officially observed, not just calculated, many Astrologer’s will run a chart for that moment of discovery for clues about the qualities of the new Planet. Another chart will be created when it is officially named as well. My pick for a name is Xibalba.

When will we know what this new Planet means and how and where it fits into Astrology? This could take a few decades or even a century or so to achieve general agreement in the field of Astrology. There will be a plethora  of papers, talks given at national and international conferences, numerous debates, predictions will be made and tested as we know more. Finally, we’ll reach a tipping point when more and more Astrologers use the new Planet in the charts they construct and there will be enough data and real life experience to add it to the accepted lore.

For Astrologers, new discoveries in Astronomy are welcome opportunities to expand a system of sacred science that has been evolving and changing for thousands of years.


Ivo Domínguez, Jr. has been active in the Wiccan and the pagan community since 1978 and has been teaching since 1982. He was a founding member, and past High Priest, of Keepers of the Holly Chalice, the first coven of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel a Wiccan Tradition. Ivo is also one of the organizers for the New Alexandrian Library. You can find him at http://www.ivodominguezjr.com.

Ivo’s books

Practical Astrology for Witches and Pagans | Casting Sacred Space