When birds start falling out of the sky

August 5, 2015


One of the really common conversations I have on my travels working shamanically is with people who are unhappy in their work.

I am not sure whether people are drawn to talk to me about this because I have for so many years felt the same, or whether it’s just something that loads of people are feeling.

In my life it’s not that I haven’t enjoyed the content of my work as a sustainability professional – I love designing and delivering training, providing advice to organisations on how to create an environmental improvement programme, and working with people on a one-to-one basis. In doing this work I am helping people become aware that their actions are having any kind of impact at all – I call it ‘becoming Earth aware’.

But if I am to be completely honest, it has been actually working in corporations that I have really struggled with, and I have worked in some very big and diverse businesses so have given it a good go. I still haven’t quite put my finger on why, other than that there is a huge culture clash between their ethics and mine. A corporation’s model, right at its core, is to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible, which ultimately means that people get caught in the cold harsh  reality of the commercial world. My model is very very different, and I basically just didn’t fit in, as hard as I tried.

So, for many years, and those people who are close to me or come to our drumming circles will know, I have been working on finding a way out. It has not been easy by any stretch. I could have made it easy on myself I guess by walking away and saying I would never go back – I call that ‘the Elastoplast Method’. But I am risk averse, and I found there were all kinds of things playing around in my mind which made me feel I needed to stay in the game. Money was the big one, but there were many others as well, after all this is a sector which has sustained me for fifteen years. This is my career, and I have worked so hard to get to where I am.

So, what was it that eventually pushed me away last month? This I find remarkable…

… a bird fell out of the sky.

I was driving to a business development meeting when a female blackbird hit my windscreen and fell to the edge of the road. On my way back I stopped to pick her up and she is now buried in my garden. I put it to the back of my mind as ‘one of those things’, but it just didn’t feel right. I was on my way to green another organisation, which was a good thing right? Yet I had killed a bird on my journey there. Ignoring the signs and the uncomfortable feeling in my body I carried on as normal, wrote the proposal for my potential new client and went on with life, experiencing the same knocks, the same highs, daily, and just thinking this is how it just needs to be.

Screenshot 2015-08-05 15.05.55

Then… just a few weeks later I picked up and read Snowy Tower by Martin Shaw. It’s the great Welsh myth of Parzival, and early in the story Parzival’s mother hides her son in the forest to protect him from the same fate his father met, fighting in battle. As Parzival grows into a young man, upon a chance meeting with three knights from King Arthur’s Round Table, he starts to get the urge to become a knight himself, as his father was. His mother in her anguish instructs her woodsmen to strangle the birds in the trees and they fall to the floor.

It was this story, this analogy, and the bird falling out of the sky on my path when I thought I was doing the right thing, which was the tipping point. Over the next week other things happened. Blackbird visited our bird table for the first time, and then came back again and again. Twice I pulled the Blackbird card out of my Pagan Animal Spirit Guide deck, which has the message of going from the Outer to the Inner. Finally, I told my first story ‘Finding Your Battle Cry’ over and over again and it all became too much. I realized it was time to step out, turn my back on the corporations once and for all and walk out into the unknown.

So here I am, just a few weeks in, and so many doors have opened here with The Way of the Buzzard, all of which I couldn’t be in the right space to do if I was still in the corporate world. Things that make my heart sing. The synchronicities of things that are happening are extraordinary – I could go on for hours.

I find so often that I need to firmly close one door so I am not tempted to walk back through it, and once I do the universe gives me so much in return.

Nervous – yes. Excited – yes. Relieved – yes.

I feel like I am finally on life’s adventure, and that road in front of me where I can’t see what is ahead anymore – that road I was once so afraid of – I am finding that a truly exhilarating and am bouncing off the walls. How indeed the universe works in mysterious ways…

About the Author


Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer living in Anglezarke on the edge of the West Pennine Moors in Lancashire, England.
Following a career in corporate sustainability, she now runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason. Her passion is anything connected to nature and the mysteries of the Earth.

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  1. Good story…
    Funny I have been trying to understand the encounters I get with this beautiful black bird who seems to be trying to tell me something….
    Here I am he says…. Listen, Listen Listen…

  2. Thank you Nicola your blog and insights into blackbird have helped me interpret my journey tonight.
    I'm excited moving forwards and can close the door on the last 10yrs and won't be tempted to walk back through it.
    Thank you

  3. It's interesting isn't it, the signs we get from animals in nature. Whether we listen to their messages, is another thing altogether. You say Nicola, that we should try to stop and listen to the message that animals bring us when they visit us. We can stop and make time to listen to their message. But what if like your blackbird that dropped onto your windscreen, we are just visited for a second or two by an animal and they're gone again within seconds, we don't really have the time to listen to any message, if they are trying to communicate one to us. What message can we take from animals who briefly visit us and take off again?

    I am all for being aware of animals that come to us or signs in nature, and I do think they can be there to pass on a message to us and I'm open to that. The reason why I ask is because I was sitting in a grove of trees recently, which I think has spiritual significance and closed my eyes to meditate for a few minutes. The next thing, I got the feeling that a leaf from the tree I was leaning against, had fallen on my chest. When I opened my eyes, I saw that it wasn't a leaf, but an unusual-coloured dark grey butterfly that had landed on my chest.It stayed only for about 3 seconds and it was off again. I felt blessed to have been visited by it, even though it didn't stay long enough I feel, to pass on a message. I had to google what the significance of butterflies landing on me meant spiritually, as I didn't feel it stayed long enough to pass on a message. So I had to search myself for a message and I see online that butterflies are attracted to people with a high vibration and that it can mean that the person is starting a spiritual transformation, amongst other things. I guess we have to take our own interpretation from these visits, whether they decide to stop and visit us for a few minutes or just a few seconds. Sometimes, like you Nicola, I guess, it can take a while for the message to get through to us as well, when we really think about it. Also, like you said, if you get repeated visits from the same animal, then that's definitely a sign that there's a message being conveyed and it's up to us to try to figure it out.

    1. Hi Martina. Thanks for your note here. We only need to have an animal encounter for a flash of a moment. The encounter itself is the message. What I mean by that is that we don’t ‘hear the message’ from the animal in that moment. We take note of the animal encounter and then go away and research what its energy and message might be, like you did when googling Butterfly after one landed on you.

      Certainly one of the messages of Butterfly is transformation. They undergo an incredible transformation in their life.

      We recommend as well as Google to consider going on a shamanjc journey to Butterfly to ask what its message is for you. If you don’t know how to go on a shamanic journey, we have a free course on our website you might enjoy and find helpful.

      I only had a fleeting encounter with hat Blackbird that hit my windscreen. It took me a couple of weeks to figure out the message and it changed my life.

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