It’s a drizzly day in Hebron, Ohio, and I’m sitting in Clay’s Café, idly munching on a fresh, homemade potato chip and staring out the window. A hint of red catches my eye in the deep, black mulch of the flower bed outside. It’s a robin.
She – and it is a female, the orange tint of her breast not nearly so vivid as her male counterparts – is intent on rooting through the mulch. She sends a clump to the right with an emphatic flick of her beak, then to the left, and stabs at a wispy hint of dried grass. She carries that for a while until she happens upon a huge strand of papery dead grass – well, huge to her, no doubt. Grabbing at the prize, she struggles to keep the smaller piece, though it proves too much for her. She moves on to find other treasures.
I recognize what she’s doing. She’s building a nest. She’s checking out all the possible building materials, looking for the perfect addition that will create a home for this year’s multiple broods of youngsters. And she’s here today in the freshly mulched beds outside my window seat at Clay’s to serve as a Quantum Flirt* for me.
We’re not much different from that Robin, Charlie and I, except that our nest building isn’t for brooding anything but a place to live, and year-round at that. We share the same need to root through the mulch, to eyeball and pick up what catches our fancy, dropping what turns out to be too much and settling for what suffices. It’s just that our mulch consists of the aisles of stores, our eyes hijacked by appliances, carpets, cabinets – the sad equivalent of a Robin’s bits and pieces of dried grass, which are every bit as valuable to her.
Because, you see, that Robin knows what’s essential and what makes for good nest building. She also knows when to say, “Whoa, that’s just a little too ambitious for me. These smaller dried strips of grass will do quite nicely, thanks.”
She’s not assailed by the savvy marketing ploys of dried grass dealers, or the reputations of different flower bed stores, or a need to secure the most popular dried grass, or even a concern for proving she’s made it in the Robin world by the size of her nest and the high-end materials that grace it, inside or out. She’s not one for consulting Consumer Reports to discover the highest-rated blade of dead grass.
I realize as I finish my lunch that I envy that Robin her ability to know when enough is enough and to then create the perfect nest without sweating the details or caving to society’s norms or winnowing down the myriad choices of her flower bed stores.
I am thoroughly grateful for the opportunity to build a home, and I realize that it’s a luxury I enjoy that others may never have. But more than that, I’m grateful for this Robin’s lesson: What we ought to snatch from the mulch are wisps of dried grasses — the items that serve us well and suffice — not the huge strands of papery blades that would over-task us and have us grab far more than we would ever need.
A flirt is “a short-lived, transient, perceptual signal which can be used [as a dream door] to provide us with insight.” So, if we actually take the time to stop when we first notice a flirt, we can focus on it and reflect on its possible meanings in our lives. By unfolding the flirt in relation to any issues, choices, or life decisions we are mulling, it opens up new perspectives and can help us gain new insights.
Here’s what Arnold Mindell, psychologist, says about Quantum Flirts:
“Only after a flirt has been reflected by us – that is, has caught our attention – do we consider observing the object “producing” the flirt. A tree flirts with our attention, and we unwittingly attend to it with a reflecting flirt. The result of this reflection is what we call an “observation” in everyday life. However, once something is observed, we tend to forget the subtle flirt that was behind the observation. Learning to focus upon the flirt-like experiences, honoring and reflecting upon them, allows the wisdom inherent in them to emerge.” – from The Quantum Mind and Healing.