Inside/Outside was the last art project of the season. The women at the Lighthouse spent three weeks painting, embellishing and incorporating meaning into their individual paper pulp masks. And we needed feathers. Lots of feathers.

The artistic invitation was to create an image that externally expressed who they are and who they are becoming through their time in this faith-based substance abuse recovery program. Inside most masks were words of encouragement or comfort, especially “life verses” from Scripture. And some of those life verses needed feathers. Lots of feathers.

We spent our last half hour on Friday sharing with one another the significance of each woman’s mask. Noemi’s mask seemed to me a remarkable metaphor of transformation. She explained that she had grown up with family members calling her a chicken. She didn’t go into any details, but it was clear that the term was esteem crushing. It was not an endearment. Initially, as Noemi put feathers on her mask she was distressed that it looked like a chicken. But she kept adding feathers. And jewels.  The metaphor of her mask began to soar.

Working from her life verse Isaiah 40:31 …Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles…, Noemi transformed her chicken feathers into symbolic bejeweled eagle feathers.  What impressed me was that she had not rejected out of hand the image of a bird that in some ways had defined her as a person. She had simply changed the type of bird with which she now identifies.  

Noemi has also studied the habits of eagles. Female eagles in particular. According to eagle courtship lore, female eagles test potential mates by dropping progressively largers twigs and heavier branches from greater to lesser heights to see if they will swoop down and catch them. The task becomes progressively more difficult for the male eagle as heavier items are dropped from lower heights. Will the male see the test through to the finish or will he pursue something easier? It is ultimately a test of commitment.

Commitment is important since eagles mate for life. They build their twig nests where eaglets are hatched in the high reaches of rock outcroppings. When it’s time for eaglets to learn to fly their mother pushes them out of the nest. It’s the male’s responsibility to swoop down and catch the young eagles until they are able to fly on their own.  The female eagle needs to be confident in the male eagle’s commitment to her and their offspring. Noemi said. “That’s what I intend to do. I’m gonna test that kind of commitment before I’ll be a relationship with someone.”

As Noemi worked on her mask over three weeks, the metaphoric progress of her creation moved from victim/chicken to survivor/eagle to thriver/someone intending to test potential relationships for mutual commitment. Now that’s not horsefeathers. That’s a metaphor that’s taking wing. It’s beginning to soar.

If you created a mask, what would it look like? If your mask included a victim/survivor/thriver progression, what would it look like? If there were feathers included, what would they symbolically represent? If not feathers, what other kind of embellishment would you use? What would your life verse, saying or motto be?

Looking forward to what we continue to “unmask” together.

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4 comments to Feathers

  • Judy Siudara

    Isaih 40:31 is my life verse also and I haven’t made a mask yet using it but I do sing the musical version of it.Does that count? Tell Noemi I will be happy to teach it to her.Thanks for the beautiful metaphors that rise for me from your writings. Love Ya. Judy

  • Barbara McNutt

    Hi Lynne and Judy (my neighbor from the past),

    I like the thought of being Eagle like in having courage to wait for His best for me. May God bless Noemi in her new found wisdom through learning
    the Scripture and the example of the Eagle.



  • Deanna Bowling

    Two thoughts come to mind. One is of a blue jay who lives in our neighborhood. She used to live in our back yard, but recently I saw her a couple of blocks south of us. She perpetually looks like she is in people wordage about ’10 months pregnant’. In order to fly, she instead of being able to lift off like a helicopter, has to take a running two or three jumps before she can get high enough up in the air to catch the wind. I often feel like her, so ‘pregnant’ with stuff that I have a hard time getting off of the ground.

    The other is a goose and her goslings that Dede told Naomi and I about. Dede and her sister just returned from the Montreal/Lake Placid area, and Dede was telling us about a family of geese. The goslings couldn’t fly yet, they didn’t have their feathers, but they could swim. When they were walking on the ground, you could watch their down covered fannies waddling after their mom. But in water they could swim like the wind. I often know that I am designed to have feathers, but for some reason don’t, and don’t know quite how to navigate without them.

    Love, hugs and prayers,


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