It's something that happens all the time and to each of us. We've got a momentous decision to make, or even a small one, and the way isn't clear. There's as much to recommend one course of action as the other, but nevertheless, we've got to choose.. So what do most of us do? We start looking - praying - for a sign, some little nudge to go one way or the other.
So what constitutes a sign that could affect our decision-making or even a life's direction? It will be different for every one of us. Some might see a sign in passing three red cars in a row, so we'll decide to buy a red car. Some will see a sign of an early, oncoming and cold fall and winter, when some August leaves begin to turn golden. Stuck in an immovable traffic jam, some will see it as a sign of being protected from an accident or trouble further up the road. Many people confidently - and often credibly- believe it is a "sign" when something much desired doesn't come to pass. Therefore, it just wasn't meant to be and something better is coming their way.
When we lose someone dear, many of us are anxious for signals from beyond, some notice the loved one is happy and peaceful in that place over the rainbow. We seek a sense of their presence to sustain the bond we felt with them here on earth. The unexpected scent of my favorite uncle's sweet-smelling pipe tobacco did that for me some months after he passed on. I knew without a doubt that he was reaching out to me to soothe my aching heart. Some find messages from the other world when a feather lands at their feet. I had just such a collection until the kitties found it. Many people believe in "pennies from heaven" as messages from loved ones when they find a penny in a curious location. Thursday's "Dear Abby" column in the AJC ran a letter from a reader who found a penny strangely lodged in the little finger of her biking gloves and took it as a sign from her beloved and recently deceased brother.
While we were looking several years ago for an in-town lot on which to build, one lot clearly "spoke" to me. Its street number could be reduced to "88," the year we married; one high-heeled pump - just my size - lay abandoned at curbside; and as we watched, a mother German Shepherd and her pup loped along the back lot line - we had two shepherds at the time. Surely this were where we were meant to build, and so we did. We never saw those shepherds again.
According to the August issue of "Psychology Today," we human beings are hardwired to look for patterns to make sense out of what we see and experience. It begins at the earliest moments of our ability to perceive and contributes to one's survival and success. Matthew Hutson, author of the article entitled "The Unbearable Uncannniness of Being" and of the book "The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking," writes: "The job of the conscious mind is to form a story out of all our sensations and reflections. Life as we experience it is not just a series of unconnected thoughts and events; it's a coherent narrative unfolding in an orderly universe. But sometimes we have experiences that don't fit our expectations and may even contradict what science has taught us is possible. In our attempts to accommodate such outlier phenomena, we often turn to unproven forces or entities. We start to believe in the paranormal." The word, an adjective, is defined as "not within the range of normal experience or scientifically explainable phenomena." (Without any doubt or deliberation, the beliefs expressed by Missouri's Republican Rep. Todd Akin regarding rape - legitimate rape vs., apparently, illegitimate rape - meet the definition of paranormal.)
I know a big and tall salt-of-the-earth type of guy who spends most of his time behind the wheel of a big rig or a dump truck or a farm tractor - when he's not on his horse picking his way on some rutted trail in the woods. His education about life has been hard won, worked out in his own head while toiling in the hot sun or under the tutelage of his now deceased father who passed on his own hard won wisdom to this son he kept close at hand. This man's kind of work has its ups and downs. Sometimes there's work, and sometimes there's not. He told me recently that when he's feeling a bit down and out, a little gloomy or depressed, he'll keep his eyes out for butterflies. "If I see a butterfly, I know everything's going to be okay," he said. I like that.
Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics.