Finding Your Wings
Look at this exquisite print – it was created by the famous naturalist and ornithologist, John James Audubon. He is renowned for painting his subjects in their natural habitats, capturing the fluidity of their movements and interactions, and showing their beauty in the intricate details of their plumage, beaks, and claws. In the bird world, he’s considered the gold standard.
As a feathered friend enthusiast myself, I’ve been a fan of his work my whole life – I have three of his prints in my family room. Recently, I was visiting a dear friend who had the opportunity to buy some of his pieces at a silent auction. I very enthusiastically encouraged her to do so, and she ended up winning a few. Afterward, she asked me to look up more about the artist. So, I Googled him, and casually reading his Wikipedia page to her, I made a jaw-dropping discovery:
“Audubon developed his own methods for drawing birds. First, he killed them using fine shot. He then used wires to prop them into a natural position ….”
I learned two ugly truths at that moment:
- John James Audubon was a serial killer.
- There is a big cost for perfection.
Back in the day, when people printed photos, I would upload mine to Shutterfly. Now, once a week or so, I get a “day in history” reminder of those memories – sometimes from 6, 12, or 18 years ago. One of these popped up in my inbox yesterday, and it was like looking at a stranger – youthful, fresher face, smaller clothing size, rosier cheeks – an “ideal” version of me. An Audubon, if you will – picture perfect on the outside, but with some questionable internal wiring.
It was in contrast to a recent photo taken on a trip with my husband. We stumbled upon one of those street murals of a giant pair of wings, and I sheepishly stood in line with a bunch of 20-somethings to get my Insta-shot. When I saw the finished product, I was initially disappointed – pale, wrinkles, a body I battle with, and windblown hair. But just as quickly, I reminded myself of my journey of personal growth, the hard work I’ve done to “rewire,” and I realized I was looking at a healthier, mentally stronger, more insightful woman, who had earned those most glorious wings. I liked this picture much better, warts and all.
John James Audubon created amazing pieces of art but achieved them with painful methods. My vision of “perfect” has turned inward over the years, and I regard my internal palette, my mental landscape, as my new masterpiece. By painting myself with the colors of self-love, grace, worthiness, and pride, I have an image I can be very proud of and celebrate.
If perfection is plaguing you, if you feel like you are falling short, just know this – your wings are waiting for you, you just need to find a way to clip those wires to set them free.