The Cardinal

Aside from the Hawk, there is one obvious bird messenger that could very well be deemed “ruler of signs“.   Multiple friends have contacted me with their stories of the Cardinal, and how it will show up during difficult times, or when they simply just needed a hug or support from someone who is no longer here.  Of course now that I am a believer myself, I didn’t doubt those stories and am elated each time I hear from someone new.

A friend who is highly connected to these sorts of “visits” (she actually converses with angels as a profession – ok, nonbelievers, just continue reading) recently said to me, “Isn’t it weird how you feel after having these cool things happen to you?  You are so excited, yet no one gets you!”.  At that moment we burst into the kind of laughter that makes your stomach hurt, mainly because it is so true and we can both identity with it, but at that very moment a connection was made that was more about acceptance. 

Boy did that laugh feel good.

Cardinals had certainly made themselves known to me, and I’ve had an incredible couple of years photographing them.  The time when it was pouring rain and they were still insisting upon my putting out almonds was one in particular I will never forget.  They looked so mad!

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I still (sigh) hadn’t had a particular Cardinal “experience”… 

Until just two days ago.

8.31.15. Every day on my walk I am always looking for feathers (yep, I’ve become that gal – just keep driving…).  All year I was hoping to find a Cardinal feather, but it seems the sparrows, seagulls, and other birds preferred to leave me gifts instead – which, by the way, I was always thankful to receive.   The intention to write about Cardinals was on my mind, but I still hadn’t had a particular experience interesting enough to write about so dismissed it and drifted off into my zen zone again.

That morning, we had just said good-bye to our cancer ridden cat of 18 years, so was feeling particularly lethargic and sad.   A few feathers made their way into my hands, but oddly enough (hindsight), I placed them back down by the water in memory of one of my favorite little animals.

Just as I’m one block from our driveway… there, sticking up from the grass in a place I had walked by only 20 minutes ago, was a beautiful red Cardinal feather.   Holding my breath, I carefully picked it up and held it against my chest feeling an enormous wave of emotion.  Then I noticed another, and a third, and fourth… until I had collected TEN.

cardinal feathersUndoubtedly, this was the work of another,  but for me it held a tremendous amount of symbolism that I’m happy acknowledging as a special sign, knowing that the cat my family spent 18 years with was going to be just fine.

Fast forward to today, walking by the same spot on my way back to the house. There is one more feather that seemed to be standing out as “Hey, you missed me!”  It was even propped up by a leaf (I guess they all work together).


SO – now I had 11 beautiful Cardinal feathers… When researching the symbolism I learned the following:

“The cardinal is a power packed bird that transforms and awakens us.  She represents renewed vitality through recognizing self-importance.  Her cycle of power is year-round and reflects the rhythm of the number 12 – 12 days, 12 weeks, 12 months or the hour of 12.  Because of it year round cycle, its medicine is available at all times.  Its message is of renewing vitality through recognizing self-importance.  The eggs laid by the female hatch in about twelve days.  This, along with the cardinal being a year round resident, reflects the rhythm of the number twelve.  When the cardinal flies into your life expect a change to occur within 12 days, 12 weeks, 12 months
or at the hour of 12.” – More

I had only 11 feathers, so I went back looking for one more, just one more that would fulfill this “12” thing.  Nothing… until a voice in my head said “Dummy, you found one small cardinal feather in your back yard which you paid no attention to which still lies in your backyard feather pile.”

There was my 12th feather….  the circle was complete. 🙂

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“One of our most popular birds, the Cardinal is the official state bird of no fewer than seven eastern states. Abundant in the Southeast, it has been extending its range northward for decades, and it now brightens winter days with its color and its whistled song as far north as southeastern Canada. Feeders stocked with sunflower seeds may have aided its northward spread. West of the Great Plains, the Cardinal is mostly absent, but it is locally common in the desert Southwest.” – Audubon


“The male Northern Cardinal is perhaps responsible for getting more people to open up a field guide than any other bird. They’re a perfect combination of familiarity, conspicuousness, and style: a shade of red you can’t take your eyes off. Even the brown females sport a sharp crest and warm red accents. Cardinals don’t migrate and they don’t molt into a dull plumage, so they’re still breathtaking in winter’s snowy backyards. In summer, their sweet whistles are one of the first sounds of the morning.” – Cornell Lab of Ornithology





6 thoughts on “The Cardinal

    1. Susan, I’m flattered to know you did so! I welcome anyone to share any of these stories. This one, in particular, is one I think more will identify with in terms of the Cardinal having meaning in his/her life. Thanks again for reading. 🙂


  1. Love this post, Heidi. Cardinals are also huge in my life. I have a sad cardinal story that recently taught me a lesson about paying attention, being present, and being aware of signs. I’ll tell it to you sometime. xo


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