In 1989 I made a vision quest (a journey alone into the wilderness for three days and nights), allowing God to speak through creation. It was a challenging experience and also one that forever changed my way of seeing. During this time, when I experienced hunger, thirst, fear and beauty, a red bird became my constant companion. I know today that this bird was a Cardinal; at the time I was only able to identify him by his brilliant color. It was startling to feel so much comfort and resonance with a tiny winged creature. On my second night in the wilderness there was a powerful thunder and lightning storm with strong winds from two tornadoes. As I huddled in an empty bunkhouse where I’d run for slim shelter that night, I felt the full force of life and death and our human fragility. In the morning, having survived, I was anxious to hike back to the circle where I’d sat during the first two days to see if the bird had survived as well. As I pushed open the door of the bunkhouse, there on the doorstep was the red bird, waiting for me. It was inconceivable to me that he knew where to find me, or that this very doorstep was mine. Since that moment, red birds have appeared continuously in my life. They seem to find me. I eventually wrote about the experience of those days spent alone in nature in my book, Gift of the Red Bird. However, I am well aware that no words I can ever write will convey the power of that encounter.
Since red birds are a sign to me of the miracle of life’s deepest connections as well as a sign of the mysterious elegance of being here, I named this non-profit Red Bird Foundation. My young niece, Leah, drew our first red bird logo, and we are still incorporating it into the new design that has evolved as our work in the world has also grown.