It usually occurs in a semi-annual rhythm, that time when our two pet birds shed old feathers as new ones grow in. We often know when they are in a molting phase because their cage bottoms are decorated with scores of tiny, discarded feathers. I imagine their skins being pricked with the pointy ends of feather shafts as they pierce through that ugly pink covering that hides under their beautiful plumage, pushing out the old feathers like decidious teeth in childhood.
It is usually an uncomfortable time, especially for our cockatiel Sobie. My husband will rub his little yellow head, and if he hits one of these nascent feathers just wrong, Sobie will give a loud shriek, expressing his discomfort. We’ve noticed that he does a lot more preening during these periods, adjusting and readjusting the feather shafts as they grow in, sometimes at awkward angles. His normally-smooth plumage takes on a ratty experiences, as if he was trying out dreadlocks, but later the new feathers open up and become part of the already-colorful landscape of his body.
In some ways, we humans molt also. Not like birds with their feathers, or snakes with their skins. We cast away old hobbies, beliefs, jobs, friends, eating habits. Often we learn to take these transitions in stride, accommodating their presence in our lives, discarding old ways to make room for the new, the way some disciplined people perform spring and fall cleaning in their homes. Sometimes, though, these transitions, while necessary, are not always comfortable, especially if they involve leaving behind something that has become familiar and “safe” in our estimation.
I thought about this as I prepare to begin a new job at a local hospital, something I didn’t think I would ever do again. I have just come through eight-and-a-half years of working as a “homecare” Respiratory Therapist, a very different environment where weekends and holidays are not spent at work (unlike the hospital setting, where weekends and holidays are spent at work). I have left behind home care in order to be home with my husband, contributing to our own community (instead of those communities in other states, where my most recent job took me every week), and taking classes at a local university in order to pursue other passions alongside the Respiratory career I’ve had for over 18 years. It is definitely a transition that I was not expecting to make right now, but God has mysteriously opened up the opportunity for it to begin. Instead of a molt lasting a few weeks, it will last a few years.
But I am excited for the new plumage that awaits at the end of this molt.