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Teri Orr: With a wing and a prayer

Teri Orr.
Park Record file photo

There was no denying the floating objects in my office.

I caught one — first out of my peripheral vision and I thought it was … maybe a moth — a fuzzy creature in flight.

I shifted in my chair and then I saw another apparition floating by … lightly. It was clearly a feather — they had both been feathers.

If you have seen the ’90s film starring John Travolta — titled “Micheal,” where he portrays the arch angel of the same name — you might know where my holiday-addled head went for a few seconds. There are times in the film where, as he is fading from this earth, the angel starts losing his feathers. And before my very eyes I was seeing a few tiny white feathers — soft as goose down falling in front of me…

I left it behind too many times in too many places and yet — it has always found its way home to me.”

Was someone dying?

But then the phone rang and after that I left for a working lunch. Hours later I returned for a meeting back in my office. A few coworkers were sitting there already so I quickly peeled off my coat and plopped down in my chair to talk about an upcoming event. And again, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a feather floating before me. I needed confirmation …

“Does anyone else see a floating feather in here?”

There was a bit of silence and then Jenny volunteered — “Yes. Of course — one there and another over there.”

So they were real!

“Don’t you think that is amazing!” I proclaimed. “Where do you suppose they are coming from?”

There was more awkward silence in the room.

Always the practical one, Jenny said — “from your coat.” She said it in a polite but an “isn’t it obvious” tone. … Like I was trying to trick them into an answer.

My coat?

I looked down at my coat. It is 11 years old. I know this because it is a logoed coat that had been given to me at the end of the Sundance Film Festival in ’09 — because they had some left over from their sponsor, Timberland, that year. It is Sundance black and it is down filled. It has traveled with me all around this country and a few others. It is light and rolls up in a ball easily. Just last week I was bundled up in it on Main Street, and right around the post office a longtime local commented on the coat … “I love your vintage jacket,” she said. “Where ever did you find it?”

“In my closet,” I laughed.

“Oh,” she said politely. “Well, vintage is so very in right now. Have a happy holiday!”

I have other coats — of course — one made from a Pendleton blanket, another an old bomber-style, distressed leather jacket and even a much newer down coat, longer and plump with feathers tightly encased inside tough, weather-proof fabric. I have a long fur from my grandmother that is politically incorrect, but it is quite vintage and I haven’t yet had the heart to repurpose it.

When I looked at my vintage coat I could see so many things. I saw lower Main Street on a cold, crisp, sunny January morning in 2009 where there were no cars and a few hundred people. Sundance had placed some giant screens down there for a sponsor event and we re-used them. There was no snow on the street and we all watched as larger-than-life Barack Obama was sworn in as president. We were cheering and hugging strangers. And at the conclusion — we danced to the music of Bono singing “Beautiful Day” as it was coming out of then-Sundance Managing Director Sarah Pearce’s phone. Because they hadn’t actually planned that part but it felt right so she hooked her phone into the speakers. I had just been gifted my coat and I was warm and joyous — life was so very good. And hopeful. We were all filled with such hope. And promise.

I can see the coat rolled in a ball and placed in the overhead bin on more airplane flights than I can count. It is easy like that — light, rolls up tight, fluffs right out. I have used it for a pillow and blanket and I have loaned it to my teenage grandkids on occasion because it is gender neutral. I left it behind too many times in too many places and yet — it has always found its way home to me. And I have looked but so far I can’t see any opening where the feathers might be escaping from but I accept it.

The tiny white apparitions did one thing already — they created at least a momentary space for wonder — they made me stop and imagine how the feathers had appeared in a room with all closed windows and at the very start of the winter solstice.

Solstice is that precious pagan time to toss worries into the fire and watch them spark into brightly colored ash that floats above the yule log/bonfire and makes you see mystical shapes floating in the darkened sky.

I will wear my vintage down coat to this year’s yule fire as I have for over a decade. I will slip my arms into the sleeves filled with feathers and hear Sarah McLachlan sing,

“You’re in the arms of the angel. May you find some comfort here.”

My coat will keep me warm — tired as it is and I may be. Still, I am grateful for it … to suspend belief and mix magic with wonder as we face down the longest night and the shortest day to start to head to the light.

A brand new year will start in a cosmic way — very early this Sunday, in the Park…

Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.


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