It was a simple enough passage in the book I’m reading, “Nature Principal” by Richard Louv. He mentions bird watching and how it not only adds a layer of awareness to outdoor activities, it awakens the senses. I bought “Birding by Ear.” I bought “Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America”. I took to my back deck and I watched.
It was a beautiful morning on Memorial Day weekend. Sunday. The trees, not quite complete in the budding process, allowed some view against the crisp, blue sky. Still, the leaves allowed cover for the majority of the songbirds; I could hear them but could not see them. Then, a flutter and a series of quick, rapid dashes of three small birds, flitting from branch to branch. Somehow I’d forgotten I might need binoculars, so after retrieving my husband’s good set, I returned. I figured out how to adjust them and pointed them towards where the movement had been moments earlier. I searched, the lenses pressed to my eyes, my grip tight (it would take a few hours before I finally relaxed my grip). Then, suddenly, there it was. A “she” I would assume from her more muted coloring. But she was breath taking. I have never seen a bird through a set of binoculars…not that I ever recall anyway. I continued my quest, watching and focusing in on my surroundings for the next four or five hours. When I couldn’t see a bird, I examined the trees, the branches, and the leaves. I became part of my landscape. I watched a tiny hummingbird preen himself for so long I finally had to lower my arms and shake out my neck from the strain. I studied the blossom of the Ash tree, a late bloomer in our yard. I saw what I believe was a Scarlet Tanager and then a Yellow Warbler. I found a fallen Birch tree loaded with polypore. I continued to watch the small trio of birds most of the morning and early afternoon until they decided they’d find someplace better to be. I’m thinking they were the White Breasted Nuthatch, but I’m not positive. But you see, that’s not the point.
I’ve been advised to begin living more in the moment. I tend to worry, to create scenarios that may or may not come true. My mind toils on the “what ifs” and “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” in life. I’ve a very overactive imagination and it can lead to chaos in my life if I let it. So recently I’ve made more of an effort to remain aware. To live in the moment. I’ve picked up yoga again; just me and the mat (and my animals as everyone knows you cannot be on your mat without the animals joining in…). But there’s nothing I’ve found that puts me in the moment like bird watching! After a few hours I realized I’d been fully present every single moment. I listened to the songs, watched the trees intently for sign of wings. I thought of nothing else. My mind didn’t wander, didn’t creep towards darkness or sadness. I was rewarded with bright red birds, gorgeous yellow masked ones and playful Chickadees. I got to see a world right off my back deck I had never paid a stitch of attention to before. They’ve always been there, the birds. And I’ve always been here. Almost like a parallel universe; but isn’t that what nature is for a lot of us? A parallel life we forget exists? I get so caught up on the day to day struggles I forget the flowers, the birds, the trees. The ever changing world around me. It’s always there and while I’m very in tune with nature on a regular basis, lately I just haven’t been aware.
So, with binoculars in hand (at least until my husband takes them back) I search the trees continually for the sight of a new bird. I watch, listen, sense where the bird may be based on the calling. It’s simple. It’s free. It awakens my senses and allows me to be fully and completely alive. It’s allowed me to achieve something nothing else ever has. In that moment, I’m no where else. I’m not in the past or the future. I’m right here. Right where I’m supposed to be.