I am not much of a birdwatcher. I can't assign a name to many birds I see, and staring into a tree where a bird has flown, I am not apt to locate it.
If you were to see our bookshelves, however, you would think my husband and I are avid birdwatchers --out every weekend, bird guide in hand, binoculars around our necks. Actually, since I wear glasses, I find the use of binoculars cumbersome. You might also assume we have a lifetime bird list, always eager to add the next number, but the truth is, even though my knowledge of birds is gravely limited, I love birds, and someday, I tell myself, I am going to get serious about birdwatching.
Being a Birdwatcher
Simon Barnes in his How to Be a (Bad) Birdwatcher http://www.amazon.com/How-Bad-Birdwatcher-Simon-Barnes/dp/0375423559 tells me not to get too uptight about the whole birdwatching gig. He says the only real skill needed for birdwatching is the "willingness to look," developing the habit of looking.
…when I see a bird I always look, wherever I am. It
is no longer a conscious decision. I might be in the middle
of a conversation of amazing importance about the
Direction of Our Marriage, but my eye will flick out
of the window at a hint of movement, caught in the
tail of my eye, and I will register: bloody hell, hawk.
I might say it aloud, too--not necessarily a wise decision.
Barnes goes on to say that he doesn't go birdwatching, but that he is birdwatching, for it is a "state of being, not an activity." The habit of looking.
The Color Red
This winter my habit of looking has mainly been from the vantage point of my kitchen window, and I have been rewarded by frequent visits from a cardinal pair. Catching that flash of red as I pass through the kitchen to the back stairs, I pause to watch and to appreciate. Often as I rinse dishes to place in the dishwasher the male cardinal will come to keep me company, perching on the bare branches between our home and our neighbors'. Now as spring begins to hint of its own comings, I hear our resident cardinal pair singing, asserting their right to this territory. I assume they have lived here longer than I have, and I hope they don't mind my sharing the space with them.
When we lived in Ohio, hawks and Great Blue Herons entered my life and then in Wisconsin I was so drawn to sandhill cranes. I will miss hearing the mysterious conversations of the cranes as I walked through my neighborhood near a conservancy in the mornings. However, here in my urban neighborhood in St Paul, I continue to keep my eyes attentive to the possibility of hawks, sometimes spotting that football shape in a tall and sturdy tree or soaring wings stretched straight. I thrill to each sighting.
And I now have cardinal companions.
According to Animal Speak, The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small by Ted Andrews, http://www.amazon.com/Ted-Andrews/e/B000APER2W cardinals remind us "we always have the opportunity to renew our own vitality and recognize the importance of our own life roles." How grateful I am to read these words today, for I feel weary and a bit in-between. After weeks of working and preparing the way, my father's house is now on the market, and being actively involved in that task need no longer dominate my time. The theme of moving and packing and unpacking that has been so pre-eminent in my life for almost two years, as our own house was for sale followed by buying and moving into this house, is finally fading.
It is time to return to work I have set aside and plans I would like to put into place. Writing ideas await. Visions of groups I would like to start hover. Hopes for meeting with spiritual direction clients hold promise. The female cardinal whose loud and clear whistle reflects a need "to assert the feminine aspects of creativity and intuition more strongly," according to Andrews, seems to agree.
Cardinals brighten the environment. They catch the
eye and add color to our lives. When they appear as
a totem, they do so to remind us to become like them
Add color to your life, and remember that everything
you do is of importance.
What wonderful inspiration to move forward and beyond--into spring and into the next season of my life.
Are you a birdwatcher? Do birds have any significance in your life? What signs are you observing that encourage you to add color to your life and renew your vitality? I would love to know.
Note: The photo is a detail of an original art work by Elsie Probstein in our collection of Wisconsin art.