Birding – Nature’s Yoga

 

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. A bird sings because it has a song.

– Joan Walsh Anglund

There is only one thing in life that motivates me to wash a window, and that’s to better appreciate the fine details of the birds gathered at my feeder.

Just outside my window there is a whole bustling world of little creatures performing a show just for me.

Nature is one of my greatest inspirations, and the most effective anti-depressant available without a prescription. Birds make me unspeakably happy, just by being. All I have to do is provide them a little enticement, some food, a garden, some water and they are my faithful friends year round.

Stepping outside on a cold winter morning, to take out the trash, I hear cheerful songs surrounding me in all directions, from birds on high, unseen in the tall trees dotting the suburban landscape.  A tell-tale monkey call lets me know a pileated woodpecker is nearby, and if I’m lucky he will come swooping by with his pterodactyl–like head and giant wing-span, with all his red-mohawked glory.

Pileated Woodpecker (dryocopus pileatus)

I read somewhere that birdwatching is nature’s yoga. It helps us all slow down and breathe.

There is no instant gratification in bird-watching. If you want a photo of a bird, you will never capture it by making a mad dash for your iPhone. You will have to sit quietly. As you patiently wait, you’ll gradually become more aware of sound, of birdsong, wind, the leaves rustling. You’ll begin to watch for movement and color, staring fixedly between branches and leaves. During this quiet observation, you begin to take note of your own breathing, your heart rate slowing. It’s like meditation.

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Bird-watching is also good for mental alertness and acuity. When you go to a museum, you study paintings, brushstrokes, a painter’s use of light and shadow. When you go to a city, you may study the architecture,  a certain style, arches, columns, or building materials. When you see a fashion show, you study the sophistication or elements of the design, the intricate details of beading or lace, the quality of the fabrics.

With birding, the objects of your study are typically hopping, flitting, flying or seeking cover. Do you know how many types of finches, sparrows and warblers there are? Do you know how difficult it is to discern one hawk from another? A zillion and yes. I know.

Even with guidebooks at the ready, I have trouble distinguishing between finches and warblers, so similar are the color and marking of their feathers. There are so many different variables in look and behaviors, type of beak, wing-patterns, the shape of a tail. tail, the notes of a birdsong. If you’re very lucky, you will see operatic displays of romance or jealousy in territorial birds or mating pairs. I once saw a breeding pair of pileateds flying back and forth from my suet log to the tree and regurgitating food in the mouth of a baby woodpecker. I never regurgitation could be so adorable.

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An Eagle from the Wildlife Rehab Center who attended Mark & Michelle’s wedding.

Bird-watching can also lead to human romance. Who needs eHarmony when you’re part of a passionate community of birders? My friends Mark and Michelle met through a birding group on Facebook. They go bird-banding together, at night, with coal miner lights strapped to their heads. They rescue raptors. They travel to exciting birding destinations, like South America. They built a huge backyard waterfall and pond to attract more birds to their yard. Did I mention that among the most distinguished guests at their wedding, were several raptors from the rehabilitation center where Michelle volunteers?

Mark who works at All Seasons Wild Bird Store in Minnetonka, says”Winter birds, with their spring songs and colorful attire, remind a person that life should be happy, not sad.”

If you’d like to become a backyard birder and enjoy all the mental and physical benefits, here is a variety of seed to help you get started. My $15 membership at my local Wild Bird Store, saves me 10% off all my purchases.

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Sunflower chips attract all the little songbirds. Especially my darling chickadees and nuthatches. Nuthatches are the only birds that run head first down a tree trunk. The Berry Nutty blend is a higher calorie blend, great for winter feeding because of its critical nutrients and antioxidants. I like to put out a bowl of peanuts especially for the blue jays, and watch them come and go like planes at the airport. They cache their nuts and can remember hiding spots months later. Golden Safflower is another songbird favorite, but people like it, because the squirrels don’t. A squirrel has gotta eat, too, though! And nyger thistle is a favorite of finches, chickadees and ground-feeding juncos in winter.

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Finally, the best birding gift I ever received was a woodpecker log, over a decade ago now. It’s a birch log feeder with holes drilled to fit these year-round, no mess suet plugs. I can sit at my window and watch seven different varieties of woodpeckers come to feed. I’ve seen cardinals and flickers eat from it as well.

 

I’d like to share a small portion from a poem written by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. The poem is entitled Snow Geese, from her collection of poems, “Why I Wake Early.”

“The geese

flew on.

I have never

seen them again.

Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.

Maybe I won’t.

It doesn’t matter.

What matters

is that, when I saw them,

I saw them

As through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.”

If feeding the birds in your own yard isn’t an option for you, I encourage you to check out one of my favorite pages on Facebook, Ricky Montgomery’s Wildlife. His feeder cameras are amazing.

Finding My Word of the Year

Committing something to paper is much like a deep breath. It’s meditation. When I write something down, I’m uncluttering and making room in my brain for other ideas to grow. Some may, and have, called me a Luddite, because I don’t do all of this online, but I need to put pen to paper every day or I am completely and utterly lost. Every day I am documenting just about everything, via a wall calendar, goal planner, day planner, or good old-fashioned diary.

Right now I am smack dab in the middle of a job hunt. So I have ample time to commit to all this daily upkeep. Plus it’s a necessity to keep me on track. Naturally this is a time when I want to make sure I’m using my time wisely and being productive. Any time you make a change of this magnitude (changing careers) you start to question things you thought you’d figured out long ago.

I’m a natural-born “resolutions girl”, but this year I felt like I needed to do something more all-encompassing, more soul-searching and that was when I happened to see Lara Casey’s “Make It Happen” Intentional Goal Planner in an Instagram post. My Pay Pal trigger finger was way ahead of me. And boom, this darling planner, filled with arty postcards, stickers and fantastic worksheets was all mine.

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This is not a traditional daily agenda for managing time. It’s a planner to help you make progress on the goals you set throughout the year. There are actually 30 pages (including guidance from the author and artwork) of worksheets for you to complete, each building on the last, and leading you to the goals you really want to “cultivate.” Because like a garden, a goal is not something that just happens. It needs tending; good soil, sunshine, water and weeding in order to grow.

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For instance, after first flipping through the pages, I saw that I needed to find a word of the year. Oh nooooo. How am I, an English major, and total vocabulary nerd, going to come up with one all-encompassing word that’s supposed to sum up everything I want to achieve this year?

But that’s not how this works. This book leads you through the worksheets to your Word of the Year. Suddenly you just find it. As you write out all of your challenges, fears, what’s working in your life, what’s not working, your priorities and all the other good stuff included in the worksheets – the word or goals develop themselves.

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I came to my word of the year, after seeing patterns in all of my work sheets. Phrases kept popping up like: people-pleaser, exhausted by trying to be everything to everyone, feel like an introvert trapped in an extrovert’s body, pretending so I can fit in, afraid of what people will think if I…Yes, my word for 2017 needed to be Authenticity.

I would show you more worksheets, because there are so many good ones, but they’re kind of personal and you never know when a potential employer might see this. But here’s one example of a more harmless page. Excuse my messy hand-writing, but Lara says it’s okay

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If all of these worksheets seem like too much work to you, trust me they’re not. They’re surprisingly easy and fun, and if you’re like me, you have to be given permission, which Lara frequently does, to just spill it out there on the page. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Whatever you write won’t be graded, or judged. So don’t get angsty about it. Just write.

Coming up on the Chickadee Book List for February, Lara Casey’s book, Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live on Purpose.

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Finally, I want to share with you another of my current obsessions: Planner Stickers!

As someone who grew up with scratch & sniff stickers plastered all over my Trapper Keeper, I was all in the moment I heard stickers. You’ll find that I’m constantly scouring Instagram, Etsy, and Pinterest for things I can’t possibly live without, and so it was when I discovered these adorable stickers. If you’re going to organize your life in a bullet journal or planner and stay on top of it, you need the tools to make it fun.

From fun to functional, planner stickers are available in custom sizes to fit specific planners, like Filo Fax, Plum Planners or  Erin Condren’s . Many stickers are created by young people, and include popular characters like Harry Potter, Gilmore Girls or Unicorns. But there’s something for everyone; hipster to homemaker, and every to-do; special events, work tasks, exercise reminders and household chores.

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Go to Etsy and search Planner Stickers and you’ll find dozens and dozens of artists to fit your individual style. Some of my favorite shops are: Once More With Love, Miscellany Boulevard, The Planning Butler and Pumpkin Paper Co.

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I’m a member of Washi Tape Anonymous.

You can also find a huge selection of stickers at Michael’s and other craft stores to design your own pages.

I hope I’ve given you a couple of ideas, or a little inspiration to get your life and mind organized in 2017.

Until next time,

Melanie xo