The chirp that refreshes

It’s summer in Seattle, so birds are even more than usual out and about and making their noises. I’ve been watching the crows because the crows have been watching me. They have been yelling at me as I walk one of my usual routes, moving from line to tree so that they can continue to shout at me as I stroll down the street. There must be babies nearby, and they are just making sure I mean them no harm. I don’t. I also noticed the one that often sits outside my window. He makes a sound very like a woodpecker–I am fascinated by his clicking.

On another path I heard a sweet cheeping. Stopping and listening, I finally located a small nest of starlings perched in a vine arbor on the side of a local building. They were small and sweet and I left them alone, but I was happy to have had the experience.

Later that day I was waiting for a bus and saw a male pigeon strutting his stuff to impress the ladies. He puffed out his chest and walked in circles. He fanned his tail feathers. The female pigeons were not at all impressed. I also saw a pigeon with an egg stuck to its underside up on the telephone wire. Apparently sometimes the eggs break and the sticky insides glue the egg to the birds. Poor thing! I wish I could have reached up to help.

I cannot tell you all about birds and their life cycles or recite all of their scientific names. I cannot identify all of their calls, but I have learned a lot by just watching them as they go about their daily lives. Birds remind me to look up and around me. There is a lot going on in the world that has nothing to do with people, and it’s fun to be a part of that. When I hear one of their calls I try to stand still and see if I can spy the bird that made the sound. Birds bring me back to the moment, to the here and now away from electronic screens and in the present. I take a deep breath and thank them.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
249. Be aware of the birds as you go about your daily business. What kinds of birdsong do you hear? What sorts of birds do you see? What times of the day do they make the most noise?

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Following the breath

I have so much I want to share this week, and so little energy to share it. The world is in bloom here in Seattle, and the gardens are full of flowers. Fragrant blossoms line the streets, and everything is the emerald green which gives our city its nickname. The birds are enjoying the weather, and I have been enjoying watching them. This week I admired a nest of starlings on one of my walks, sighted among the vines covering an old marquee. I also observed a dazzling white pigeon with grey spots performing his mating dance–spinning around, puffing out his chest, and fanning his tail feathers to try to seduce the ladies. They were not impressed. The goslings down by Lake Union are going through an awkward stage as their feathers go from fluffy baby down to adult sleekness. Soon they’ll look just like their parents.

While I’ve been enjoying the birds and blossoms, I’ve also been having lots of allergies, and something has kicked my asthma into high gear. It’s hard to breathe right now, and thus hard to be inspired. The very definition of “inspiration” is about breathing. This too shall pass, and I’m sure I’ll be feeling better soon.

My current distress reminds me how important my lungs are to me, how often I take them for granted when I’m feeling fine. I always appreciate my health more after a cold, newly aware of how great it feels not to be sick. I appreciate my knees more now that I have lost a lot of weight and no longer eat sugar–I can take stairs without hobbling, and that is a gift I have not forgotten. It no longer hurts just to walk down the street. I have much to be grateful for even as I am not feeling my best. It is good to have these moments of contrast to highlight the many wonderful aspects of my life. My vision is clear, and my fingers are nimble as I type these words. My bed is soft, and I had a nice dinner with a dear friend. Soon I will be feeling better, and I will appreciate the opportunity to breathe deeply once more. What more could I ask for?

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
245. Take a moment to appreciate some of the things in your life that you may be taking for granted. Take a second moment to appreciate all the people who make your life the wonder that it is. If you can, take a few deep breaths, and be inspired by the magic of your lungs.

And we didn’t capsize

I’ll admit it. I’m not exactly the fearless type. I’m afraid of heights, rollercoasters scare the living daylights out of me, and I’m not too keen on boats. Boats scare me because I can’t swim, but I live in Seattle. The Pacific Northwest has a lot of natural beauty that is set on the water, so when I moved here I decided I needed to conquer that fear.

I started with the ferry. The first time I rode one I sat next to the life jackets and panicked when I heard a car alarm going off. It sounded like that blaring noise they make in the movies that indicates the boat is sinking. I laughed when I realized what it was. Now I take the ferry as often as I can, admiring the harbor seals and seeing the occasional sea lion frolicking in the waves.

On Friday, I did something much more intense. I went in my first rowboat. A friend and I took the boat out on Union Bay by the university to go see wildlife, and of course I wore a lifejacket. As usual with this sort of challenge, I didn’t realize exactly how scared I would be until it was time to get into the boat, and once we rowed away from the shore, I felt pretty panicky for a while. I was very careful not to shift my weight at all, because I was really nervous about tipping the boat over.

Once we got across the main lane of traffic and headed towards some of the shoreline, it was really amazing. We saw bufflehead ducks, and a bald eagle. A mother duck and her ducklings were all taking a bath together on the shore. A pair of grebes was guarding a floating nest, and we were able to see that there were three eggs in it. We also saw lots of turtles—sunning themselves on the logs, standing and staring at us with crooked necks—I had no idea how the shore would look from a rowboat and no clue that so many turtles lived among us.

Having read of so many journeys by boat, I also gained perspective on what it was really like. We went under a number of bridges, ducking our heads as we sailed beneath. I can only panic continuously for so long, so I started to relax a little. The rowboat was so much smaller than the water taxi I’ve been nervous to take, but now I think I’ll be able to do that more easily. There are so many rewards to facing one’s fears. I feel a little bit more confident about boats now, and I’d dare the waters again for another day of wildlife. Who knows what challenge I’ll confront next–I can’t wait to find out.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
239. What are you afraid of? Is there some small thing you can do to confront your fear? What rewards do you anticipate for challenging yourself?