"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, February 10, 2014


Varied Thrushes are year-round residents here. Except for an occasional glimpse of one in the underbrush, however, the only time I really seem them is when it snows. Then they move into our feeder area as though they'd had reservations for months ahead.

Usually there are a couple, maybe a half dozen at most. One year a particular thrush held my attention and concern as he attacked any bird who got even remotely close to him. It's not often you see a bird with issues, but this one was clearly suffering from some avian form of madness.

This year there are a dozen or more thrushes occupying not only the feeder area, but also the entire back yard. Granted it's been snowing or icing off and on since last Thursday. That's not enough to explain their abundance though. Not that an explanation is necessary, but I do like to know these things.

Ordinary birds, like robins with the orange arranged differently, there's nothing much about thrushes to excite imagination. Their call is a long haunting whistle—no beautiful trilling or melodic harmonies. They aren't majestic like eagles or whimsical like hummingbirds. They aren't endangered or even of concern for species survival.

Maybe it's because I've been housebound. Maybe it's because winter already felt like it had way overstayed its welcome even before this storm. Maybe it's that I'm desperately searching for some bit of light in this wilderness that is my life right now. Whatever it is, every time I spot a thrush, I feel a lifting of a weight I thought unliftable.  And just a smidgeon of delight.

Bunkie and I stand at the bay window in my dining room watching birds in companionable quiet. He clearly has dreams of somehow breaching the invisible barrier and finally, finally, taking down one of his tormentors. Although I have to say he doesn't look tormented. He looks alive and eager and a version of happiness that is uniquely feline.

I admire the black collars and orange headbands, the incredible symmetry of color distribution on wings. I marvel at the wind-up toy movement on top of the snow as one thrush dashes at another in a peckish flurry. With Bunkie purring under my hand, I'm grateful for the window keeping us in and the birds out.

I'm reminded of a day last week, before the storm. I was teaching, actually wandering the room talking to kids while they worked on poetry. My classroom looks out onto the playground, which was empty of kids at that moment. What I saw instead was eight killdeers motoring across the grass, their black and gray and brown and white markings standing out in stark contrast to the green of the field. It didn't take long before most of the class joined me at the window. Some had never seen a killdeer before. None of us had seen so many at one time. All of us stood in wonder for long minutes, absorbing the gift of ordinary birds in extraordinary numbers. When we finally returned to the day, we were all lifted.

Ordinary birds. Extraordinary presentation. Maybe that's it. In these sightings I get to be reminded that an ordinary life (and mine seems unbearably ordinary these days) is rich with wonder and surprise. It's there, the evidence that very small miracles are everywhere. Beauty offered, even in its simplest form, has the power to lift a heart and light a darkness.


Teresa Coltrin said...

They are so beautiful. Even though the world is a mess, nature goes forth with its duty.

Linda Reeder said...

I find your writing very uplifting, so in fact the lift the birds gave you has been shared.
You have me looking out the window not to see the wet mess of slushy snow remnants, but to catch a glimpse of movement, perhaps a feathered visitor. I have been looking inward too much these past days. It's time for an outward look. And seeing a varied thrush, or even a fat robin, would be a treat.

DJan said...

I will be leaving the day after tomorrow to head home, after all the pain and difficulty of honoring my sister who died a week ago. I had two days in Florida before coming into cold and blustery Dallas. I have loved the birds, though: as I walk in the local park, there are many that I can't identify, being unusual ones to me. I love your words and can relate so well to them.

yaya said...

This winter certainly has over stayed it's welcome. We don't get many birds clamoring for attention here at the pines..they prefer to stay hidden in the pine trees and I'm assuming warm and out of the elements. I did see a hawk having "issues" with some crows yesterday. That's when I knew I've been cooped up too long when I can get involved in birds behaving badly and enjoy it!

Richard Hughes said...

We can learn a lot from birds, even how to view life.

Deborah Barker said...

It is a gift to be able to find beauty in the ordinary as well as the fantastic. Thank you Deb and I love the picture of those children watching with you, spell bound :-)

Retired English Teacher said...

I was thinking how we take birds for granted at times. What if the weren't there? What would our lives be like? How empty it would be. I stepped out and heard some birds a few days back. At first I thought I heard a robin. Then, I hoped not since it is so bitter cold. Our lives are so enriched by our feathered friends.

Sandi said...

I haven't been reading blogs for so long, and decided this morning to check on yours. As usual, I am uplifted by your seemingly simple eloquence. As I wound to the end of your blog and found this sentence, "It's there, the evidence that very small miracles are everywhere."
I was gently reminded, once again, of how much I take for granted. I, too, am oh-so-tired of these winter doldrums.
At this very moment, the sun is shining, and I'm heading out, reveling in the tiny evidence of a miracle (Sun!) after a very drab and soggy Saturday!
Love your hopeful perspective, Deb!

Donna said...

Pure poetry! I always enjoy reading your beautiful prose.

I, too, am a birder and with a feeder, get to see many variety. They are amazing, and fun to watch.

Midlife Roadtripper said...


Dee said...

Dear Deb, it seems your spirit is experiencing a time of restiveness and disquiet. A time that feels meaningless and that seems to cast all of our/your/my life into the savage shadows that might absorb our very being. .

And so I am relieved that you find the sacred in the moment. That's what I've been trying to do also: live in the moment. Sacramentalize the moment; the day; the life. At the deep center of yourself--of all of us--dwells Oneness. Let us go there. Peace.

classesncamps said...

there is always something new to learn from the birds. nice post. really enjoyed reading it.