There are some days that I just don’t have it in me to get outside. Maybe it’s the winter blues; maybe it’s exhaustion from a full day’s work. Either way, there are days where all I want to do is sit in the shelter of my home next to the heat ducts, or under the shade of a porch, and just exhale for hours. Sometimes, getting into the thick or exploring one of the many unmapped nooks of Utah’s majesty just isn’t happening.
I used to feel bad about this. I have but one life, one short blip of time upon this earth, I should be making use of every second. Whether it’s laboring on an overdue chore, or out testing my grit in harmony with Utah’s character, I need to be doing or I am dying; wasting the one life I am given.
It took me some good time to not overcome this mentality, but see my struggle with new eyes: to wash them and see the world fresh. My ablution began by asking a simple question: how can I love the still wild land that has provided for my family, my nation, my species for millennia, even when I don’t have it in me to go out and commune with it as I know I should daily?
The answer for me was to find a way to appreciate and give in such a way that allows me great joy and relaxation, yet fulfills that higher narrative which only the world beyond human influence can provide. My answer was watching birds at my small backyard bird feeder.
While it may not sound as exciting as fording a river while carrying my dog, or submitting a mountain that still holds on to deep winter snows (again with my dog), it gives me a chance to still learn about the cut of my jib, to see what character I’m made of, and to see my place in the world, in creation, and in life.
I test my grit upon the stillness of my mind when cheerful chickadees begin to see me as a part of the scenery and perch ever closer and closer to the branches above me, or my honest acceptance when rackets of starlings come to steal the suet left out in hope of a Stellar’s jay or lost mountain bluebird, or my reflection on where my body will one day go as scraps from my last hunt are eaten by the local neighborhood magpie clan.
This is an activity I have dubbed Bird TV for those who will often find my attention turn suddenly from conversation with them to quickly confirming the flicker drumming on the feeder’s home tree marking its stake. Through the lessons of my wild neighbors and in my observation of them, I can still hold true to myself in seeking to commune with the real world daily. By watching Bird TV, I can learn the calls of different species, notice when they change with the food supply or weather, and reflect upon my place within this world and within this life, no narration but the sounds of the real world, alive and vibrant in front of me.
So when you don’t have the energy or time to be upon the land from which has given life to your family, our nation, and all species, consider setting out sunflower seeds, nuts, raw meat, or even jams for the birds. Set them someplace you can catch yourself noticing who’s visiting out of the corner of your eye through a window at any moment, and if another human asks as to why you’re being distracted by a what’s outside and not by the usual glowing rectangle, just let them know that it’s Bird TV. Invite them to watch too, and catch them up on what’s been going on in the world. Hopefully then they’ll learn to tune in too.
I’m Patrick Kelly and I’m Wild About Utah.
Images: Image Courtesy & Copyright Patrick Kelly, Photographer, all rights reserved
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver
Text: Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org
Project Feederwatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://feederwatch.org/
Axelson, Gustave, 30 Years of Project FeederWatch Yield New Insights About Backyard Birds, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, January 11, 2017, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/30-years-of-project-feederwatch-yield-new-insights-about-backyard-birds/