Saturday, January 5, 2013

a new year: looking forward; looking back

it seems that every year, I maintain the tradition of a New Year's post (2011 and 2012). This post has elements that are somewhat reminiscent of last year's post--but this shouldn't come as a surprise with birds coming and going just as the seasons do, and how we so often compare the present to where we were this day in the past. this will be one year that I won't promise frequent posts. For me and I'm sure for you, the new year always gives a moment of pause and time for reflection. It is a time of renewed clarity of purpose and good intentions.

I'd already visited the island on Christmas Day but took an unexpected trip back when Matt wanted to ferry over early in the morning to shovel out my dad's driveway (*insert sigh here*) since he'd been having bad back spasms the night before. We were just off the ferry and not at Dad's yet when wonder of all wonders--a beautiful white snowy owl swooshes over the road in front of us to land in the field. The first light of day was just starting to radiate, and we reaped the karma of Matt's planned good deed.
Snowy sits in front of the previous night's moon at dawn

**The future of snowies and other owl species (along with other birds and bats) are being threatened by the planned wind farm for the island. While I would certainly describe myself as an environmentalist who understands the need for alternative energy, this is a terrible move. AI is a world-recognized International Birding Area located in a major migration corridor. The wind farm on nearby Wolfe Island has staggeringly high kill rates for birds and knowing the special birds that frequent the island, I fear that Amherst will be worse. Not to mention the other issues that remain unaddressed. I'll have to save discussing this in depth for another day but please take the time to educate yourself and make your voice heard.**

On the way back out, we spotted another snowy on the lake side, quite a ways off, posted in a tree. We thought it was the same one, but when we continued on the first was still at its landing spot. Two snowies in one outing, when you aren't even looking for them, is a rare treat. It alternated between looking side to side at the birds zipping by at the feeder it was near, to gazing intently at me. There's something about their huge, glowing amber eyes that seem to understand or maybe know more than you do---maybe that's where the expression "wise old owl" comes from. Not just this, its calm gaze gave me a sense of quietness and serenity. Grandma loved owls and being only two days after she passed away, these two owls, angel-like and majestic, had to have been sent to me. I thought might be her way of being a continued presence in my life. This moment made me realize that birding is so much more than getting lifers, ticking off lists or snapping the perfect shot. Birding is a way to create meaning in my life. It is reverence for something bigger and awe, appreciation, respect and humility. Damn, it's therapy. Birding is not something that I have to set out to do--I can just go about my business and open my eyes and ears--they are always there. Maybe you get distracted by something else for a time, but they're always there to come back to.
Snowy with seemingly innocuous but actually foreboding windmills in background

Snowy highlights a life lesson--be ready for opportunity or [dinner] will pass you by!
As is so often the case, some country wisdom comes over the radio (cuz you can't cruise country roads to anything else) with clockwork timing to put it all together. At times I felt like 2012 dealt me a bad hand, but when it comes down to it, I have so much to be grateful for. No matter what hand you get, you still have to play, but if you play your cards right, you can still take the pot.

Every time you think you got it bad
You can find someone who's got it worse
All the things you take for granted now
They started out as blessings first
If you got someone who loves you
And a steady job that puts food on the table
If you're strong and able
Man, be grateful.
Somewhere there is a balance of being grateful for what you have and drive to take action for what you want/need. I do think it's possible to achieve both and that there is a difference between gratefulness and complacency. But I'm really going on a tangent now.

Back on the mainland at Mary's, I noticed some movement in the trees behind the house, which seemed to intensifying. She'd wanted us to fill up her winter feeders earlier in the week but nothing had shown up yet. I pulled out the binoculars to ascertain just what the wee tiny things were -- a gallup of 50 or more redpolls had converged on the feeder, many perched on clothesline, rallying for position and waiting turn for one of the 8 spots on the feeder, or hopping around on the ground. We enjoyed watching them for 5-10 minutes (of course, Mary was gone). Skittish as they were, they would all take off and all eventually make their way back. Finally a few lifted off, then a few more, until the last stragglers also took flight and there were none left. I waited for them to return but they were gone for good this time. If you blinked, you would have missed it. You would have thought that the feeder had been empty as it had been the rest of the week if you didn't notice the tiny tracks all over the snow. It was also a reminder of how much we miss when we don't observe things closely enough. The snowies and this redpolls all before 10 and I mentioned to Matt how I felt that day was blessed...which is really unusual coming from someone who's not religious.

I won't promise that 2013 will be prolific year of posts for me, as it's not my intention. I'm sure I'll check in and post the odd time as I do when I have something exciting to share. I haven't actually set any resolutions yet, but in the near future I'll meditate long and hard about it. Many of us feel a sense of impending and momentous change this time of year but rarely is that feeling translated into action before it is obscured again. I think it's important to frame resolutions not in terms of achievement/ failure but of mindfulness and purpose of being--a reminder of the person we want to be and how to live a meaningful life. An opportunity to take stock and adjust as necessary.

For those of you who find yourself here now, or who have been here a long time...I wish you all a very happy new year, and I hope that 2013 deals you a good hand. :)

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