Tag Archives: Birds

Please Help Me Build Something

bald eagle

(Image/Christopher Martin)

NOTE: I try hard to not ask you for things.

That’s not how I want this relationship to work.

But today, I must.

Because someone who matters to me asked for my help. And only you can make it possible.

You can skip the storytelling and contribute to something deserving and meaningful.

Or you can learn why I care. Because context matters.

We’d haul buckets full of water and live fish to the barn where my grandfather had built a fish-cleaning station.

There, I’d watch him club the heads of fish to kill them before I’d help him descale and filet them. Later, we’d have a fish fry.

The meals were delicious. The process was routine if I was fishing with grandpa. I didn’t think or feel much about it at all. It was just the way we did things.

My third-grade son and I recently started fishing together. I’m not sure what took me so long.

I asked him the question: “When we catch fish, do you want to keep and eat them, or release them back into the lake?”

He insta-answered: “I want to put them back.”

I was glad. Because I didn’t want to club fish heads.

I don’t judge people who fish for food. And I promise I’ll fish for food any time a food shortage or survival situation calls for it. But so long as I have access to a nice seafood counter at my local market, I’m cool with not intentionally killing fish myself.

I didn’t think about things like that when I was in third grade.

But my little boy does.

Years ago, so did another boy growing up in Minnesota. When he was in third grade, a representative of a raptor (birds of prey, not dinosaurs!) educational outreach program visited his school.

The speaker invited the boy to approach the live eagle perched on their arm.

It was Scott’s first close encounter with a raptor.

And it changed him forever.

The Subtle Art of Achieving Balance

One of my dearest childhood friends went through divorce about a year after me.

My divorce was the worst thing that ever happened to me.

Her divorce was maybe the fourth- or fifth-worst thing to happen to her, because she has survived Life Things that destroy people, leaving most of us in perpetual states of identity crisis and disrepair.

When we take enough damage, breathing and moving ceases to mean we’re alive.

My friend knew she wasn’t really alive anymore. Sometimes, we just break.

I’ve been broken.

In her search for balance, she enrolled in a program designed to help people achieve the kind of Mind, Body and Spirit balance that allows humans to thrive.

The process has been transformative.

I see and hear the changes in the things she writes and says.

The final step in her journey was to team with others as part of her leadership training to create something meaningful by enlisting the help of at least 100 people.

She joined 16 others to form the team who would choose Children and Environment as focal points for their final project.

Scott, the third grader from Minnesota who turned his eagle encounter into a lifelong passion for learning about and protecting birds of prey into his adulthood, just happened to be part of her team.

It Means: ‘To Seize’

The word Raptor—that is the classification of large birds of prey which includes eagles, falcons, hawks, osprey, owls, etc.—is derived from the Latin word Rapere, which means “to seize” or “to take by force.”

I see my friend taking her life back. Seizing moments. It’s a big deal.

And in Charlotte, N.C., she serendipitously met 16 like-minded souls willing to unite and work for something that mattered.

They’re going to build—with their hands—a large outdoor playground on the grounds of the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville, N.C., just north of Charlotte.

Something lasting. Something for children. Something that serves the big-picture mission of ecological balance most of us rarely pause to think about. (Here’s an entry-level primer on how raptors help balance ecosystems.)

They are raising money to pay for the raw materials, hardware, and tools needed to complete the project.

Maybe you care about raptor conservation. Maybe you care about children. Maybe you’d like to do me a personal favor.

Maybe you just like helping people. I hope so.

I didn’t need a reason other than someone who was fundamental to my character development, who has always been there for me, and who I have NEVER seen on the wrong side of a kindness argument say: “Can I please ask you for a favor?”

I should have known it wouldn’t be about her.

Help My Friend, Children, and Life Flourish

Please show others what’s possible by making the Carolina Raptor Center Playground a reality. No amount is too small.

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The Dead Birds

She lies dead on my back deck. This pretty female cardinal. Perhaps a sign of things to come. But, what?

I found her dead on my back deck. This pretty female cardinal. Perhaps a sign of things to come. But, what? Photo by: Me

I have never stumbled on a dead body even though there are more than seven billion people on the planet.

But I’ve never thought that was strange.

We don’t know how many birds exist. Their vast numbers and migratory habits and lack of census data cooperation make it impossible to pinpoint an accurate figure. Experts estimate between 100-400 billion. (Not a typo. That’s how varied the estimates are.)

Unlike people, most birds live outside. In the trees. Flying the friendly and sometimes not-so-friendly skies.

Small birds don’t live long. Typically just two or three years if they die of old age or “natural causes.”

Statistically, about 150,000 people die daily.

If we extrapolate that number out to birds, based on the bird-to-human ratio, we can roughly estimate that about four million birds die every day.

Yet, we almost never see dead ones.

They perch on our houses. In our trees. They shit on our cars and serenade us throughout the day in almost every hospitable nook of our world.

But still, dead birds are rare.

Which is why some people find meaning in seeing them.

I found a dead female cardinal on my deck yesterday. Just as you see her in the photo above.

I don’t really believe in signs.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t signs. I’m wrong about all kinds of things. The thing I’ve become most sure of as I’ve aged is that I don’t really know or understand anything.

I try to ask more questions and make fewer definitive statements.

What does it mean to find a dead bird?

Maybe nothing.

Maybe something.

No one can know for sure.

Still. I wondered what people believed it to mean.

But, I’m Not…

“So keep on walkin’ that road and I’ll follow
Keep on callin’ my name I’ll be there
And if a mirror should break it’s easy to take
Cause deep down I know that you care
I’m not superstitious.” 
– Europe

Those lyrics have almost no bearing on anything I’m thinking about, but I’ve been singing them in my head all morning and if you’re someone who knows the song, I wanted it to be stuck in your head, too.

Only the last line matters. I’m not superstitious.

Not really.

I don’t intentionally seek out ladders to walk under. I do note when black cats cross my path. Or when Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders brave a green bike. Or when people aren’t afraid to use yellow lighters.

I’m not afraid of 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42.

I’ve seen no direct evidence that I should be superstitious. But I also see no reason to needlessly “tempt fate.”

I don’t pretend to know anything at all. Not anymore.

But maybe finding dead birds does mean something. Especially one as beautiful as this.

A New Life

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

A quick Google search questioning what it means to find a dead bird yielded many responses. The consensus among the New-Agey community seems to be the following, which I read here. It succinctly sums up what I kept seeing:

“If you’ve seen a dead bird, this usually feels like a bad sign. Actually, death is typically a good sign showing us that an end to turmoil or pain is ending. This doesn’t necessarily mean physical death. Just a metaphorical death. Perhaps you’re going through heartache of a break-up. Perhaps you are struggling to find a job. This dead bird marks the end to your search and struggle. A new beginning is just around the corner.”

I don’t really believe things like that.

But I don’t know.

I don’t think finding a dead bird is necessarily a sign that things are turning.

But I don’t think it matters.

I think it can mean whatever we want it to mean. I think sometimes—not always, but sometimes—we can create truth.

Because it’s spring.

Because the sky is blue.

Because the sun shines.

Because the air is warm.

Because my favorite tree is going to flower soon.

Because we see beauty.

Because we choose hope.

Because the worst thing that ever happened to us, happened.

And we’re still alive.

Or maybe we died. And came back to life.

Either way, there’s a dead bird outside my door.

A dead bird. Reminding us to breathe.

A lifeless bird. Compelling us to live.

A beautiful creature. Encouraging us to fly.

…..

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