Year of the Bird

IMG-7955I have good news people: 2018 is the Year of the Bird! This year, all year, National Geographic, The Audubon Society, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Life International (and over 100 other organizations) are joining forces to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Throughout 2018, they will shine a spotlight on the 10,000 species of birds on our planet. The goal is to raise consciousness about them through a year of stories covering scientific research, conservation efforts, and the natural histories of birds from around the world. And they will share ways for all of us to help.

I knew this was coming, this campaign by these giants in the publishing and conservation worlds. I heard about it last month, but I didn’t get really excited until my sweet friend Michaela dropped off the January issue of National Geographic on my stoop, just before the new year. And since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how great this whole Year of the Bird thing is.

I also keep thinking of how I decided to throw myself deeper into birding last year, to help heal my broken (yet again) heart. Birds have always been a panacea for this, for me. So I woke early to seek out rarities. I went on trips, and on group outings where I met other birders, who are honestly some of the nicest people. I read a lot of books and articles and blogs about birds. I took a 6 week bird biology class at our local Audubon chapter. I learned about falconry, and had the thrill of briefly flying a Harris’ Hawk at New England Falconry in Vermont. I watched a half a million Tree Swallows swarm and dance in the sky over the Connecticut River, something I wrote about here, and will never forget.

2017 was my year of the bird. And I plan to take this into 2018, right alongside the YOTB campaign.

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Happiness

I keep thinking about this blog too, and of my writing. I’ve been writing since my teens, but until I started this blog 7 years ago, it was limited to  personal journals, letter writing, and an occasional essay gifted to friends. It was just something I enjoyed doing – a hobby, I guess – with no greater goal in mind.

The blog came about as a way to challenge myself and my writing. I figured if I liked writing so much, why not do a little something more with it? I guessed that the pressure of an audience would help me hone my skills, which it did, and continues to do so. It was a little terrifying at first, but the casual nature of this being a blog, and a personal one to boot, helped temper that pressure. It has allowed me to play with my writing while laughing and crying – or laughing ‘till crying, with my teeny-tiny-but-oh-so loyal audience.

I’ve never had any aspirations of making Eat Thru The Pain anything more than it is.  I’ve always seen it as a way to stay vulnerable and connected to you all, which is good because I kind of suck sometimes at doing so in real time. In real life. As you know. 

But if I’m honest, I get tired of hearing myself think, let alone trying to filter those thoughts into yet another Eat Thru The Pain post about yet another breakup. Blech. So, in order to keep myself writing, with something of a challenge to it, I’ve decided to write more about birds on the blog this year, and less about myself.

I won’t change the name to “Bird Thru The Pain” just yet, but it’s on the table.

I’ll shoot for a once a month bird post. I may write a personal one here & there too. Some of the bird posts may be infused with the personal, some may simply be informational. I’m not entirely sure how it will evolve.

I do promise to keep in mind that you all don’t share the same enthusiasm I do – but my hope is to spark some in you. And I hope that what you take away from my little bird musings is an understanding of the importance of preserving their place in our world.

Plus, writing will force me to learn more, and there is always so much more to learn about birds, and nature, and about how we can save this precious planet we call home.

I’m also doing this simply because I want to be part of the party! This bird-nerd is so totally pumped to see the avian world getting so much press!

I just got up out of my seat as I was writing this because I heard a Northern Cardinal outside. There’s two on the power lines in front of my house. During this dreadful cold snap we are having, they are fine, they’ve been through worse ones. Looking at them, I realized that the fact that some humans have deemed this their year means nothing to them. But I hope it eventually means something to their survival. And I want to contribute my small part of that here, in this tiny bloggy-corner of the internet.

More food birds, less pain,

xo-L

 

 

 

 

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All the way around again

IMG-7869This past year, I discovered the joys of coffee in bed on my weekend mornings. In fact I started this blog post during my last coffee in bed session of 2017. It feels luxurious and lazy – two things I don’t think anyone would ever accuse me of being, which assuages any Yankee guilt I feel about the chores that await. In the personal and political chaos of 2017, I’m grateful for this new ritual. I use the time to read, write, or just watch the damn (albeit cute) House Sparrows in the privet outside.  

I think I like doing this so much because I had one of those years where I had to catch my breath over and over again. Probably not unlike yours, maybe worse in some ways, maybe better in others. I am now six months out from a breakup that should have been simple, but complicated my life in ways I could not have foreseen. It dredged up every last fear I have about trusting people, but I am working on it, and moving on. Then, in November, a dear friend parted this earth way too soon, leaving me – and so many people I love dearly – aching, and stunned.

With the year closing out, I am, like many of you, looking back, taking stock, and counting blessings.

Gratitude is a practice that is based in comparison. It may seem a morbid thing to do, but when things go badly, it helps to remind ourselves how much worse it could have been. It can work like the switch on a flashlight, forcing us to shine a light on our relative good luck. Sheryl Sandberg calls it the “gratitude for what’s left”, and it can offer perspective when things seem too much to bear.

I have done this, and I know my year could have been worse, and I am truly grateful for what is left.

The worst part of this year was watching people use this concept to dismiss each other’s experiences. I got a small dose of this in my personal life, but more so when I paid attention to the news. The term “snowflake” was flung around far too much. The lack of empathy was heart wrenching to witness.

In the best case scenario, people want to convince you that things weren’t really “that bad” or “could have been worse”, out of love, because they genuinely want us to be happy. In the worst case, it’s because our suffering is an affront to their happiness, or a threat to their fantasies about this country. 

But perspective and gratitude don’t make pain disappear – they are more like dressings for our wounds, not a miraculous tincture that seals them up. Healing takes so much more than that – like empathy, self-care, and time.

I know the whole gratitude thing can seem like some cult-ish fad, or a pollyannaish thing to do. I’m not saying it cures all, and I certainly don’t want to oversimplify. I speak from my own experience though, and how it helped me heal from a panic disorder 7 years ago.

I took up a practice of gratitude back then, alongside therapy, exercise, meditation, and yes, some Xanax too. If I’m honest, writing a list of things I was grateful for seemed silly, and no match for a disorder that felt like it might literally kill me at times. I was overwhelmed by bitterness about the factors that brought on the disorder, and felt grateful for nothing, but I was willing to try. 

So I started with the basics – like sidewalks. I walked 4-6 miles a day back then, because it was the only time I felt some reprieve from my racing heart and mind. Sidewalks made that safer, and easier, so, on the list it went. It took a few weeks, but I eventually realized that taking stock of the basics made sense, and was a good starting point. Over time, it helped chip away at the lies that anxiety tells, and it gave me real ground to stand on while I continued the work that eventually lead to recovery.

My point being: I have experienced the power of its practice. But I sometimes forget. I sometimes fumble around in the darkness, especially in years like 2017. And even though January 1st is an arbitrary date that holds no significance in astronomy or nature, I find the symbolism a new year difficult to resist. And what’s wrong anyhow, with taking time to reflect on what has transpired? Or with moving forward with hope and well wishes in our hearts, for ourselves and everyone around us?

And while I’ve shared this quote before, in another New Years’ post I think, I’ll share it again because it says it better than I can:

“…onward full-tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another–that is surely the basic instinct…Crying out: High tide! Time to move out into the glorious debris. Time to take this life for what it is.”
― Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson

And then I’ll just leave you with one more thing – something a dear friend sent me on Saturday, while I was enjoying my second-to-last coffee in bed of 2017. This is the same friend who I spent last Christmas with while her world fell apart, and she too had a rough year, but is doing much better. It was so thoughtful of her, and so perfectly timed. 

If I have learned anything this year, it is that I won’t ever be ready for what life throws at me.
I won’t have the right words when it counts;
I won’t know what to choose when fate itself is staring at me down.
But now I know I don’t always need to have the right answer.

I’ve learned I can go on waiting for something,
sustained by hope and nothing more — or I can put it aside and shrug my shoulders.
Bravely accept the fact that I can’t keep my heart safe anymore than I can stop love from taking everything from me.

I have learned to stop saying yes when I don’t mean it — to live as authentically as I know how.
To allow the tips of my fingers to skirt the darkness, as long as I remember to keep my eyes fixed on the light.
And as one door opens and another closes, I will move forward with the knowledge that unlike so many others, I have another year ahead of me — another shot at making it all the way around the sun,
And a chance to get it right this time round.

-Lang Leav

I’m grateful we all have another “shot at making it all the way around the sun”, and wish you all love and peace in the year ahead.

More food, less pain,
xo-L