I have always been a nature lover and wildlife watcher. But lately, I am taking on this hobby with a new perspective. Instead of just pointing, photographing, remarking, and/or identifying something in nature, I go a level deeper and ponder the lessons or messages that that particular plant or animal is trying to tell me through its morphology, activity, context and/or sounds.
Here are three birds I’ve recently encountered that have reminded me of three very important lessons:
Messenger #1: A Wise Warbler in Waste
After my second visit to the Austin Subaru Dealership, where I was that much closer to sealing the deal on a brand new Forester, I pulled over at Pacha Cafe; it looked like a good place to take a business call. I drove around back to park in an open spot in front of some trash bins that were overflowing with waste. It wasn’t the prettiest sight and I second-guessed whether or not I wanted to park there. Then I saw some movement in the pile of rubbage – it was a bird! And not just the typical bird you might expect near garbage (like a grackle or pigeon), but a warbler! Unfortunately I did not get to look closely because I was running late to this call; however, I am pretty confident it was an Orange-crowned Warbler. These little grayish to olive-green songbirds stay busy foraging in low shrubs (and, if I correctly identified it, in piles of waste too!).
Anyway, seeing that beautiful creature gleefully pick through what I at first discarded as just “trash” made me think about what that pile might look like in its eyes – a smorgasbord for certain!
This setting was so incredibly relevant to my current situation! I had been making moves on trading in my 12 year old Honda CR-V which has kept me safe and mobile since I was 16. Throughout the whole negotiating process, I put a lot of thought into why the Honda CR-V was just not cutting it anymore, which may not have been a completely honest argument with myself.
Ultimately, I did end up going home from the dealership in my new ocean blue whip (best decision I’ve made so far this year!), but not without fully appreciating my old wheels and all the miles they still have yet to travel.
Of course, the Orange-crowned Warbler’s lesson is about resourcefulness and optimism, which goes far beyond material possessions.
A resourceful person can see opportunity when others only see obstacles.
As I ponder this bird’s wisdom, a story bubbles to the surface:
I was confronted with a scheduling problem when planning a trip to the desert in West Texas. My sister, Ashlyn, and her best friend (my “like a sister”), Shaylee, were going to join me for a tour of Chinati Hot Springs, Terlingua, and Big Bend all in the course of four days. The plan was that we’d ride together in Ashlyn’s car and as they departed for Amarillo, I would give them a hug and a kiss and take a bus back home to Austin.
Much to my disappointment, my sister and her friend weren’t going to be able to arrive on time and would miss out on the hot springs. I had two options: postpone my departure and drive with them, but have to skip the hot springs and lose my deposit, or I could make the 9.5 hour drive by myself and soak up the minerals in the water, but toss my $100+ non refundable bus ticket in the trash. I begrudgingly chose the latter.
What I started to realize while on the road was how nice it was to be in the car by myself. I took a few business calls but for the majority of the drive, I was enjoying time with me, myself and I. I listened to my music, pulled over to stop and observe things that caught my attention, and made bathroom breaks when I felt the need.
My road trip to Chinati Hot Springs was probably my most favorite drive. As the sky transformed from an energetic, blazing palate to a black canvas with glittering stars, my spirit also transformed. The last 37 miles were the most memorable. I turned onto a two-laned, seemingly endless road, leaving all cell service behind me. I had my music on shuffle and discovered that every song that played “at random” was exactly what I needed to hear at that time and in that place. The desert scenes zipping past my windshield were being perfectly orchestrated by the music.
For the last seven miles, I was on a bumpy, windy dirt road. I was feeling a spirit inside of me that I don’t remember ever feeling before. I had visions. Visions of my future, and they sparkled like the night sky. I saw two stars that were guiding me to my destination. I imagined that the stars were representations of myself and my sister, whom I lovingly call my “Sea Star.” She was with me even then. Something inside me urged me to pull over. I stepped outside of the car to breathe in the pure night air. After a few moments the music in my car shifted to something with an urgent tone. It was a bit frightening, and I realized I was not doing the smartest thing ever. Standing alone, in the pitch black night, without cell service, staring up at the sky. It was time to get back in the car and reach the springs at last.
My time at the springs was even more magical than the drive, which will be a story for another time. I believe it to be partly because I was by myself, which gave me space to explore and feel within.
I metamorphosed during this trip. My skin shed and revealed another instar. Since the trip, I have learned how to alter my perspective when things don’t go according to plan: instead of viewing it as a loss (in this case a loss money and a loss of time with my family), I try to be more open to the opportunity it may present. And because I am open to it, and not gritting my teeth and cursing, I see those opportunities. I see them; I run toward them; I embrace them. I chase after my next life stage, whatever it might be.
A resourceful person can see opportunity when others only see obstacles.
Messenger #2 : A Turkey’s Reflection
While in Macheros, Mexico this January, I spent a lot of time in the backyard of the JM Butterfly B&B watching and listening. When I first heard the knocking, I was in the midst of a thrilling conversation with my friend Clark. I ignored the sound but it was incessant, and I could no longer resist the temptation to investigate. I abruptly abandoned the conversation to peer over the wall (Clark is by this point used to these distractible antics of mine and knows not to take offense). What I found there, on the other side of the wall, astonished and delighted me and made me giggle.
What I saw was a beautiful turkey in front of a small red car. He was pecking at the car bumper; its fiery red gobble perfectly matching the color of the car and dangling wildly with the sharp movements of its beak. I wondered out loud “Why in the world is it doing that?!” I nearly immediately answered my own question: the turkey saw its reflection in the shiny car, apparently thinking that it was another turkey he must compete with. Every jab he made at this turkey staring back at him was in fact an insult and injury to himself!
This fascinated me. I pondered what this turkey’s message was to me. What lesson is it trying to remind me of? And the answer once again rose to the surface of my consciousness. It was a lesson my mother taught me at a very young age: that when you point a finger at someone and pick out their faults, there are three more fingers pointing back at you. The things we are most able to see in others are the things we see and feel in ourselves; therefore, it is important to always consider your judgements and check yourself.
This turkey was wasting his energy attacking himself rather than pursuing his many biological needs.
As a human, I can relate to this turkey. I have been there. I have been my own worst enemy. I have attacked myself with toxic thoughts. I have pointed out flaws in others that were also mine. I have wasted precious energy.
I do this no longer. Or at least I make a very intentional effort to do this no longer.
I met with my therapist yesterday and we were exploring types of relationships, specifically polyamory. I find it fascinating and intriguing. As we talked, our conversation became entangled with ideas about self love and how important it is in order to be happy in general and in our relationships. We began to recognize that one of those relationships we all have is with our own selves. Indeed, this is the most serious and committed relationship we will ever have. She said something that made me laugh: “We are going to be in a relationship with ourselves no matter what; there is nothing we can do about it, so we may as well love with ourselves and have fun.” She talked about taking yourself out on a date, giving yourself the space to let your stream of consciousness flow uninterrupted.
From there, the conversation evolved to the topic of loneliness. I started talking about how I am not afraid to be alone, but that I don’t do it very often because there is just not enough time in a day or days in a life to be with all of the people I love and enjoy. But what I realized throughout our discussion is that “alone” is not the right word. Instead of being alone we are with ourselves. That notion is so empowering to me. It lifts a weight off of my shoulders, it makes me want to take more time to date myself, get to know myself, fall in love with myself. It makes me feel like I am not a single person but instead an infinite number of Audreys. And that makes me think of mirrors.
I love mirrors. I love the reflection of myself. When I wake up in the morning, with hair disheveled and my cheek wrinkle exaggerated from my heavy head squished up against the pillow; when I get out of the shower and am in the most raw version of myself; when I paint my face with makeup, complete with wing tipped eyes and brightly tinted lips; when I laugh and my dimples come to life; and when I cry, eyes sparkling with tears and my nose red and raw. I love mirrors.
Rather than pecking at its reflection, the turkey could have seen, observed itself. It could have looked into the depths of its own eyes and felt empowered by the feeling that he is not just one turkey, alone in the backyard of the butterfly B&B, but an infinite number of turkeys. He could have harnessed that energy, recharged himself, and fulfilled his day’s potential with that energy. But instead, he was wasting it on pecking at something he was perceiving as an enemy. Himself.
Messenger #3: A Rooster’s Wake Up Call
The third bird I learned a lesson from was a rooster. A rooster who woke me up at 3:43 on the morning of January 21, 2018. I was curled up in a bed with a mountain of warm and fuzzy blankets, because there was no heater in the JM Butterfly B&B. My eyes popped open at the sound of the first rooster’s call. Thinking it must be around six in the morning, I started engaging my brain and thinking about getting out of bed. I looked over at my phone and was shocked to see that it wasn’t even four o’clock yet! “Crap!” I was so ready to start my day in the mountains of Macheros.
We arrived the night before, with moonlight as our only source of light. I had no sense of where we were and what it looked like. So, naturally, I was excited to wake up with the sun and see it all. At first I was annoyed with the rooster. I tried to go back to sleep, because four hours was just not enough! I couldn’t do it. The rooster’s call had released my energy and I had to start my day.
I descended the stairs and busied myself with some writing while I waited for the sun to make its grand entrance. Around six or so in the morning, I saw the first rays peeking over the Cacique mountain. By this point, there was a cacophony of cock a doodle doos from all over the village in Macheros. I felt the sounds reverberating in my skin, my lungs, my heart.
Out of curiosity, I pulled out my phone and googled “rooster messenger spirit animal totem.” What I read made big beautiful tears well up and drop from the corners of my eyes. The rooster symbolizes self-confidence and encourages you to use your voice for good. The rooster wants you wake up each day and boldly make progress toward achieving your purpose in this life.
I was no longer annoyed at the rooster who woke me up so early. I was thankful for the message.