Nature and Connection

Tammy Brown

Nature Grounds Me

Nature grounds me, teaches me acceptance, reminds me how temporary my problems are, and helps me understand both the power and the insignificance of this moment in time. Birding is one way I spend time outdoors connecting with nature. A few things I’ve learned enjoying nature and birding here in Bastrop, Texas.

White-faced Ibis flying over Lake Bastrop, Bastrop, TX
White-faced Ibis flying over Lake Bastrop, Bastrop, TX

Openness and curiousity bring more richness than pursuit of my agenda

When I am walking with the expectation that I want to see certain things–for example, I want to see Warblers in migration, or ducks on the lake–odds are that I won’t see them. They don’t respond to my agenda. On the other hand, when I am walking with curiousity and openness, I am likely to encounter and connect with birds or other wildlife. When I calmly observe and experience nature, birds drop on branches, take a good look, and stay with me for a few minutes.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Birds are curious and aware of us

Last weekend, I heard new bird songs trilling and warbling all around me but I couldn’t see any of the singers. I followed the sounds under pines and elms and into the wet field in pursuit. Fruitlessly, I scanned the woods with my binoculars. and the birds went silent as I radiated frustration. When a sudden familiar stinging caught my attention, I realized I was in ant territory. I ran to the path which was bare but muddy. I had nothing to stand on but my hat as I pulled off my boots, slapped ants off my pants legs and picked them one by one off my socks. I was enough of a spectacle dancing on my hat in sock feet, that a Cardinal came in to watch from a fence perch, and several other birds flew into the near brush line.

Birds are curious about us and our activities, but they are so much better at hiding. Let’s just accept that birds will be seen when they choose to be seen, and they have the advantage in the game of watching.

Northern Cardinal, male
Northern Cardinal

Make space for more by appreciating what is

I went for a short walk at North Shore Park, Lake Bastrop on Sunday morning. Bird songs filled the trees just beyond the trail’s edge, but the birds stayed under cover. As I followed the “Buzzard Trail”, I released my agenda of finding migratory Warblers, and began to appreciate the magnificent Black Vultures for whom the trail is named. From perching en masse on a dead tree by the lake, about 40 of them rose in a long ripple as I passed close by. I heard the collective whoosh of powerful wings just overhead as they launched into a kettle above.

Black Vultures at North Shore Park, Lake Bastrop, Bastrop TX
Black Vultures at North Shore Park, Lake Bastrop, Bastrop TX

I paused at a spot on Lake Bastrop where the trail met the shore and offered a wide and distant view of the water. No Herons, no Egrets stood motionless in the reeds. No Ducks or Coots bobbed in wake of bass boats on the blue surface. I stood as still as an Egret myself, binoculars down, feeling the breeze off the lake touch my face, experiencing the openness of water and sky. Soon, a large bird soared over the horizon, over the marsh, and splashed down to nab a fish from the lake. The great bird flew off, powering up easily from the water. Some minutes later it returned for another fish. That’s when I saw the white tail and head and knew that I was watching a Bald Eagle.

Next a dark V formation flew across the sky–long-necked birds with long curved bills. I saw these birds up close earlier this month at Anahuac Nature Preserve on the Texas coast.–White-faced Ibises with iridescent feathers of green and rust. Two large groups passed overhead for a stunning moment, twisting like a unfurling ribbon, a back satin ribbon caught in the wind.

As I walked on I heard Warblers in the woods. I knew I would not see them unless they chose to show themselves, and they didn’t. That’s when the Orchard Oriole appeared silhouetted against the sky–a beautiful chestnut and black bird perched atop a chinaberry tree. He was aware of me as I snapped photographs but he didn’t seem to mind at all.

Some connections

Soon I turned back toward home with my short but satisfying bird list to meet my son for Mother’s Day breakfast. He came with ingredients, and made for us his first batch of homemade blueberry muffins. They were moist and light and delicious. It occurred to me again, that my son, that little boy I cherished and raised, is a grown man. He is kind, generous, loyal, super smart, funny, and I would like him even if we weren’t related.

I made so many pans of blueberry muffins for him when he was growing up, always box mixes with a can of wild Maine blueberries inside. I think of the ways my children have exceeded my best efforts by being better bakers, making better choices, being wiser than I was at their ages, and I’m very proud of them all. I’m also happy that in spite of the mistakes I inevitably made as a mother, I loved my children deeply, and I still do. I knew them, listened to them, saw them, respected them as separate individuals, and watched with delight as they grew into the wonderful humans that they are.

There’s a connection here between being in nature, and being with children, and really, with anyone. There’s a benefit in waiting to see what children bring to the moment instead of filling the moment with what we want to teach them or show them or get them to do. All of our relationships are richer and deeper when we are curious and open and drop our agendas. When we are just being ourselves, others are drawn to us more than when we present our preferred personas. We are more interesting when we are vulnerable in our joy and in our pain. And when we make space in our lives to just be still and present, little miracles may drop into the space we hold open.

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