Listening Walks

There are no sidewalks where I live and the roads I walk on have a lot of blind hills. I have to be listening constantly for oncoming cars. On windy nights like tonight it’s an extra challenge because the wind coming over the hills sounds just like a car. Jazz and I stop and step into the shoulder, wait a few moments and if the wind dies down and there’s no further sound, we’re safe to continue.

Jazz and I cast long shadows!

Jazz and I cast long shadows!

My listening ability comes in very handy on my walks with Jazzmin and not just for avoiding cars. I’m always listening for the sounds of deer crashing through the woods or squirrels scampering among the leaves. This gives me warning before they run out in front of us and I can make sure I have Jazz in control. There are quite often times when she walks blissfully by unaware that 10 feet off the road there’s deer staring at her or a squirrel sitting up in a tree. I’m not about to call her attention to them.

Mostly what I listen for and to are the songs of the birds. Take a walk with me and I’ll tell you what song belongs to what bird. There are still a few songs I don’t recognize but tonight I heard an Eastern towhee, tons of robins, cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees and blackbirds. I learned three new bird songs today. This morning I heard and saw a mockingbird and this evening I heard and saw a Baltimore oriole and some other mysterious bird I still haven’t identified.

Baltimore oriole

Baltimore oriole

mysterious songbird

Mysterious songbird upper left of tree

I apologize for the low quality pictures of the oriole and the mystery bird but the camera on my phone only zooms in so far and the birds wouldn’t obediently come closer.Β It was the perfect night for a walk and the breeze helped keep us cool and keep the bugs away. Jazz is always happy to be out walking and having so many beautiful things to see and hear makes it my favorite kind of exercise.

I’m a listener by nature; a listener and observer. I was a shy kid and still am somewhat shy in person until you get to know me. So rather than participate, I listened and watched. You can learn a lot by keeping your lips zipped and your ears open. I know I did. The side effect of this is that when I’m with my friends and family, I’ve observed so much, am so eager to share it and have been quiet for so long that I talk really fast. I suppose in that respect I resemble the song birds because I have a lot to say, though I do so in a far less musical way.

Confidence is Natural…

Mr. Bluebird perched confidently on my pine tree.

Mr. Bluebird perched confidently on my pine tree.

Confidence. The Oxford Dictionary defines confidence as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.” A very apt definition. To me, confidence is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. Perhaps everyone struggles with it at some point in their life. I often worry that if I am too confident in myself I will come off as conceited. Conceit defined as “excessive pride in oneself.” It can get rather confusing…to me anyway. Then again, I’m a human.

On my drive into work this morning I saw a red-winged blackbird sitting on the tiniest twig of a branch. He was rather calm looking and didn’t appear to have any fear that the twig was going to break and drop him. He knew his wings would catch him if the branch broke. He had confidence in his wings, or perhaps it’s just natural instinct. I envy animals and their instincts and I highly doubt they ever suffer from low self-confidence, worry, doubt or self-deprecation. Seeing that one bird sitting there started the wheels of thought in my brain and when they start, they’re hard to stop.

That blackbird didn’t spot that twig from the sky and think “I wonder if that will support me? What if it breaks and my wings suddenly malfunction and I drop to the ground? What if all the other birds laugh at me?” He probably thought: “Branch. Perch.” and accomplished exactly what he wanted to. No doubts, no fear, no worries, just action. That bird was confident in his abilities as a bird because he knows no other way to be. I envy him. I continued on this course of thought…

I always see hawks circling in the sky or perched on the wires between telephone poles. They’re searching for prey or resting from their last meal. When they spot a mouse, small bird or other oblivious impending victim they don’t think “What if I swoop down, misjudge my aim and miss the prey? What if the prey spots me and runs away? What if my wings get tangled and I tumble and fall gracelessly onto my head? Would my fellow hawks see? I’d never live it down! Would the prey come back and laugh at me?” They just dive and either get their prey or they don’t. If they miss, they’ll try again without a second thought and without a loss of confidence. That’s how they know to be. I admire them.

I am opening myself up for some ribbing from friends by saying this, but I then thought about squirrels. Those bushy-tailed rodents are always running across the road, scampering across wires and climbing trees. They quite often make great leaps from tree to tree and run the tightrope of wires spanning the road. Do they pause on the branch or wire and think “What if I gauge the distance wrong and miss the branch? What if I swish my tail incorrectly and topple from the wire? What if the car doesn’t swerve with screeching tires when I pause in the middle of the lane?” They just act, confidently and quickly. Their lives aren’t long enough to waste doubting their own abilities and there isn’t room in their devious little rodent minds for useless worry. I’m almost jealous. Almost.

It’s spring and therefore mating season among the birds in my yard. The male birds are constantly strutting around puffing out their chests and flapping their wings as they sing what must be a beautiful serenade to the female birds. They’re very competitive and chase each other away every other minute. Their instinct is telling them they need to mate so they do it. They don’t perch in bars, scan bird dating sites and spend hours fretting about having every feather in place. They do what they do and expect it to work and it must since there’s never a shortage of birds in my yard. They’re confident that they can get a mate because that’s how it has worked for countless years.

In my constant quest to be more confident in myself, I’m going to take lessons from the animals I observe around me. There is a balance and power in the animal kingdom that I’m certain can teach me quite a lot. I’m confident that when I stop tripping over my own worries, doubts and fears I’ll finally be able to spread my wings and truly fly…and perch on the tiniest branch of hope without the slightest fret of falling.