The Power of Sitting Still

downy woodpecker by JulieAnn Corbin

Yesterday was a bright, beautiful, sunny spring day so I decided to sit out on my deck swing in the afternoon. The swing is rather large and can fold down flat into a bed, something I used to do more often when I wanted to take naps outside on nice days. The swing was a Mother’s Day gift many years ago when I was still married and although it wasn’t easy to relocate from my ex’s house to mine, I wasn’t about to leave it behind.

Due to daily assault from sun, wind, rain and sometimes snow, I’ve already had to replace the seat cushion and the original canopy ripped through a couple years’ ago. The current seat cushion is starting to rip too so I cover it with a bedspread when I sit out there and a few days ago I had the clever idea of using plastic tablecloths as a new canopy. I’ve used a sheet in the past but that doesn’t keep the rain off if it’s sprinkling lightly and I want to stay outside, but the plastic tablecloths offer some protection, come in various colors and patterns and are easy to replace when they wear out. Jordan helped me put on the two new plastic tablecloths I purchased from the dollar store yesterday and I attached them to the canopy frame with some tablecloth clips and duct tape. Never underestimate the power of ingenuity and duct tape!

After placing a nice, thick, seashell-themed bedspread on the slightly ripped seat cover, I sat down on my swing and enjoyed the gentle rocking motion in the warm sunshine. I had a small notebook with me to jot down ideas for my jewelry designs and business plan and so I opened that up and started writing things out in cursive. I usually print my writing, but I periodically write in cursive so I don’t lose a writing ability that schools don’t seem to want to teach anymore. Both my printing and cursive are nearly impossible to read because I’m left handed and my teachers didn’t know how to teach a lefty, but I can usually decipher it or make it more legible when I write slower.

As I was writing, I started hearing little scraping sounds on the deck railing and I looked up to see a downy woodpecker hop-flying from one railing post to the next in an effort to creep closer to the suet feeder without me noticing. I have the frame from a child-size cushioned swing on my deck and although the seat part is gone, I hang bird feeders from the frame so I can see the birds when I looked out the window next to my desk. My cats love sitting on top of the bookshelf by that window to watch “Bird TV” too.

Sitting on the deck mere feet from the feeders, I continued to watch the male downy with his spot of red on the back of his head and I remained very still as I watched. He eventually felt confident enough to fly to the suet and begin eating and I smiled, happy to be able to watch a bird so closely.

A few minutes later Jaycie came outside and wanted to sit in the swing with me. She sat down next to me and I told her that if she sat very still, the woodpecker or other birds might come back and eat. Although Jaycie managed to sit quiet and still for a few minutes, no birds came to the feeders and she eventually grew bored and went down the deck steps to swing on the swing set (her favorite outdoor activity.) I didn’t really expect my 9 year old to be patient enough to wait for birds, but I’m sure someday she’ll appreciate the merit of sitting still.

Eventually Jaycie went back inside the house and I remained on the swing, writing in my little notebook. The longer I sat there, the more comfortable all sorts of birds became with me and within an hour, there were chickadees, nuthatches, sparrows, goldfinches, purple finches, blue jays, and downy woodpeckers frequenting the feeders. A pair of cardinals flew into the nearby trees, but they weren’t brave enough to come to the feeders and the male chose to sit in a branch and scold me for daring to sit near his feeders.

Although I wasn’t sitting perfectly motionless because I continued to write in my notebook, the birds were no longer as afraid of me and I could quietly observe them as they came and went from the feeders. Chickadees are by far the bravest birds and a couple of them came to the feeder hanging on the big swing frame within arm’s reach of where I sat. Someday I hope the chickadees trust me enough to eat from my hands, but that hasn’t happened yet. I’m sure with patience and perseverance, it will.

sparrow goldfinch and nuthatch by JulieAnn Corbin

Goldfinch on top left feeder, sparrow on middle blue feeder and nuthatch on deck below feeders.

Sitting still on a swing may seem like a waste of time to some people who feel the need to always be on the go, but to me it’s a necessity. I need my quiet time in nature to recharge my spirit and refocus my energy. Moreover, I was still being productive as I worked on ideas for my jewelry and practiced the dying art of cursive. You don’t always have to be moving and in a rush to accomplish great things, sometimes taking some time to sit still can carry you further on your journey than you imagine.

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Caterpillars, butterflies and frogs

dog gazing across pond

Every morning I wake up with a general plan for what I’m going to accomplish that day and as my life is pretty predictable, things usually go as planned. Yesterday however, that was not the case as my life took a rather unexpected plot twist late morning that had me scrambling to rewrite the next chapter in my life. I’m a resilient, durable, determined and strong woman though and I always land on my feet somehow. I know that even with this new curvy hill in the path of my life, I’ll get my stride back and be just fine eventually.

After several hours of rewriting the outline for the next chapter of my life, I was feeling a bit mentally fried and decided it was time to walk Jazzmin. The temperature had warmed up to a more spring-like 55 degrees finally and my pup and I were quite ready to get out in the sunshine and fresh air. I walked Jazz up the farmer’s access road and into the open farmer’s fields beyond. That is my favorite place to restore inner balance and regain serenity. It’s a different world at the end of that access road as Jazz and I visit a land full of unending skies, clear ponds, rolling hills, sky-reaching trees and a chorus of bird songs.

Jazz loves to put her nose to the grassy ground where deer, turkey, squirrels, birds, raccoons and who knows what else has walked, so I call those walks with her “sniff walks.” When we’re walking the paved roads around my house, I keep us moving and don’t make many stops but “sniff walks” are different as it’s just us in the fields and I’m in no rush to go anywhere.

We walked up to the small pond among the fields and as we walked around its perimeter, I could hear the frogs who had been sunning themselves suddenly jump into the pond. They move so quickly, I rarely see them, but hearing them still makes me smile. I had no idea then that frogs would take on a new meaning by the end of the day.

Jazz and I spent at least a half hour in the fields exploring and enjoying the sights and smells and then it was time to head back home and resume my work.

A few hours later, I was feeling frazzled again and I knew it was time to take my solo walk of the day. The temperature was up to 60 by then so I changed from capris into shorts, got Jazz happily settled in her crate and headed out. With my newly downloaded music pumping into my ears, body and spirit through my earbuds, I set out on what I call the “big hill” walk that’s three miles long and contains the biggest hill near me.

Shortly after heading up the road I live on, I saw my first wooly bear caterpillar of the season moving quickly to cross the road. He was halfway through the oncoming lane but I knew a car could come up at any moment and end his journey so I carefully scooped him up in my hand and carried him safely into the shoulder. I set him down and he crawled quickly into the grass. Immensely pleased that I had finally seen one of my favorite kinds of caterpillars and managed to help it, I was smiling wide as I continued my walk.

I conquered the big hill with my usual determination and with a bit of upbeat tempo motivation from my music and walked 1.5 miles out before turning around toward home. I’m not out to set any time records when I walk but I do move along and my leg muscles were quite warm and already becoming sore from the previous walk with Jazz. I kept my stride though and was rewarded with another welcome, spring sight when I was halfway home.

I caught the sight of motion in the shoulder up ahead and when I focused on it, I saw that it was little white cabbage butterfly. I love butterflies and they have held special meaning for me since my father passed away so I was ecstatic to see the little white butterfly flitting around the dandelions growing in the shoulder. I stopped walking and just watched him fly along the shoulder and down the road until he was out of sight. The rest of the walk home I was so happy, I felt like I was the one who had wings.

I actually wanted to write this blog post last night but I was a bit too mentally and physically exhausted. That fatigue made it tempting to sleep in longer this morning but the sun was already up and shining at 7 a.m. so I did what I didn’t really want to do and got up, dressed, made my morning tea and started writing.

I can’t remember the last time I started my day writing a personal blog post. Usually I get up and take care of everyone else’s needs, whether it be my girls or my work, but today I chose a different path and decided to blog before doing anything else. Kind of like those frogs around the pond on my walk with Jazz, I took the leap into different water and created ripples that are already changing my life in a positive way.

The return of familiar songs and soaring

Adult male Red-winged Blackbird

There was snow on the ground yesterday morning but today started out warmer than it had been for the last week and it just got better from there! The forecast calls for 50’s and 60’s all week with plenty of sunshine and the occasional rain. Rain is fine because we need it for things to start growing and to wash off the roads that are still white with salt.

When Jaycie and I headed out for the bus this morning there was a hawk soaring in the sky and he glided from west to east upon the breeze as we watched. I told her that I gauge the arrival of spring by when I see the first turkey vulture because they don’t stick around our area all winter. When turkey vultures return and start gliding through the skies on their huge wings searching for roadkill and carcasses, then I believe that spring is truly on its way.

Turkey vulture

A few hours after Jaycie got on the bus, a turkey vulture soared over the trees across the road and I smiled feeling as if the universe had heard my words this morning. Now that I’ve seen those familiar scavengers soaring in the sky I’m certain that spring is coming and that this nice weather isn’t just some cruel trick. I spent the morning working on my writing projects inside but by noon, I couldn’t resist the call of the beautiful outdoors any longer. I got Jazzmin strapped in her backpack, tied up my sneakers and grabbed a light sweatshirt because while it was 53, the wind gusts were making it a bit cool to go without a coat.

As Jazzmin and I walked, I heard the familiar songs of birds that had returned from their winter vacation to the south. I heard the songs of robins, red-winged blackbirds and killdeers. Although the “Winter Wonderland” song states “gone away is the bluebird” a few of my bluebirds never left and I heard their song all winter long. Now that it’s warmer, there will be more bugs around for the bluebirds to eat and they will be more plentiful,  which always makes me happy.

Eastern Bluebird

I feel a special connection to all the birds that frequent my feeders through the winter and into the spring and who make their homes on my property. Just through watching and listening to the birds in my yard an on our walks, I’ve learned to identify various species by their song, size and plumage. Quite often I hear birds but don’t see them and I feel a small surge of satisfaction that I can recognize them just by their song. I’m still not good at identifying the different types of hawks I see around because they’re not really fond of close observation, but eventually I’ll sort them out too.

Northern Goshawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Sharp-shinned hawk

Red-shouldered hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Right now I’m just enjoying the return of the familiar songs and soaring of spring!

Bountiful Butterflies

pearl crescent butterflies

Fortunately for me, it’s been a very good summer for butterflies around my house. I started seeing monarchs in early July and there have been tons of little white and yellow butterflies flying around since late spring. One type of butterfly in particular has been especially abundant this year and while I call them mini monarchs, they’re actually called Pearl Crescent butterflies.

I think the butterflies like my property so much because I don’t mow as fanatically as my neighbors and therefore have a decent crop of “weeds” such as dandelions, clover, plantains and goldenrod. Thanks to consuming local honey in my tea every morning for the past year, I no longer have allergy issues so none of these plants bother me by their appearance or their pollen. The butterflies and bees find their pollen quite appealing and I’m happy to provide what they need to thrive.

For reasons I don’t entirely understand, the little Pearl Crescent butterflies love my driveway, especially the area around my car. Every time I go out to my car on a warm day, the little orange and black butterflies fly up in a cloud and “swarm” about in confusion as I navigate carefully to avoid stepping on them. There are also a large number of the butterflies in my yard whenever I take Jazzmin out and I can’t keep from smiling when they flutter about me as if saying “Hello!”

pearl crescent butterflies


pearl crescent butterflies

pearl crescent butterfliesButterflies have always been a positive sign for me as they remind me that those who have passed on, including my father, are always with me and are bringing great things into my life on their beautiful, delicate wings. I’m still struggling with the parting of ways I’ve experienced with my formerly close friend and seeing butterflies every day helps compensate for no longer talking to that person every day as I used to.

Sometimes it feels like the butterflies go out of their way to circle around me and make their presence known, monarchs especially, and I appreciate nature’s creatures supporting me through all the challenges I’ve faced in my life.

The abundance of turkeys

two turkeys crossing road

Usually when I ask to see a specific animal as a sign I ask for a hawk, heron, eagle, owl or butterfly. I can honestly say I’ve never asked to see a turkey, but I certainly take it as a sign when I see them. Lately I’ve been seeing quite a few turkeys and this tells me that the universe is trying to send me a message.

There’s a family of turkeys that lives on the farmer’s land behind my house and for the past month or more, I’ve seen them crossing the field almost every day. Sometimes there are two adult turkeys, sometimes there are four, and at last count, there were eight baby turkeys. I enjoy watching them move across the field and often find their feathers when I take Jazzmin on walks up the farmer’s access road.

Outside of the field behind my house, I’ve also been seeing turkeys on my trips to New England. During the July trip with my girls to New England a turkey flew across the road on the drive out in an area where they’d had to blast away rock to make room for the road. On our most recent trip, I saw two turkeys in the shoulder of the expressway just standing in the grass. Then later a male turkey crossed the road right in front of us when we were on our way back from lunch at Friendly’s in Amesbury. He came out of the tree shadows on a sunny day so I almost didn’t see him in time to stop, but when I did stop, he just gave me an unimpressed look and walked nonchalantly across the road.

This past Saturday evening I decided to take Jazzmin for a walk up the farmer’s road and we’d only walk about 50 feet up it when I started hearing rustling in the grass field on the other side of the trees. I stopped to listen and soon heard inquisitive clucking noises. Rising up on my tiptoes, I was just able to see a male turkey’s head looking at me over the slight rise at the edge of the road. Smiling I settled back onto the heels of my feet and decided to stand there and wait quietly for him to continue his journey.

As we stood there listening, I heard the rustling move a bit further down the tree line and within moments, a single male turkey emerged from the trees and crossed the farmer’s road. Two more adult turkeys followed and then the younger turkeys scampered quickly across the road, some of them taking flight because they were unsure if we were going to move toward them. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a turkey fly, but they’re not the most graceful creatures and I always admire their efforts to get airborne.

turkey1 turkey3 turkey4

I was smiling through the whole experience while Jazz whimpered a bit because she wanted to chase the big birds and I wouldn’t let her. Once the turkeys were gone, we turned back down the trail and continued our walk where we saw several butterflies, deer and a hawk. It was certainly one of the most interesting walks I’ve had in a while!

Turkeys are a symbol of abundance and the universe is going to great efforts to remind me of the abundance in my life with all the recent turkey sightings. I know I have many blessings and the universe wants me to remember them all even when I go through tough times. I have two amazing daughters, a great family, good friends, a loving loyal pup, three cats that make my life a daily adventure, my own home and a job as a writer, which is so much more than I ever imagined I’d have. Despite any challenges I face, I will continue to have a good heart, the best intentions, a strong spirit, a vibrant energy and the stubbornly tenacious willpower that’s gotten me this far and that will carry me into whatever the future holds.

New feathered residents

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Waxwing (Silkitoppa)-3-E by Sindri Skúlason via Pinterest

For the several days I’ve been seeing cedar waxwings in the trees of my front yard. I love the colors of these birds and how dedicated they are to eating berries so I was quite happy to discover that they’re moving into my property.

I don’t have any ripe berries at the moment, but the black raspberries will be plentiful soon and I’m sure the waxwings and I will be competing to pick them. I’m not worried though, I’m sure there will be enough for all of us and I certainly don’t mind giving up some sweet berries in exchange for some new feathered residents. =)

Just a little clear up shower

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When my dad was alive and it would downpour like it has several times today, he was known to say “Oh, it’s just a little clear up shower.” He was being a little sarcastic of course, but now every time it rains cats and dogs, I recall those words and smile.

Today’s late afternoon rain did eventually let up and the sun came out, but by evening it was overcast and it started pouring after sunset. I’m not exactly sure what these “little” showers are clearing up, but I do know that they’re doing an effective job of overflowing local streams and runoff ditches. I had to drive through several road ponds on the way to pick up my daughters today and I was left wishing I had a boat instead of a car.

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It’s a rare thing lately to have more than one day in a row without some form of rain around here, but at least the sun comes back out eventually. When I took Jazzmin out for the last time tonight I saw a bat flying through the darkening sky and I’m sure he appreciates all the bugs that come out in the humidity. It’s always nice to see creatures benefiting from the unpredictable weather and it reminds me that the little clear up showers serve an important purpose in the circle of life.