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Appreciating the ordinary

I am waiting for a bird.

It came to my feeder in spring 2020 and late winter 2022. I haven’t seen it as late as May before, but I’m still hopeful. Honestly, I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t show.

I’ve been filling bird feeders since 1975 and I’ve gotten to know my locals – the usual visitors. I see cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, as well as grackles and starlings. I have goldfinches and house finches. I have the tree clinging birds – nuthatches and flickers, and I’ve seen downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, pileated (those are the ones that look like Woody Woodpecker) and red-breasted woodpeckers, and flickers. I see these birds year-round. And there are plenty of birds in the neighborhood that don’t come for the seeds in my feeder but they perch on the bird bath or prance around the yard looking for bugs like the robins, the wrens, mockingbirds, and more.

The one I’m waiting for is a red-headed woodpecker, a beautiful tri-color bird about the size of a blue jay that is unquestionably a stunner. I was very excited when I first saw him (or her – both sexes are alike in coloring, not always so with birds) and I’ve been keeping a hopeful eye out all spring. But I think the time has passed since this is clearly a migrating bird, not a “local.” I admit it’s disappointing.

But there is an easy lesson here. Yes, I miss my flashy exotic visitor and I do wish he’d come, and I’d be really excited if he showed up again. But that should not – and it does not – overshadow the joy and pleasure I get from watching my regulars. I feed whatever birds show up just because I enjoy watching them. I like learning their calls, noticing their behaviors, differentiating species that look alike. For instance, by now I can tell the difference between a song sparrow, a white-throated sparrow and a house sparrow. No big thing but, for me, it’s fun.

Your life is full of ordinary delights. It’s very easy to miss the abundant blessings you receive every day if you spend our energy waiting for one special thing, one pinnacle of your career, one 10 out of 10 on the scoreboard. Those things are special by definition – they don’t happen often. But the simple delights that surround you every day, the opportunities for joy, the reasons to smile and feel blessed? A good cup of coffee, a quick thank you, a favorite song? Those things? Those ordinary, everyday things? Noticing and appreciating those is one of the secrets to a very happy life.


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