The Stare Down

“What’s so special about those? I see them all the time.”

Yes, we see them. And if you live in Colorado, you definitely see them all the time. They are in parks, fields, the county courthouse parking lot, on the side of the road, often in the road, and sometimes, even in our back yards. They are, as my mom would eloquently say of my ranch, “like horse crap. They’re everywhere.” But have we ever slowed down to actually look at these creatures and appreciate the true beauty that can be found in them?

These are scary times. With the COVID – 19 outbreak interrupting the usual hustle and bustle of daily life, I find myself reevaluating the world around me and noticing simple things that I often take for granted and don’t typically think so much about.  Take, for example, Canadian Geese.

I feel as though I just heard a collective groan from a bored audience. There was a time I would have felt the same way – believe me, I felt the twinge of a groan forming as I wrote the words “Canadian Geese” – but I have had a change of heart.

Like many of you, I have been under house arrest due to COVID – 19, isolating myself from the world as much as possible. However, the restlessness of being confined finally got the best of me and a change of scenery was calling. I grabbed my camera and decided to take a short drive and participate in an activity I refer to as being “a bird nerd.” This is where I go out with my camera and attempt to photograph birds of prey. Today, the forces of nature were against me, as my usual locations for bird sightings came up empty. Eventually, I found myself at a small, local lake, hoping to see anything with wings.

As I started up the path to the lake, I noticed movement on the path ahead but couldn’t make out what was there. Moments later, I found myself in a stare down with a Canadian Goose that was also using the same path. It was heading straight towards me, and it didn’t seem thrilled that I was there. It immediately started making noise, squawking and flapping its large, dark wings as it continued straight for me. I was caught off guard and froze for a moment. This wasn’t the greeting I was expecting from the usually quiet lake with its serene atmosphere. The black and white bird courageously charged down the path towards me. I was about to turn and run when it abruptly stopped several feet in front of me and just stared at me. This bird was looking me in the eye as if to say, “what the hell are you looking at?” I was thinking I should probably leave and get out of its space, but I decided to snap a few pictures with my camera instead. I wanted to have evidence of what was about to kill me since I was certain it could run faster than me on the muddy path.

The Stare Down

I have heard that geese can be territorial and downright mean when they feel their space is being invaded or they feel threatened. When you stop and think about it, people often have these same instincts, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that this bird wasn’t happy to be sharing its path with me. It stood still and gave me the stare down. I felt like I was in a staring contest and it was daring me to blink first.

In a sense, I did blink first. I slowly raised my camera and snapped a few pictures. The dark eyes of the bird didn’t waiver for several minutes as it refused to take its eyes off of me. With the exception of a little camera noise, I remained still, admiring the bird as it stood before me. I couldn’t help but notice the smooth curves of its neck and head and the strong lines of its wings.  And the colors were spectacular – the shiniest of black on its head and neck and white on its body that gleamed with golden brown highlights on some of its lower body feathers.

After a few minutes, the goose lost interest in me and seemed to be surveying the path, deciding which direction to go. It eventually left the path and took to the air, landing gracefully several yards away in the cold lake water. As it swam away, it was joined by several others, and the atmosphere became rather noisy with their dialogue and flapping wings. They reminded me of a large family cajoling and teasing one another. Some were happy, some seemed annoyed. But they definitely had each other.

The Canadian Goose from my encounter flying to the water’s edge.

Canadian Geese are known for their courage, loyalty, devotion, fellowship, and fearlessness. Unlike people, they will not leave one of their own kind behind. I witnessed all of this in one day. Mother nature has an amazing classroom.

I not only ended up leaving the lake with some insight into these rather stately birds, but I also left with a sense of peace and an understanding that even if we see something all the time, it still has a place in the universe and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I also couldn’t help but feel positive change will soon be on the horizon if we exercise some patience and understanding to get to that point. Like the Canadian Geese we see in our midst, we need to incorporate courage and fearlessness in our lives while maintaining a spirit of loyalty, devotion, and fellowship.

There is something to be said about the stately beauty of Canadian Geese and the quiet message of hope they bring to our world, even if we “see them all the time.”

~ Sandy Shiner-Swanson

If you enjoy the pictures from Birds, Boots, and Brews, please check out the artist gallery on Redbubble at

https://www.redbubble.com/people/sswan58

Advertisements

Pigeons

Generally, I love birds and find them fascinating. While it is true that I can spend hours searching for and watching hawks or eagles, there is one bird I am not so fond of. The Pigeon. In fact, most horse owners will tell you they hate these birds. Believe me when I tell you that there is nothing worse than having Pigeons try to set up shop in your barn or outbuildings.

Pigeon Pic

Why do I hate Pigeons? Because Pigeons fly in, shit every where, make a huge mess while trying to nest in your space, and are extremely complicated to eradicate. Once they are in, they are nearly impossible to get rid of and cause a type of frustration that is beyond measure. Pigeons, like some people, can be a real bitch. And just as with people, it is against the law in most states to kill them.

Unfortunately, we all have “Pigeons” in our lives. They come to us in many forms daily: the annoying co-worker, the “contribute nothing, complain about everything” in-laws, the guy that has the rest of his life to be in front of you on a two-lane road that you can never get around, and the uninspired restaurant employee that makes dining out miserable instead of a pleasure. This list could go on for days. We all know who these people are. “Pigeons” show up daily in many forms because like the birds themselves, they tend to multiply with ease and rapid speed.

A few weeks before my husband passed away, several pigeons had started to nest in the barn. This was a direct result of the absence of our barn cat, Sheldon. Don’t worry, this is not a tale of how tragedy struck our barn cat. It is actually a tale of how “local barn cat makes good” and becomes a house cat. In other words, Sheldon wandered off one day, charmed a neighbor lady, and moved in with her. He upgraded his status from barn cat to house cat, and good for him. He was able to live out his final years living the dream life he always wanted. His departure, on the other hand, created a problem for my barn because his absence allowed a small flock of Pigeons to move in, and move in they did, lock, stock, and barrel, as the old saying goes.

One morning, less than a month after my husband passed away, I was trying to clean the barn through my tears. The funeral was long over and only a handful of people were still around. I was suffering from a form of PTSD and my grief was at an all time high that day. I was also being hassled by “Pigeons” disguised as my husband’s loved ones, and I had reached a breaking point. I was spending time in the barn to clear my head and to try to find a moment of peace. It was not meant to be. I was sweeping the barn floor when I heard and felt the “whoosh!” of wings over my head and immediately felt something wet on my arm. It was a Pigeon airstrike, and I had been hit!

I looked up and Pigeons were everywhere. I felt as though I was being swarmed in a vicious bird attack. My instinct took over and I started swinging the broom wildly in the air, screaming at the pigeons to get out. Feathers and pigeon shit filled the air in the chaos. I was angry now, and I just wanted the Pigeons out. All of them! Finally, after several frantic moments of swinging the broom wildly and yelling like a mad woman, the broom left my hand and flew out the door, hitting the ground with a loud thud. The Pigeons had finally flown outside. Tears streamed down my face and I started to sob. The Pigeons had to leave. All of them. Permanently. But how does one get rid of Pigeons?

It was in this moment that I knew I needed to talk to someone and seek counseling from an unbiased source. Friends had been encouraging me to go to counseling, but I was too absorbed in my grief to see the value in it. As it turned out, counseling was the best decision I ever made. Initially, I didn’t feel it was helping because I would leave some sessions and cry uncontrollably in my car. I would feel completely spent by the end of the session, and I didn’t see the value in that. Not at first, anyway. However, I stuck with it, because I honestly didn’t know of any other way to get rid of the “Pigeons,” and I needed answers. Something had to give.

It took nearly two years of grief counseling for me to come to some very important realizations. The first one is something that sounds simplistic when I see it written out or say it out loud, yet it was something I didn’t grasp because I had allowed the “Pigeons” of my life to rent entirely too much space, “nesting” in my mind for far too long. Here’s the earth-shattering revelation – I am not responsible for the dysfunctional behavior of other people. I do not own the behavior of other people, and I should not ever hold myself accountable for the actions of others. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? However, when the dysfunctional behavior comes from people you once loved, respected, and considered loved ones, it is hard to comprehend and accept.

To take it a step further, I also learned that it is human nature to question yourself and think that perhaps you did something wrong to deserve being treated that way. No. Odds are, you did nothing wrong and it’s their issue, not yours. In my case, the dysfunction had always been there, my husband and I had just found a way to put a bandage on it and live with it. Unfortunately, the bandage was ripped off with a vengeance when my husband died, and there was simply no adhesive left to put it back in place.

Finally, allow yourself to move on and remove yourself from a situation that has become toxic. It’s okay to let go of people that are going to do nothing but crap in your barn. There are times that the healthiest thing you can do for yourself is move forward in a manner that is best for you and leave the “Pigeons” behind. Let them crap elsewhere! Perhaps the “Pigeons” will acknowledge their behavior was wrong and take responsibility for the mess they created and clean up their shit. And perhaps not. That may well be wishful thinking! If they can never see or acknowledge that what they did was wrong, remember that it falls on them, not you. You don’t own their behavior, nor are you responsible for their actions. Not your nest, not your “Pigeons.”

Circumstances and life events can change people, and unfortunately, those changes may not always be positive. Death can bring out the very best in people, and it can bring out the very worst. I saw both sides of this very clearly when I lost my husband. Right now, the goal of my journey is to move forward in a positive light. The “Pigeons” are gone from the recesses of my mind and my life, and hopefully it stays that way. It feels good to let go.

As for the barn itself, spikes were placed in the rafters to prevent the Pigeons from being able to nest there. I placed large plastic owls in the rafters and completely closed the barn as often as possible, so as not to allow the Pigeons back inside. I also moved.

Sandy

P.S. The stress and anxiety caused by grief can be overwhelming to the point that you may feel as though you are having a heart attack. An anxiety attack is nothing to take lightly. I suffered from anxiety attacks endlessly the first year after my husband passed away. Trying to find a way to calm down, relax, and manage your anxiety is important. There are a lot of tips and tricks for alleviating anxiety and stress. I found the following blog excerpt from Greg Thurston to have some valuable insight. http://bbbblog19.7minutem.hop.clickbank.net?type=blog3&tid=TRACKINGID