It has been some time since I have update here. I apologize! Fall 2021 was a doozy. I had a number of contract commitments while still maintaining my dissertation research which I undertook in October in N.C.
You may be wondering why or how it is that I get to be in Tucson. I mean after all I am a perpetually broke PhD candidate who pieces together contracts and PT jobs to stay afloat. Plus I have a college aged daughter and a son in Heaven whose legacy is on me to sustain and expand.
Well when I get a windfall back in September 2021 from one of my contracts, I paid half of the fee to stay in a room in the Poet’s Square neighborhood of Tucson. It is a shared bathroom and everyone in the house is 3X vaxxed.
While I am here I am writing my dissertation, teaching online for N.C. A&T, and BIRDING.
So here are some shots I have gotten so far in Arizona!
Not birds 🙂
Of course my drive to Tucson was something else.
But I made it in safely on New Years Eve. I stayed with my friend Sandi Hart the first two days before moving over to the airbnb that I booked.
In the months of September and October, I embarked on a eastern seaboard fall bird migration trip that took me to the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland as well as Barnstable and Provincetown on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It was important for me to take this trip because it preceded my intense dissertation writing that takes place in November and December. I am from North Carolina, but I live in Nebraska as that is where I am attaining my PhD in Geography (historical). You all know from my about section that I am a bereaved mom and mystic birder, so going hundreds of miles to follow the birds should not really surprise anyone.
It did make some people think I was insane, namely my parents and siblings. My mother was mostly concerned about the costs, but also the wear and tear on my newly acquired birdmobile, the Volkswagen Golf. But I explained to my mom that cars are for driving! As long as I keep it serviced, all is good. Alles gut (As they say in Germany).
It was an important trip. I had moments on the beach admiring the scenes of nature and also being one with God and the Spirit of my dear son Ricky who now lives in two places, my heart and in Heaven.
I cried. I cried a lot. But I also received the messages of hope that God always sends.
I saw so many Gulls! I also saw White Winged Scoters! But my trip sadly coincided with an arriving Nor’easter, so I believe some of the birds I would have seen, I did not see because the weather might have marooned them elsewhere.
What the gulls taught me was to float along with life’s currents. God knows the grief journey is gut wrenching, filled with anguished, and inherently isolating. But the image of the gull floating along, not a care let me know that I was in the Loving Hands of God and to lean into his Holy Embrace.
Do you remember when you were a kid arriving at a place that was so fun and exciting? Like the circus or amusement park or cool store that sold lots of toys? Do you remember jumping out of the car and running toward the entrance as your parent yelled to slow down and stop running?
Well I got that feeling when I visited the Eastern Shore to Bird. Literally.
Imagine it! Driving all that time! I drove from Nebraska to Virginia and finally, finally I’d made it to see the Fall Migration on the Eastern Shore. Pulling into the entrances of the birding hotspots I would get out of the car and wish that I could fly with the birds (and get some photos along the way). But alas, I am a person, so like everyone else I had to take the trails to look at the birds.
But of course my birding is part of my grief journey. It is a safe place for me to be one with God, experiencing Divine Love and Grace while in the safety of Nature. Where I can talk to God, talk to my Angel Son Ricky, and shed my tears of sorrow while feeling intensely grateful for the grace shown to me in the present.
I remember an important quote that guides my journey as a grieving mother…
“We are trying to articulate ourselves again…we might decide to do something with our wounds The wounds are not things to be cured all the time Old ways reinscribe old patterns
A power is at work resuscitating the agency of grieving This is post disaster spirituality” -Bayo Akomolafe
And God, my son are at the center of what drives my purpose in all things
So the birds, every single one of them are the divine messengers that bring me comfort along the way.
society purports to know the self, others think they know other selves, but for me, my form on Earth is but a limited slither of my being…As is believed in the Sufi tradition that confession of unity: there is no energy but Divine Energy that is distributed equally across consciousness.
Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still, she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.
There have been three occasions where I have seen the Green Heron. The first was on May 10, 2021 at Holmes Lake:
The reason I saw it that day was because I was following an American Robin and I looked up and there the Green Heron as in the tree. I did not know what it was at first. I thought maybe it was some kind of cormorant.
The second time I saw a #GreenHeron was in Laurinburg, N.C. when I was visiting my parents:
And the third time I saw the Green Heron was on today, July 30, 2021. I was at Lincoln Saline Wetlands. I was VERY VERY close to it but my camera could not focus, instead it focused on the high grass that obscured it:
So I prayed that the Green Heron would not fly away and opted to walk further to an area where I could photograph it from a distance. I walked up on a group of Canada Geese, who had better things to do than sit with me so they swam into the water. I got out my binoculars and searched for it and there it was! Still perched on the branch:
It was a fun birding day.
As I get closer to the anniversary of my Angel Son’s passing, these moments out in Nature with the birds really do nourish my soul to keep pushing on.
I shut out all conversations around me and consider the idea that nothing is separate, and that the Earth, stars, trees, animals…everything…might be a sacred expression of God. Is everything Holy?
D’Arcy, Paula. Essay. In The Gift of the Red Bird: a Spiritual Encounter: with a Guide for Reflection,New York: Crossroad Pub., 2007. 24
These are the passages I read that further my reflections on the beauty and nourishing energy I receive from Nature and being immersed in it.
These past few weeks have been challenging as they are leading closer to the anniversary of my son’s departure to Heaven. It is within solemn moments walking alone in the wilderness that my greatest motivation to keep on wash over me.
Here are some photos of scenes from the past few weeks.
The day before I saw the majestic Anhinga on the campus of Saint Andrews College at the lake there I did a whiny post about how my hometown of Laurinburg did not offer much in the way of birds because of its limited topography and monoculture.
I know my son sent me this bird.
My Angel son was an artist and loved drawing in black and grey and white. Such a bird would have been a welcome render for him. The day before this was hard for me. And the bird made a strange sound when it landed as though it needed me to know it was there.
I choose to believe this was a Sign from Heaven. And it was a comfort.
I have been in North Carolina since June 3 because I needed to do research at a repository here for my dissertation. Of course, when I made the trip I stopped at a few refuges and nature preserves along the way:
And of course Lincoln is FILLED with hotspots because it has dedicated nature preserves specifically for wildlife. On top of nature preserves, Lancaster County as well as other counties in Nebraska have city parks and state parks for birding and other wildlife viewing.
So I guess you can say I have been spoiled!
Okay, now my home state of North Carolina has a much milder climate than Nebraska. So of course one finds many bird species here that are year-round. But that does not mean you will see them out in your yard. Or even at a city park. Do you know why?
Land use and conservation planning. DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert on these issues but this is something I have been thinking about since having much slimmer birding checklists here in North Carolina, than I do in Nebraska.
My hometown county, Scotland is not exactly a center of economic activity. So this means that county expenditures are not going to be prioritizing conservation areas (though I wish that was a priority). So that means that since my neighborhood does not contain a lake of some kind, or an extensive array of shrubs and trees as well as certain kinds of other native plants well that means we will not see a major diversity of birds.
In my mother’s yard you are guaranteed to see #BrownThrasher #AmericanRobin #NorthernMockingbird #CommonGrackle #NorthernCardinal and #HouseFinch. You will hear #FishCrows and you will see swallows flying high. You may even see a Mississippi Kite flying high (saw one the other day) but that is it.
But in Lincoln? Because of the extensive array of hotspots in the town? I Saw FAR MORE BIRDS. I have yet to see a warbler in my hometown in N.C.
So what this means is that if I want to see more birds I have to go on a trip. Likely to a state park or to a National Wildlife Refuge. But within the city limits? Not going to be so lucky unless a rarity decides to make a pit stop.
THANKFULLY I found a state park today that has birds (Praise GOD). I was about to go crazy!
But for now I will still do my duty of planting more native plants in my mom’s yard, and keeping her birdfeeders full. I will also fill the birdfeeders at my paternal grandmother’s lot (which I have a plan to turn into a birdfeeder stop for the feathered friends).
Clergeau, Philippe, Jean-Pierre L. Savard, Gwenalle Mennechez, and Gilles Falardeau. “Bird Abundance and Diversity along an Urban-Rural Gradient: A Comparative Study between Two Cities on Different Continents.”The Condor 100, no. 3 (1998): 413-25. Accessed June 24, 2021. doi:10.2307/1369707.
On June 1, 2021 I began my roadtrip from Lincoln, Nebraska to my hometown of Laurinburg, N.C to spend the summer with my parents and do some research at the N.C. Archives.
I stayed over in Paducah, KY and then over in Knoxville, TN. It rained the WHOLE WAY, (hence the quote).
But it was a good ride. As with all things I reflected on my son’s spirit, which I know is always near. I cried, I laughed, I spoke to loved ones over the phone as I drove and noticed all the winged messengers in the sky.
Following is a photo-essay of some of my bird friends along the ride…
“Why do birds sing in the morning? It’s the triumphant shout: ‘We got through another night!”
“The Hawk is a bird of the heavens, arranging the changes necessary to prompt our spiritual growth and our awareness.” Lynn Ragan
“The Hawk gives us the ability to see meaning in ordinary experiences… When a loved one delivers this remarkable bird upon our path, they say, “I’m here. I love you. Please know that your enlightenment is imminent. Take me with you.”- Lyn Ragan
“Grief winds us through unknown territory where we navigate our way through an emotional depth that we might not be familiar with. Grief changes us, and despite its difficulties and challenges it can also herald a tide of increased awareness, spiritual renewal, and the opportunity to open ourselves to the vastness of love BEYOND form.”- Sherrie Dillard
Hello everyone! Last time I posted it was on World Migratory Bird Day which turned out to be VERY, VERY windy. But I made it out to Marsh Wren Community Wetlands and Wagon Train State Recreation area.
But this week turned out to be somewhat momentous, I saw the #GreatEgret several times at Holmes Lake this past week:
I also drove up to Omaha to test drive a new birdmobile. The 2015 Volkswagen Golf! Of course when I took a test drive I drove over to Ziwursky Park. Saw a Great Blue Heron there!
Oh I before I forget, I saw a fox at Lincoln Saline Wetlands!
But yesterday well I had a false positive in regard to the Whippoorwill. It was overcast and rainy all day and I did not have on my glasses and I saw perched behind an American Robin, a spotted reserved looking bird with an upturned beak. Was it a Whippoorwill? It blended in so well with the trees!
“Who are you?,” I wondered.
Turns out when I ran it through Merlin app it was a JUVENILE ROBIN, I laughed and laughed because before I got home and was still out at Holmes Lake I posted this tweet:
The adult American Robin was on the branch in front of the Juvenile and it was because I was looking at the Adult that I noticed the interesting looking Juvenile.
Oh well, it was a fun day nonetheless.
I am eternally grateful for God’s Divine Creation and the moments it provide in warmth, serenity, and connecting with my Angel Son’s spirit.