My challenge is, while I do love to see beautiful birds in the wild, I’m not the best bird identifier. I appreciate birds, but I’m not passionate about them. Jim on the other hand is as proud as a gold medal winner at the Olympics after spotting the rare, but lovely, Canvasback duck in our local park.
Nevertheless, my plan was to suggest we join in on the bird count event this weekend, partaking in something Jim would love, and trying to hold my weight in the recognizing department. As I thought about this weekend and the planned event, I found myself hard pressed to figure out where we might go. After all, if we are going to do this, we might as well try to be as successful as we can. I know there is the gorgeous Inglewood Bird Sanctuary in the city, and of course I’ve seen several pretty birds on hikes I’ve done. I realized as I strained my brain to think of a good place, the reason I was struggling is because often when I am out walking or hiking or camping, I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about birds. I hear them in the spring and rejoice in the fact that their songs herald the end of the coldest days. I can recognize the song of the Black Capped Chickadee and notice the beauty of the Red Winged Blackbird, but I freely admit, aside from the most common of our aviary friends, under pressure I don’t think I could separate a Northern Flicker from a Gila Woodpecker.
Jim on the other hand, recognizes birds not only by their look, but by their song. When we are walking along, he’ll often stop and ask,
‘Did you hear that? It’s a ……’
‘Where?’, I respond.
‘I can’t see it yet, but I hear it’s song.’
In the way I recognize the first few bars of a James Taylor ballad with great accuracy, Jim does the same with birdsong.
I’ve been trying to make the most of my recognizing skills lately. Not so much to identify bird or James Taylor songs, but simply to recognize moments of possibility that arise in my days. Jim’s brother, John, is celebrating a significant birthday this weekend, and Jim and I were talking about how quickly time passes us by. We breeze through life assuming we have all the time in the world. The windows of opportunity appear wide open. Then we blink and open our eyes only to see those wide-open windows closing. We wonder if we, in our complacency, forgot to recognize opportunities that might have enriched our lives. We also recognize that sometimes we did recognize the opportunities but didn’t seize them.
Each day, we have the chance to recognize opportunities. Some days, rare days, these are big opportunities, kind of like spotting a Greater Sage-Grouse, the rarest nesting bird in Alberta. These opportunities, because they are so unique, are easy to spot but not always easy to act upon. We can easily allow fear, or bad timing, or all sorts of internal dialogue to prevent us from seizing these moments. But every single day, we have smaller, regular, Black-Capped Chickadee moments. They are almost always sitting, just waiting for us to notice their understated beauty and their familiar song. When we slow down and notice them, we give ourselves the chance to seize the moment they offer. In the case of birdwatching, the moment is simply in the observation, in the recognizing and in the gratitude. In life, the moments come in so many forms, we should set aside a weekend, perhaps the Annual Great Regular Life Opportunity Count, just to notice them all.
On Wednesday, Ben spent the day here. Late in the afternoon, he decided to take a ride on his motorcycle. It’s a plastic yellow, not particularly fancy, little vehicle. Using his imagination, he explained to me that his motorcycle, a 1968 model he said, was getting old and he was going to get a new one at the motorcycle store. He offered to sell me the 1968 model, which of course I was delighted to get, and he went off to buy a new one. Once the purchase was made (in the dining room) he asked if I’d like to go for a ride. Having spent some time thinking about recognizing opportunities, I didn’t need to be asked twice. I got out two Tupperware bowls to use as helmets and off we went. The whole event lasted only about fifteen minutes in real time. I suspect it will have a much longer memory life.
We’ve been trying to spot a Snowy Owl for a couple of months. We’ve been skunked on three driving trips on the prairie to see one. It’s possible this could be our lucky weekend. If not, I hope we’re smart enough to recognize and seize the other opportunities we stumble across on our adventure.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What is the opportunity?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations and for conducting leadership reviews. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to notice and seize everyday opportunities.