Jim had gone over to the school the week before to teach the kids about the bluebirds, how they migrate and come back to our area each year, nesting in boxes along the Bluebird Trail, to lay their eggs and start new families. Millarville is located along this migration path, the Bluebird Trail, but of course many of the students would never have realized how far these little blue birds, such a familiar sight in our springtime, might have travelled. Jim said they were enthralled with learning about how he puts the tiny little bands on the legs of the bluebirds so their migration, and lifespan can be tracked and used to help keep the species alive and thriving. It wasn’t many years ago when this particular species faced extinction.
I suppose it’s possible some of the students had never even noticed a bluebird before, even though they very likely fly in and around the school grounds. For us it’s hard to believe a person wouldn’t have noticed these gorgeous little flying creatures. When we lived on our acreage, also along the Bluebird Trail, the bluebirds were one of our favourite sightings, and a first sign of spring. Going for a walk, or driving in our car, seeing a pair perched on a power line or fence line, always brought us to a halt as we marveled that these beautiful small creatures had somehow made their way from as far away as Mexico in the south, and some on their way to as far north as the Yukon.
On the very day Jim and the boys were making up bluebird box kits for the students, I was high on Mount Hoffman with my hiking friends. It was one of those magical days. We had a plan to stop on top of the mountain for our lunch. Brenda and I had been there before but this was a first for Lynne and Pam. It’s one of my favourite places. Near the top, above the treeline, Lynne stopped to take a picture of a beautiful, tiny, wildflower. It was growing in front of a rock. As I had passed the rock, I thought the designs on the rock were interesting, but never really stopped to examine them. Lynne however, with her sharp eye for all things of beauty and interest in nature, commented on how incredible it was that the lichen could create such beautiful designs on the rocks.
‘Lichen?’, I thought to myself. Not wanting to seem uniformed, or unobservant, I took a closer look at the rocks all around me. Where I had seen what I thought were simply interesting lines in the rocks, were clearly evidence of tiny little organisms growing out of the rock. I had carelessly (and obliviously) walked right past this incredible piece of nature. As I looked closer at the lichen, I realized that all around me were other tiny forms of spring life. We were treated to many species of wildflowers trying so hard to grow against all odds. These tiny wee beauties stay close to the ground to avoid the wind, and at this time of year the warm sun and spring rains give them just enough nourishment to bloom.
I like to think I’m observant. I definitely have my antennae primed for observing people, and apparently, I just assumed that skill had bled over to observation of all things. The little lichen has humbled me.
As we took our fill of pictures, sat atop the mountain, had our lunch, and breathed in the mountain air and the beautiful scenery, I had some time to think. How many times have I missed what has been right around me? How many times have I walked past moments of opportunity and of joy? How many times have I stepped right over the suffering of others, assuming that what I was seeing on the surface was the truth of what was really going on? Perhaps even worse, how often have I stepped right on something precious to someone else?
The lesson on the mountain was perfect this week. It was gentle and unforced. It was offered with no expectation for anyone to receive it. It’s been there for as long as those mountains. Just like the students at Millarville receiving the bird boxes were ready, I too was ready to learn. They will mount their boxes on their fences and watch as pairs of bluebirds arrive and try to decide if the location is safe to nest. I suspect they will now watch for these beautiful small bluebirds every spring for the rest of their lives, just as I shall watch for lichen and wildflowers, dreams and feelings, disappointments and sorrows, and chances to welcome new friends.
Nature is a wonderful teacher. This week the student was ready.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What are you ready for?’
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 be ready.