A Bigger Small World

Some days, it feels like you’ve reached an end of sorts.  I had one of those days this week.  I sat on our balcony watching the sky change to a gentle gray as the sun came up somewhere out of sight.  I sat on the balcony overlooking the courtyard and Stringer’s Ridge and felt caged.  I sat on the balcony and thought, “This is not my life.”

It’s a paradoxical thought to have–after all, of course it is my life.  At least, I hope so.  It’s the only life I expect to have; I’d like it to be mine.

But sometimes life feels too small.  I don’t know exactly what that means, but I am sometimes overcome by the sensation that the world has shrunken to less than a half of a square mile.  Then, I go walk that half of a square mile listening to the birds and I smile.  It’s not such a bad ½ square mile.

Spotting a large flock of Cedar Waxwings while walking Tisen the following morning, I was surprised by how still they were.  I didn’t have my camera with me, but I decided to take a chance after getting inside, grabbed it and ran back down.

The whole flock remained.  Some were roosting.  Periodically, small groups would fly down to the wetland to drink.  The rest were content to watch me.  I wondered if the world had started to feel small to them, too.

It’s funny how the size of the world shrinks and expands based on who is part of the world with you.

I entertained them with my funny, long lens and they entertained me.  For the few moments I spent intensely focused on the birds, watching them and waiting for moments to shoot, my world was simultaneously microscopic and infinite.  That such creatures exist bend the mind.  With their bandit masks, neon-yellow dipped tails, and red-wax-tipped wings, they always make me imagine a bird super-hero.

In spite of how common they are, the Cedar Waxwing goes surprisingly unnoticed.  I did not see one for the first time until I was around 30 even though I knew what they were from bird books–most people overlook them because they don’t know they exist.  I’ve had numerous people ask me about seeing a small, gray cardinal, knowing I like birds and hoping I could tell them what they saw.  Like me, these are people who are well into adulthood, yet they had never seen a cedar waxwing before.

Perhaps that’s why a flock of birds can make life seem bigger.  That something can be right under our noses (or above our heads) and go unnoticed makes it seem possible that there are many other missed possibilities within the confines of whatever portion of the world we inhabit.  The potential to discover something new in the same half of a square mile suddenly makes the possibilities seem endless.