Stop and Notice the Birds

A bird hit me in the side of the head once. It didn’t shit on me. It flew into my head, then flew away.

I was sitting in a parking lot in Dallas on a 100+ degree summer afternoon back in 2007. I sat on the curb in my fancy work outfit, my ass burning on the sidewalk. Of all things, I was wearing fitted black trousers…as if I wasn’t hot enough already.

I was at a low point that I won’t get into. I didn’t cry, because I was far past the point of crying. I sat there—staring at the steamy parking lot, sweating in my personal inferno.

My mind was so jumbled with negative thoughts that it felt like my brain was ready to boil over. I didn’t notice anything around me. A ridiculously happy parade could have gone by and I would never have noticed.

Just as I was about to have a magnificent bawl, a white speck caught my eye in the sky—off to the right. I hugged my knees to my chest, laid my head down on my folded arms, and unleashed my tears. They were the kind of tears that hurt as they spilled out and my eyes were instantly sore and exhausted.

Something hit me in the side of the head about 30 seconds into my sob fest. “What the hell?” I popped my head up and scanned the empty parking lot. I looked off to the left and saw the white bird flying up and away.

I laughed uncontrollably. I wished someone had seen it because it was so unbelievable. But, it was an intimate conversation that was meant to be kept between me and the bird. The bird said: “That’s enough. Now stop and notice.”

Thirteen years later, I still think of that bold parking lot bird, diving out of the sky and waking me up. Especially lately, going through this quarantine of ours.

Pre-COVID, I fell into the habit of not stopping…not noticing the birds. The past two months, as traffic noise became nonexistent, even those of us in the middle of busy cities become enraptured by the birds’ incredible songs. You can’t help but stop and notice them.

In Milwaukee, I am surrounded by gulls. My new favorite activity is to watch the gulls divebomb for fish in the Milwaukee River. In the video above, you’ll see them cannonball into the water at these times and locations:

  • 0:11 – Right side
  • 0:14 – Left side
  • 0:33 – Back by the old bridge

None of them have flown into my head yet, but I guess they don’t need to. Now I know when it’s time to stop and notice the birds.

20 thoughts on “Stop and Notice the Birds

  1. Great video and some deep thoughts.

    My favorite bird song of late is the trill of the red-wing blackbirds. That song diverts me from my walk as I try to spot them. I can also get into watching the squirrels in their playful busyness. Such boundless energy.

    Stay safe, Britt.

    1. It’s amazing how many bird sounds exist. Some of them are pretty hilarious. Mr. H and I look at each other and say: Was that a kid or a bird?

      Ah, I miss the squirrels. Our rental house in Portland was great for squirrel-watching. I’ll have to live vicariously through you.

  2. A memory that just keep on giving! The serenity we gain from listening and watching water and birds is priceless. With a Great Lake, lagoons and rivers galore, we have an abundance of opportunities!

    1. Living by water is soooooooo nice! I forgot how much I missed it until we came back. Portland had rivers and waterfalls, but they were mostly driving distance. And, the ocean was a 90-minute drive.

      The cool think about a big lake like Lake Michigan is that it reminds me of the ocean. You can’t see the other side at all.

  3. Somebody said to me the other day ‘Listen to the birds.’ So I did. The trouble is I hadn’t noticed them/lack of them before so I couldn’t tell the difference.

    What is very apparent now though is the improvement in air quality, even in our non-industrialised island. And it’s an event if a plane passes over.

  4. I love the bird story! Nice video too – I miss Lake Michigan. I can’t help but listen to the birds while working from home these days. There are baby bird nests in the rhododendrons right outside my window and it’s been so nice to hear them out there. A crazy thing happened yesterday – a bird kept tapping on the windows and looking in at me. If I went into the kitchen, the bird would be at that window. Even when I went into the bedroom to grab some laundry, the bird was there looking in from a tiny rooftop window. It was a little creepy, but she must have been trying to tell me to get outside.

    1. Haha! That’s such a funny story. At first you looked at the bird and said, Would you look at that? Then, you realized you had a new stalker. Hope you followed the birds “suggestion” and enjoyed some fresh air!

  5. I’ve worked from home for years, but this is the first stretch of time when I’ve been able to really stop and notice what goes on in my yard. It’s fascinating! I mean, I’ve always known I have squirrels, birds, chipmunks, turkeys, deer–but now I have the time and energy to watch their behavior, and I listen to them. And I’ve noticed their behavior kinda pings off of how I’m feeling…like your parking lot bird. More than once a bird’s antics have yanked me out of a downward spiral of self-criticism or just low-vibe thoughts. Very interesting.

    1. I think so many of us are more aware of our surroundings because we’ve had to draw inward during the quarantine.

      Yes, it’s quieter everywhere and that’s a big part of it. But, mainly we are noticing things in a different way. Hopefully this awareness continues as things open up.

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