Well today is the Global Big Day and the weather here in Lincoln, Nebraska is amazing and Spring Migration is in full swing. People are seeing all kinds of birds. The rarities list from ebird continues to astound. I mean we should have known right? That Stellars Sea Eagle was an omen of more amazing birds to come!
I spent my Global Big Day at Stagecoach Lake Recreation Area and began my bird walk at around 10am. I saw many beautiful birds. And here they are:
Here are photos of birds I have seen between May 9-May 12:
As a general rule, birds are seen as a conduit between the terrestrial and divine realms. They serve as a spiritual bridge connecting the heavenly and terrestrial realms.
I am grateful on this day and all days. Though I carry my grief with me in all the things I do, I remember the phrase that keeps me going in honoring my son in Heaven:
Make everything as beautiful as him
Today is Easter. It is a holiday that parents know all too well. For those who observe, it is a holiday that involves church attendance and leading up to it…well, Easter Baskets, Easter Egg Hunts, and favors to pass out for classmates before Easter vacation from school.
This Easter is special because it aligns with several other religious holidays: Passover, Ramadan and more.
Those who follow this blogspace know that I am very spiritual and that despite my not attending church, I have a special relationship with my faith, which is an amalgam of New Age Christianity, Buddhism, and elements of Sufism.
Nothing is separate from God. My faith, even in the midst of profound loss is firm.
You might even think of faith as symbiosis or sympoiesis: faith is the relationship between the Egyptian plover bird and the crocodile, the wasp and the orchid, microbial civilizations in our guts and the memories we process. The water buffalo is the kasaya of the oxpecker; the ostrich is the yarmulke of the zebra. Faith means that bodies need bodies in order to thrive and in order to die well. It is coalitional, alliance-making, world-shaping, co-creative work. We live and breathe and die in faith.
As we prepare to go into another week of mysteries, possibilities, yearnings, and receivings. let us remember this Earth, its abundant beauty, and the inheritance we hold to sustain it even in chaotic times.
It is Earth Week!
I will close this with my latest images of birds and landscape in Nebraska.
I recently drove back to Lincoln, Nebraska from Tucson on February 28. And while driving through southeastern Colorado, I realized I would never take the trip again.
December 31, 2021 heading to Tucson.
You see, I will be relocating to the southeast in the summer to begin a tenure track Assistant Professor job(big announcement to come on my real name twitter) so I will not be driving to Lincoln, or from Lincoln ever again July 2022.
I came to Tucson on New Years Eve to avoid the polar vortex that often befalls Nebraska in winter. As a griever and a naturalist, it is incredibly hard for me to keep the faith in temperatures that hurt your face. The birdsong is gone, the clouds are grey and it is dangerous to go outside. If my strength and hope comes from the beauty and soundscape of nature, then winter in Nebraska during freezing cold would deplete me emotionally. I knew I had a dissertation to finish writing and I needed good vibes to motivate me. So it was important that I go to Tucson.
My family was against my doing this. Mostly because of the costs, but also because it seemed incredibly complicated and unorthodox. My family is VERY conventional. I did not have much money because I’d just paid my bills and I’d provided my daughter with a lot of resources before I left. I ended up borrowing money from my older sister, mom, and a friend in order to make my trip. I am grateful for their generosity.
The airbnb I stayed in while in Tucson
I have a trusted friend who lives in Tucson, but she lives in a senior community so it would not have worked for me to stay with her. But she was kind to let me do my laundry at her house while there and chill with her, when I needed a change of scene.
A kind person at University of Arizona helped me to find a study space while there.
In a way I knew my time in Tucson would be special. THe first weekend I was there I spotted a rare bird, the Crested Caracara. I was heading down to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. It was beside the road feeding. What made its appearance rare was the time of the year and how north it was.
I also saw the Elegant Trogon in Portal while there. This is a very sought after bird.
Elegant Trogons are one of the most sought-after birds by bird watchers in the U.S., They breed regularly in only four mountain ranges in Arizona: the Atascosas, Chiricahuas, Huachucas, and Santa Ritas.
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.