Come warm summer mornings, you can find me in my backyard doing my best impression of a statue.
Not only to mystify the neighbors, but to remain so still that bird passersby will overlook me and missile in for breakfast.
I crouch on the gorgeously crafted and well-cared for lawn. OK, OK, the dirt and weeds. I keep my eyes to the sky and tree branches above my house. On a good morning, flocks of birdies alight on my crooked feeders and quench their thirst with cold, fresh water from the birdbath. I’m hoping they’ll soon start to perch in the newly planted shrubs I pick-axed my way into the rock-hard earth for, all as a way to attract my feathered friends with shelter and berries.
Sometimes those tiny creatures come, and my spirit is light. Sometimes they ignore my hopeful offerings and fly by on their way to Bermuda, or wherever their travel agent suggested, and I bemoan my poor millet and suet choices. Perhaps they need Grade A peanuts from the far-off shores of Tripoli. Maybe they require water drained from a geyser in France.
But in the end, I realize: I have zero control over anything that happens, including those miniature dinosaurs. I can put out the proper food in the proper feeder that a particular bird is said to like, but I can’t make him land in my yard. I can hope for a pretty little songbird but live with the reality of a bossy, domineering grackle.
My backyard bird-watching hobby is much like life. I can do my best at something in a certain situation, but I have no control over the outcome, especially if other people are involved. Darn our not being able to control other human beings. They can be so unpredictable.
This lack of control in the bird kingdom might be what makes them so fascinating to us. At least, that’s what Dana Breier thinks. She’s been the co-owner and manager of Wild Birds Unlimited for two decades. That means a cultivated insight into our obsession with the winged creatures.
“Many times customers come in and say, ‘I only want to feed this bird. I don’t want that bird,’” Breier said. “It’s our inclination, especially as citizens of the U.S., to control things, to put our thumb on it. You can’t put your thumb on nature. You can work with it and adapt what you want to do, but you’re not going to control it 100 percent.”
Breier’s philosophy feels like that of a yogi to me. A bird-watching yogi. It frees mental space to succumb to the notion that life is going to happen in whatever way it happens, and the best thing to do is learn to ride the waves, or at least get better at riding them. Life is essentially showing up, doing our best and releasing attachment to the outcome.
That’s what we learn in yoga: to be at ease and find stillness and comfort even in the most challenging sequence or posture. To give up control of how a posture looks or how far your body can come into it or if you can even do it (hello, forearm stand, my nemesis). You show up to your mat, breathe into the posture and then let it go. Repeat.