When I feel the need to get away from emails and grading and endless meetings, I drive to Abilene State Park and walk the nature trail. If it has been an especially stressful week, I might walk the roads afterwards, with may hands clutched behind my back while my mind ruminates on the sources of my stress.
Eventually Nature wins, which is the whole reason why I go out in the first place. She wrestles for my attention, and I slowly surrender. As I do, my hands let go of one another and my arms begin to sway. My shoulders fall, and I breathe deep the air thickly scented with juniper. The wrinkles on my forehead disappear and a smile cracks the stern and worried look that has resided on my face for far too long.
Sometimes I go to the bird blind just to see if anything new has arrived. The vast majority of the time all I see are titmice. That’s not to say that this is a bad thing, for titmice are fun to watch.
For starters, I’ve never seen a sad titmouse.
Perhaps they are out there, it’s just that I’ve never run across one. They are always energetically happy. They flit with amazing speed, peck at seeds, then simply disappear, only to reappear seconds later to continue pecking the seeds they just left. It’s wildly inefficient, and they don’t care.
Titmice seem overexcited about simply being alive. One wonders if this is a product of being small and vulnerable, prey to so many things. If you’ve ever emerged from a car accident unscathed, or had the doctor tell you that the test was a false positive, or had a piano drop from the third floor and crash a few feet from where you were standing, then you probably know what titmice must be feeling all the time. It’s as if there is a recurring thought in their tiny little brains that goes something like this, “Whew, I’ve got food, friends, and the hawk hasn’t eaten me, yet. Life’s good!”
There’s a lesson somewhere in this to be learned.
Also, I’m thinking that another reason why the titmice are so happy is that they haven’t been introduced to the internet and 24/7 news and social media and words like “profit margin,” “assessment,” “student learning outcomes,” and “re-stewarding.”
And I’m glad, too, because by watching them I get a glimpse into a world untainted by these things.
It’s simply playful.
Remember how your life was before you were introduced to these things? I bet it was full of wonder and fun.
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to go back to that world, where, after a full night of comatose sleep, I jumped out of bed and ate a bowlful of flavored sugar drenched in whole milk, which, according to the box, was a vital part of a nutritious breakfast. Then, after a cartoon or two, I launched out the door, hopped on my bike, and rode to wherever my heart’s desire took me.
There were real problems back then, like gas shortages and the Moral Majority. But in my world there were far more important things to dwell on, like day-long pickup basketball games in the driveway and homegrown fresh strawberries and beating Brian at Risk.
A world the titmice seem to forever inhabit.
And I’m a bit envious.
Photo credit: Anne Davis 773 on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NCCopy