Stop, Look, Listen

08-16-12 0 By: Shelly Sutley, edited by Hayley Kubler

During those chaotic moments in life when choices have to be made, I find it necessary to stop, look, and listen before reacting. This gives me the time to analyze the consequences carefully. It wasn’t until I took the time to connect with nature through the Bluebird boxes that I saw the need to think and weigh out my choices a bit more. Every decision I make while caring for our Bluebird Trails determines the health of our songbirds, just as my day-to-day choices affect the health of my family.

All choices come with consequences.

When I remove a House Sparrow nest, some songbirds may have to pay the price. These mean birds can retaliate by destroying another nest out of spite. I always wonder if I made the correct choice. As a mother, I find the lessons I’ve learned in nature repeat in my personal life. When I say no, then I have to accept the consequences and the retaliation. I also learn a thing or two about boundaries.

My friend Sherry told me “Nature Heals,” and only now do I understand her insight. Sherry was a true Bluebird Blessing to me and through it, Bluebird Experience was born. I am grateful I took the time to listen when I was with Sherry. Sometimes listening is all we need to do. On the homepage of our website, we have another slogan of ours; Breathe, Believe, Be.

When I Breathe in I am gaining strength and when I Breathe out, I am accepting the moment, decompressing, and letting go. I am listening. I am feeling the moment, assuring myself to Believe. Believing, and having hope, allows me to Be. This place of “Being” is sometimes hard to get to. When I am in nature this mantra comes so easily.

Nature taught me that we don’t always have to sing Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah and have lots of noise. We can also practice our listening and observing skills. I still like to start out our monitoring adventures with a little song since we are so excited when we approach our first nest box. After the thrill of seeing the first eggs it is important for us the leave the nest quickly and quietly. The mother is watching us enter her home with a justifiable concern! She clearly warns us with her chirping, and we need to respect her and remember we are a guest in nature.

My mother, Maree Barney Sutley, would say, “Your responsibility as a guest in one’s home is to leave with the place looking better then when you arrived.” This was instilled within me at a young age. While practicing my mother’s words I always felt better after I pitched in and cleaned up, leaving the hostess’ house as when I arrived or even better. Helping to sustain nature helps sustain the soul.

After leaving the box, we step away and sit quietly, watching the mother return to her nest. We are witnessing the flight pattern, the feeding of nestlings. We are hearing the mother and father songbirds teaching their nestlings to communicate. We are witnessing magic.

The tree swallow parents have a pattern of recognizable boundaries when we monitor their nest boxes by dive-bombing us. Tree Swallows taught me I have to stand my ground and protect. House Sparrows seem avoid taking over a tree swallow nest, perhaps due to their very clear and aggressive boundaries. Bluebirds are peaceful, and are often the target of more aggressive birds.

At the UWEC Children’s Nature Academy we witnessed a wren move into a Bluebird Nest Box and remove the Bluebird eggs. Our neat nest became a basement! When we found a dead hatchling due to the heat, I was so sad that the children would have to see. Eleven-year-old Michael understood and reminded us, “This is nature.”

So, with assistance, Michael helped me remove the nestling and show the younger students our lost. While his comment was sinking in, I felt a warm feeling in my heart. By removing the old, we allow the new to come in and bring us a healthier environment.

Back to making decisions in my life, I have to maintain boundaries and care for my family. I have to teach my daughter how to survive, even if it means saying no more than she or I would like. I am teaching her to fledge and perhaps she might need a nudge to leave the nest and believe in herself.

I am so grateful for the inspiration and healing powers of Mother Nature.

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