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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn


A Note: I am publishing two posts this week, this one and one responding to the awfulness in Buffalo--honoring those who have died, with a plea for courage and an offering of hope. As I say there, this post here may seem naive or unmindful of that trauma. Yet I believe that the gift of newness, acceptance and grace offered here, and a response of heartfelt grief and shock due to this week's events in Buffalo have to be able to co-exist, and somehow inform each other. If not, we are sunk.

Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Yawning

Feeling a little bit better can be as simple as a yawn. Yawning can increase your oxygen intake, stretch and relax various head and facial muscles, irrigate your eyes and throat by producing more tears and more saliva. Plus it feels good. Yawning is another one of those zapchen exercises.

If seeing a picture, or reading or saying the word doesn't elicit a yawn, try imitating one. Relax, open your mouth wide, gently lift up the upper back part of your throat (your soft palate) and make yawning noises... ooooohhhh.... aahhhhhhhh...ah-ah-ah. All animals, including humans, do it frequently, and quite naturally. If you need some inspiration or some good examples--or just a good laugh--check out some great photos at


A few days ago I was surprised by a fledgling. I was sitting with a friend on her back deck, 15-20 yards from the edge of the woods. Because the property slopes down away from the building, the back deck is level with the middle of the tree canopy where the woods begin.

Suddenly there was a whir of wings, a little flash of grey and white, and a tiny bird landed on the outer edge of the deck. We held our breaths.

It was a chickadee and both of us, being somewhat familiar with birds, knew almost immediately it was a fledgling. It squatted, a little dazed, then turned around slowly, blinking as if it had just woken up. No sense of fear, just a little disorientation.

"Wait, what?" I could imagine it thinking. "I just flew? Really? Here I am so--wow--I must have flown!"

We stayed as still as we could. For all that the little bird noticed us, we could have been just another part of the deck.

After turning in that slightly perplexed circle, it sidled over a little closer to the deck's edge and hopped up a couple of inches, apparently trying to fly again. Instead it bumped into the upright of the deck fencing immediately to its right. Oops!

A second or two later, with a very chickadee-ish burst of energy, it launched itself again and flew like an arrow, not to the nearest tree as we expected, but to one more than twice as far away. Perhaps it was returning home. Or launching in a whole new direction.

After expressing our delight, my friend and I checked in with each other and agreed it was indeed a fledgling, perhaps on its first flight: very short tail, squat posture, a bit fuzzy, a slightly odd configuration of eyes and beak (which in younger nestlings, face-on, gives a funny, somewhat disgruntled look). There was, in addition, one remaining piece of what is known as "natal down" on its head, longer than usual, waving gracefully--and a bit ridiculously--in the breeze.

So adorable. So endearing.

Nobody in their right mind (or heart) would think of blaming a chickadee fledgling for not being able to fly quite straight, for being dazed after its first flight, or for making the mistake of trying to launch where there was an heretofore unknown obstacle in the way. It's young, it's new, it's never done this before.

Yet, if you are anything like me, you may judge yourself harshly for being dazed after a rough and tumble flight through this crazy, amazing world; or for not knowing why you ended up where you did after a burst of wings; for not being full-feathered; or for making a mistake about which direction was cleared for flight.

My friend and I had none of those reactions to our tiny, charming friend. Instead, we were both in awe that we got to see that first flight. We were amused by its "wait, what?" manner, impressed with its ability to fly at all. Delighted by and very grateful for the whole charming episode. In short, our hearts were very touched. And blessed.

Instead of judgment, or disparagement, perhaps we can imagine an inner parent, or a Higher self, a guardian angel or God having that kind of response to us and our endearing (and slightly ridiculous) efforts at life.

Note: In the second chickadee photo, you can see the natal down sticking out from the bird's head, almost like ears. Once you've spotted it in the second one, you can see it in the first photo, where it is less clear.

Here's a link if you want to see a story and photos of the whole egg to fledgling cycle for a chickadee family, with a bonus video of two fledglings launching. The first chickadee photo in this post comes from that page.

Question: How many times do you see the second chick come to the birdhouse door in that video and then disappear again before it finally launches? So cute!

Wishing you chickadee pleasures, and the awesome--and endearing--maiden journey of a fledgling. Even in the midst of oh-so-difficult circumstances.

Until next time,


Photo credits:

Yawning baby, Minnie Zhou, unSplash

First fledgling photo, Nancy Castillo, The Zen Birdfeeder (URL above)

Second fledgling photo, Sheila Bolt Rudesill,


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