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An Oriole Came to Visit (What I Learned during the Pandemic)

Baltimore Oriole
Baltimore Oriole, photo by Mdf via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”

—Dalai Lama

“No one can find inner peace except by working, not in a self-centered way, but for the whole of humanity.”

—Peace Pilgrim

While watching the birds in my yard, I suddenly notice a bright orange oriole with black and white wings sipping from the hummingbird feeder. I saw a quick glimpse of a hummingbird yesterday. Today, a bluebird briefly visits the birdhouse hanging from a tree, a large woodpecker drums away at a nearby dead branch, and a blue jay scavenges amid the dried leaves and bright green spring foliage.

It rained hard last night, and the yard is a flurry of bird activity. This bird-friendly terrain has taken a decade of hard work to create: digging up a lawn of grass and replacing it with mulch and native flowers and trees.

Listening to the birdsong, I contemplate what I have learned during the pandemic:

  • Fear is fierce and can grab hold of the heart and soul like a vice. But it is also a teacher. It says: Pay attention. Investigate. Learn. Notice your thoughts. Return to the present moment. Practice discernment between helpful actions that benefit people in healthy, safe ways and irrational actions motivated by greed or ignorance.
  • Death is a wake-up call to life. It reminds me to ask: What do I want to do with my brief time on this planet? What really matters? How can I be of service? What daily choices help me practice love and compassion toward others?
  • Finding ways to regain equilibrium—being fully present during moments of sorrow and during moments of happiness—is a lifelong practice.
  • Taking time to connect with my heart (rather than just my thoughts) allows me to gently hold compassion for both my own suffering and the suffering of others.
  • Meditation helps me slow down chaotic thinking. Breathing and sitting with my fears, I understand better what is mine to do.
  • Work is meaningful when done with a vision of what is possible for ourselves, for our planet, and for our children.
  • Learning new ways is scary and requires effort. But the rewards are worth it.
  • We always have an opportunity to remember what we have forgotten: Our community grows stronger when we help each other. Our community includes our friends, family, and loved ones. Our community includes our neighbors, teachers, helpers, doctors, nurses, artists, advocates, food suppliers, farmers, migrant workers, scientists, laborers, ambulance drivers, and volunteers. Our community includes all children, everywhere. All countries. All people.
  • Appreciating simple things brings me pleasure: Birds. Sunshine. Nourishing food. Friends. Music. Walks. Nature. Health.
  • Small moments of happiness matter. Such moments inspire us. They remind us what is possible. They help us begin again each day, with gratitude and thanksgiving.

This morning the birds came to visit. I know now what I need going forward.

I want to spend my time with people who are working for positive change and who care about the wellbeing of humanity and the planet.


Peace & love, 

Diana Ensign

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