Thursday, December 30, 2010

Personal Strength - A Lesson from the Cardinals

To the left of my monitor is a large window with a view of a large flowering senna bush, and beyond that are a couple of live oak trees. These plants are the gathering places for lots of birds. After more than six years in the Texas Hill Country, we've identified 95 species around our property.

Right now I'm watching four or five cardinals who are seeking shelter in the flowering senna. Today we have cold, light rain. Good for the property, but a problem for the birds. I guess from a cardinal's perspective, it could suck a lot worse.

I am endlessly charmed and fascinated with the birds' activities. Like me, they are doing what they have to do to survive and thrive. I do it inside my warm, cozy home. They do it outside in the cold rain. I am keenly aware that their drama is not put on display for me. I know life is hard for them. Every day. Every hour of every day they struggle against adversity to raise their young, find food and make it through. And of course some don't. I've collected my share of dead cardinals and other birds and left them on the other side of the road, returning them to the cycle of life.

Of course, these gorgeous birds do what they have to do, and only what they have to do. There is no complaining in the bird world. No bullshit. No weakness of character. That's a human problem, not a bird problem.

So when adversity visits me in my life, as it sometimes does, I try to remember the cardinals and other animal species. They remind me that if I want to be the best person I can be, I need to be like them. I need to just do the hard things, without complaint, without displays of human weakness, one hard thing after another until I reach a sunny clearing in my life, where I can rest and find food and drink water and cry out my good feeling to those around me.

My wife's "cardinal moment."

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength . (Photo by Kathleen Scott, used with permission)


Jean Buschke said...

I love the insight about birds! I have a little carving of a cardinal with a stocking hat on right in front of me that I am sending to my sister who nows lives in the south. I believe I will copy your post and send it along to remind us like birds do...whatever is necessary to achieve the life we say we want!
Happy New Year to you!
Jean Buschke

Anonymous said...

Denny, I like your the image and concept of a sunny clearing and the way you describe it here, very much.

Meredith Bell said...

I've had these exact same thoughts many times, Denny, about our feathered friends. On many stormy nights I've expressed my appreciation to my husband for our warm, dry home with lots of food and contrasted our situation with the struggle birds and other wildlife have during bad weather. The recent 11" snowfall here reminded me of their daily life challenges once again.

Jon said...

Love the post and drawing a great story from the cardinals. We can always learn from natures and, sometimes, I think we miss that signal. Enjoyed it! Thanks!

Kellianne Sweeney said...

True, inspirational, and an excellent reminder.

Kabolobari said...

Wow, I read this post like poetry. I kept imagining how it'd look in a verse! Perhaps, I'd versify it! Much like a poem from Robert Frost! So rustic, so pastoral, so close to earth, so heart-warming, so endearing, so homely! So personal! Wow, what more can I say!

I wish I'd known you, Denny, and taken you more seriously before I made one very serious mistake in my life that is betraying my very claim of responsibleness! Yet, I'm not giving up!

Having repented, I'm taking all the good stuffs seriously and putting into practice whatever good I learn.

You are such an inspiration and I'm most thankful!

Be there!

Kabolobari said...

Very encouraging post!

I keep reading it over and over and over like I'd usually do a good poem!

I'm so happy to have chanced upon this over Twitter!