Birds will be the death of me

Big Bird - Library of Congress, Living Legend ...
Big Bird – One of many muppet birds who don’t scare me like the real things do – not that Big Bird isn’t real, you know what I mean.

I get asked LOTS of questions here at the Edmonton Tourist. Usually they come from the ‘contact me‘ page, people will message me on my facebook page (hey come like me!) or they message me and chat away with me on twitter @edmontontourist. Sometimes I get asked questions directly in the comment section here on this blog or my Me and Mo Running blog. I get invitations to speak at gatherings, events and even summits (hello Canadian Medical Association!). But sometimes someone who I consider a bloggy friend, who morphed into a facebook friend asks me a question that has me stumped.

This is hard for me to take because I brag CONSTANTLY to my children about how I know EVERYTHING. Although now that they are approaching their adulthood – and quickly – they don’t believe me with the same intensity. If fact – sometimes I am called a LIAR. Shocking…but true. They have called me worse, but that might shock my grandma – so let’s just leave it at ‘liar’.

Mark Petruska, or should I say Author Mark Petruska who hails from Portland Vancouver, Washington asked me this:

Does your fear of birds stem from old Hitchcock movies? Scientific documentaries proclaiming that birds are descended from dinosaurs? Mitt Romney throwing Big Bird under the bus? Or is it something else entirely?

 

Hmmm. Good question Mark! I need to think about it.

For as long as I could remember, I feared birds in the “HOLY CRAP I AM GOING TO DIE!” way. Never in the “EWWW THEY ARE ICKY” way. Because Birds are not icky. Rodents are. Birds scare me in ways that I fear a stroke or a heart attack.

But the question remains WHY?

I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Birds when I was a teen, but I was already REALLY SUPER SCARED of birds by then. I would never pet chicks, never feed chickens, never feed ducks at the pond, and never EVER help grandpa fill his 9 billion bird feeders or paint any of his bird houses because I had no interest in those birds being anywhere near me – EVER.

Then a memory came to me. Then I realized I had REPRESSED this memory. Thinking about it TERRIFIES ME STILL.

I was 6 years old and living in Canada’s Arctic in a town called Yellowknife, North West Territories. Ravens were as bad as mosquitos. I kid you not. They were huge from my point of view and memory – so I looked them up. They are like flying chickens. My mom threatened to cook one for Thanksgiving one year. The problem with Ravens is they are smart. And not your usual “oh look a bird feeder” they are “hey fella’s, look over there, I see a grocery store. Let’s devise a plan to open the door and have a feast!”

I know you don’t believe me.

I remember walk home from school and my friend was eating a snack. The ravens swooped in, pulled my jacket so I was not in reaching distance of her. Another one flapped his wings in her face, while a third took the food out of her hands. It was scary.

Another time I was sitting in the window of our home and I watched two raven hover over a garbage can while a third one took the lid off. Then the other two went in and lifted the garbage bag out – first guy drops the lid and the 3 of them fly off with the garbage bag.

They would tease dogs for fun. I read about a raven working an automatic light and turning it on then wrapping its wings around the light to keep warm. These critters are smart. This was my first close encounter with birds. No wonder I am scared.

I saw a video of a Yellowknifer playing with a Raven. He would stick his finger out, say don’t peck me and of course the Raven would and the Raven would LAUGH! Are you kidding me? THAT BIRD LAUGHED! Fast forward after  you watch the beginning – PROOF!

These birds are far to smart for my liking, they will gesture to their pals, point with their feet, wings and beaks to hatch a hunting plan.

Now, I know they can talk but it isn’t the same as if Big Bird was speaking to me or if Clara and her hen party were singing at my birthday. These birds are normal in my eyes. Ravens have scarred me forever.

So now I need a little Muppet Happiness so I can sleep tonight.

 

The Birds and the Bees are too Risque for me, okay – there were no bees involved

In my lifetime I have laughed in the face of death, stood my ground, battled for justice and faced my fears. But sometimes you see something so terrifying you can never unsee it.

It happened to me today.

I was finished work, and sitting in my favorite chair beside the window reading Life and Life (a surprisingly great book in the middle and end and hard to love in the beginning). I had the windows open because spring is here with the promise of summer on Sunday. The cool spring breeze was floating through my home bringing with it the fresh smell of a promising summer. The sound of birds frolicking in the trees had me daydreaming of my youth and playing in forested areas wearing my cape and wellies, saving the good people of the earth from monsters and aliens from afar.

Then I saw it.

The scariest sight ever.

It is well documented that I have a fear of birds, from the Emu in Australia that tried to kill me, from the baby bird that hopped up to my chair on the patio. The mere proximity of birds close enough to feel the air flutter from their tiny wings is enough to send my heart racing and my blood pressure reaches severe stroke levels. However, I have discovered something more terrifying than the beady little eyes of a bird wanting to peck my hand.

I witnessed Bird Sex.

Horrifying as it was, I could not pull my eyes away. Those pornographic little creatures were pole dancing on my trellis just outside my window. It was a glorified strip show with feathers flying all over my deck. The finale from the hedonistic foreplay was too much for my eyes to bear, yet there I was staring helplessly at the sight.

All I could do was yell “GET A ROOM BIRDS! NO ONE WANTS TO WATCH YOU HAVING SEX!”

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Then they flew off together.

With my luck, the birdhouses will be filled with chicks before long. While I fear birds, I do not hate them. So I will spend the rest of my summer chasing Ginge, my feral cat away and shooing the magpies off with a broom just so I can protect the love children I witnessed being created today.

Now that I have seen the unseenable, I feel like I have a moral obligation to protect the innocent.

Stupid birds… next year GET A ROOM!

 

The inner workings of the Tourist’s mind

Obviously I am procrastinating.

I am working on a paper and have reached the SWOC portion of events, and needed to think about the steps. As with all things I need to think about, I turned my chair towards my window to ponder.

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Mind: Holy Hell it’s still snowing

Eyes: The snow is halfway up the shed

Feet: I am not running 6k today in THAT, that is just stupid

Mind: Feet, I am making you do it so shut it.

Legs: but I am cold already, why is there no heat in this house?

Wallet: because I am cheap

Mouth: remember that Irish Whiskey we taste tested at the liquor store on Saturday? It would taste really good in the coffee about now.

Mind: Shhh, I am focusing on the steps needed for the SWOC analysis.

Eyes: That is a lot of snow. Don’t expect it to melt anytime soon.

Feet: Seriously, I am not running today.

Mouth: The Apothic red wine is just sitting there, we could drink that!

Back: Wouldn’t warm sand feel great to lie on right now?

Feet: I’d run on sand!

Mind: Shhhh, I am trying to concentrate

Ears: Why does it sound like there are mice in the water heater?

Mind: Not mice, there are no mice.

Fear: I hate mice.

Mind: It ISN”T mice! Just squeaking coming from the furnace.

Fear: sure sounds like mice, what if it’s baby birds – can’t you think of anything worse?

Mind: There are no baby birds in the house.

Eyes: Nope, they are freezing their feathers off outside.

Fear: good, I hate birds.

Mind: STOP IT, legs turn us back around and get back to work

Feet: I am not running in that snow.

Hands: Tell me what to type and I am on it!

Mind: Okay people, focus

Feet: I am really not running, like to see you try to make me.

Fear: it sure sounds like mice

Eyes: Can’t we read something more interesting?

Mind: Shhhhhhhh, focus!

Eyes: fine, Once the internal strengths, weaknesses of an organization is identified….

Mind: I wonder if the 10k maps are up yet for Calgary…..

 

 

Next time…

 

Today as I sit looking out my dinning room window, sipping my coffee that is brewed to perfection, I look out in my back yard to discover the birds have found the feeder placed for them for winter. They come in flocks having told their little friends of the abundance of food for them in my yard. Their excitement is obvious as they flutter in place to find a spot to perch and feast. Now with the snow having arrived earlier this week, finding food becomes a harder job for these littles creatures, so the banquet of seed that my feeder provides is welcome.

The irony of this is not lost on me. I sit with my coffee in the silence of my dinning room, gazing out into my back yard watching them jockey for position. I have a tremendous fear of those little feathered creatures. Their little beady eyes and tiny beaks frighten me. The fear of them coming to close or actually touching me is more than I can bear.

When I was 10, my parents took me to London. We walked forever but when we came to the steps of St. Paul’s we paused. Just like the song from Mary Poppins, there was a Bird Woman feeding the birds. The difference was, she was not selling bags of food for tuppence. My dad became excited for me as he pointed out the Bird Woman. Proof that magic happens. I stood and watched the woman with her arms out stretched. She held food in her hands and the birds would land on her and feed. She was covered in birds. My brother was amazed at her gift to talk to the birds, he also had a gift with animals. One day at the beach he walked up to a Gull and picked it up. The Gull trusted him and never tried to fly away. Eventually the bird tired of his attention and nipped him gently as if to say “I need to go now”. I remember thinking my brother was the bravest person alive. Now as I stood before this Bird woman, I knew it wasn’t bravery, it was magic. She had a soft gentle manner that could reach the minds of the birds and they trusted her. Just like the Gull trusted my little brother.

My grandfather had a love for birds. He would build birdhouses and feeders. Placed them in his yard and tried to attract special rare birds, not just the sparrow which is so abundant around here. I saw him once hold out his hand and a bird came to eat from it. He tried to get me to do the same but fear held me back.

These moments came flooding back to me this week. I met a woman who took a “Staycation”, a vacation at home. She made a point of going to the bird sanctuary so her staycation would feel like a vacation. She brought her penny whistle. She would listen to the cadence of the bird calls and answer back in the same fashion. She stayed in the same spot in the trees and just kept communicating back and forth with the chickadees. Soon the little birds started coming to her. She had no food for them, just her whistle. Birds started landing on her bag and she would answer their calls. Soon they were hopping on her. She talked about the fear she felt inside but managed to remain calm on the surface. She felt their sharp little claws clinging to her hands. Then one little bird flew up and hovered in front of her face. She was so frightened she closed her eyes and stayed perfectly still untill she could no longer feel the air moving in front of her face. Once she closed her eyes, the birds left. She felt tremendous disappointment and then immediately wished she looked that bird in the eye.

Fear does that to a person. It can fill you with the regret of doing something different. Fear also can give you the confidence to do it differently the next time.

Now that I look out over my yard I see the little birds have left for now. They will be back with friends now that they know where the seeds are kept. There will be a next time for them. My next time is coming up soon. I know how I will do things differently. Introspective does that for me.

Next time won’t escape me.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Barfy?

I have been inundated with texts and emails asking what tattoo I am getting after everyone read yesterday’s post. For the record, I didn’t say I was getting one, I said I was THINKING about getting one. I must admit, I am thinking seriously about it.

I received this text from my sister today:

Sister: So my computer choked half way through your blog. What tattoo did you get and where?

Me: HaHa, I didn’t! I’m thinking about birds in flight on my wrist. Tiny ones. 3 with different wing patterns.

Sister: Oooooooooo I want a wrought Iron window with a vine on my shoulder blade, but I think I want to wait till I get married! LOLOLOL! I don’t want tatts in my wedding dress.

*Extra Text between us not important to the story…

Me: The pic of what I want is on my blog or on my pinterest board.

Sister: I was wondering what that was! Out of context it looooooked like staples (like stitches) random in dead skin. It  was barfy…then I got it…birds!!

Me: Thanks?

Sister: You’re Welcome 😀

Wow, so the tattoo I want is “barfy” to my sister. Nice….  So let me explain the meaning behind what I want, along with a picture.

Those birds are the actual size of what I want. Birds in flight… Why you ask? What is the significance? Simple. Fear has flown away. I no longer fear things in an irrational way. I want birds because my fear of birds is well known in MANY circles.

Several years ago when I taught with Farren Square, we had The Little Critters Program come into our Classroom. Better known as The Traveling Zoo. They come into the classroom every year and for those of you in Edmonton who have never seen this program, let me just say, it is FANTASTIC! I like it better than going to the zoo.  Anyways…That particular year, the zoo keeper brough a chicken into the classroom. Actually a hen. It was very cool because not only did it poop for all to see, it also laid an egg! After the egg popped out, the chicken walked over to me and stared me down with it’s little beady chicken eyes. My blood started pumping in my ears and my heart was racing. I was having a cold sweat. I tried my best not to show fear in front of my students and Farren Square laughed her head off. Nice….. What am I afraid of? Being pecked I think, but the eyes are creepy too. I actually do not know what my big fear is with birds – not just chickens – but terror over comes me. It is irrational.

Last summer I was on my patio laying on my lounger, reading a book. A baby bird – a swallow chick if you must know – hopped over to me and stared me down. I of course screamed because I was alone. I was too terrified to shoo it away. I couldn’t even get up and run to the door. Terror over came me. Then I remembered the cognitive behaviour therapy I took that spring. I used it, calmed myself down, and ignored the baby bird. I took several deep breaths and lived another day! In fact, I made myself approach birds…I still feel fear, but not terror. I am making progress.

So if I am not cured of bird fear, then why the birds? To me the birds represent progress, no fear, goal setting and change. As they fly away on my wrist, I would be reminded of the hard work and challenges I have overcome to get to this point in time. I am proud of the changes I have made in my life. I have no fear when it comes to trying new things, or challenging things. My partner looked at a project that I am working on for my University Class this term. She asked me if I am excited about it. Hmmm… my initial response was no. It is no because I look at it as just another thing I need to complete and complete well. I have no fear about it. I just see hard work ahead. There was a time when I would be too intimidated to proceed and would have not done it.

I never want to forget what it took to get to this point in my life. I think looking at something inspirational on my wrist would help with that. Of course, it could be jewelry or something similar…but there is something about a tattoo that attracts me. I think I am old enough for it not to be considered a whim. We shall see. I will give it serious thought, but so far it feels right.