Lessons from Stan the cardinal

Published 11:29 am Monday, April 16, 2018

Whack! Whack! Whack!

Stan is territorial and clearly convinced another male has set his sights on his beloved Chick. Chick currently lives in the bottom of a Bradford pear tree, her tiny nest filled with a clutch of brown eggs.

As cardinals mate for life, we’re unsure when this love story began.

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Our part in this aviary courtship came into play last year when we replaced all of the windows in our house. The new double-paned windows are far more reflective than the previous versions, and Stan now constantly mistakes his reflection for an invading bird, dive-bombing the panes of glass relentlessly to protect Chick and the babies. 

Chick will lay up to four clutches every year, meaning we’ve endured this aggressive behavior now for several seasons. Some of our windows are streaked with blood from Stan’s head, the rearview mirror on our car scratched from his sharp beak.

He gets really agitated when he catches sight of movement in the house, hurtling his body extra hard against the glass, calling to Chick to make sure she’s safe.

Fweep, Fweep what, what, what, what, what! Fweep, Fweep what, what, what, what, what!

His love song grows increasingly loud and insistent until she chirps her safety in answer.

We researched this behavior, and were heartbroken to learn that millions of songbirds die every year from colliding into windows. So we printed pictures of owls and taped them to our widows. Stan attacked those owls ferociously.

Then, based on advice gleaned from the Farmer’s Almanac, we hung aluminum pie pans. Again, Stan declared war. We tried blinds, curtains and decals. Nothing would deter our little songbird love missile.

So we decided that if we couldn’t beat him, we’d join him in celebrating his love story. When we hear that familiar whack, we cheer his perseverance, his spunk, his tireless passion and willingness to die for love.

Because when we understand what we’re willing to die for, we understand what we’re actually living for.

What are you living for? Are you living for your ideals, for freedom, for your family, for love? And if not, then why not?

As Mark Twain so famously quipped, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Chick and her babies are Stan’s why.

What’s yours?

I’m not interested in what you do or how you do it. I’m interested in your motivation, the inner spark that gets you out of bed each day and propels you ever forward. Why do you do it? And for whom?

When we live our why, our life is filled with purpose and inspiration.

Your why is your decision-making filter, the North Star that guides your actions and colors your understanding of who you are and where you are going.

Living your why is being your best, most intentional self. It’s living with purpose, on purpose, the difference between thriving and simply surviving.

We each of us have a divine purpose. Everyone we met, every experience we have, is a spiritual assignment, helping us hone our understanding of that purpose.

I am a (somewhat) reformed people pleaser who too often runs herself ragged because I do things that are expected or demanded of me. But I’m slowly learning that to do things well, I need to stop before I agree and ask myself if they matter. If they don’t fit my why, I’m more apt to decline.

My why is my family, my health, my connection to wonder and gratitude, and my passion for sharing how to live a mindful, intentional life.

There is an English story from medieval times. A man came across two bricklayers on a road and asked what they were doing. “I’m laying brick,” said one. The other replied, “I’m building a cathedral.”

To the first man, his undertaking was a simple paycheck, a soulless task he felt no connection to. But to the man building the cathedral? Each brick was a spiritual mission, a crucial step in bringing a bigger dream to realization. He was working for passion and not just a paycheck.

Life is short. Don’t simply lay brick. Build the cathedral and then bash your head against the stained-glass windows for love.

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness for Women” and the online host of a yoga and mindfulness channel for Eppic Films.Send her a shout out at erin@theOMplace.net or play along at www.theOMplaceChannel.com.