Be Your Own Birder

The Year That Wasn’t

As November draws to a close and with just one month remaining this calendar year, it should have long since been obvious that 2023 is simply a non-year for Be Your Own Birder. The skies have remained empty – while birds are flying, my spirit is not.

Feather on Rocks - Photo by Ari Bakker
Feather on Rocks – Photo by Ari Bakker

So Many Disappointments

Throughout the year, I’ve tried – I really have – to readjust to the new reality of a life so altered, but have continually managed to disappoint myself with so many failures. I may start the morning with good intentions, but an hour later have become bogged down in minutia and lack confidence, energy, or ambition to move out of the rut I find myself in. I’ve let goals large and small slip through my fingers, watching them fade without any desire to stop the exodus.

For birding, I haven’t picked up my field bag in a year, and it’s buried under unsorted, random detritus in the closet that is desperate for cleaning out and decluttering. I’ve cracked a field guide a few times when someone has a request for identification help, but haven’t done much in the field myself. On my annual year list, I don’t yet have the simplest of species listed – no mallard, no ruddy turnstone, no laughing gull, no great egret, not even an American kestrel, loggerhead shrike, or song sparrow.

American Kestrel
American Kestrel – Photo by USFWS/Susan Drobniak

Have I seen some, or even all, of these species? Perhaps – I honestly can’t recall for most. If I do, the thought just doesn’t hold long enough for me to mark the list with date and place, because my mind is so shattered the pieces simply can’t be put back together for a consistent picture.

So Many Challenges

Yet life, in a very altered form, does go on. Work continues and deadlines do not wait, the house must be cleaned, laundry washed, car serviced, bills paid, family matters attended to. Special days come and go, whether they make an impact on daily drudgery or not.

Some days, it’s a challenge just to stay focused long enough for a sentence or two. Other days, I may believe I’m making progress, then be blindsided an hour later by what has been forced to become reality.

I see the birds outside my window and they may make me smile for a fraction of a second. Yet I can’t recall the last time I had the energy to refill the feeders or clean the bath. Simply put, I just don’t have the energy to care – not in a cruel or unkind way, but with any sort of awareness at all.

Mixed Birdseed
Mixed Birdseed – Photo by Mr ATM

The overall reality is that I’m struggling. Every day, nearly every hour is difficult. I no longer remember any extended periods of peace, contentment, or satisfaction, much less actual happiness or joy. I’m behind in so much, haven’t touched any hobbies all year, and look forward most to going to bed each evening not for rest and refreshment, but just unconsciousness and the passing of another day.

So Much to Come

Life, and everything with it, has changed. I thought perhaps some of these changes might lead to more positivity down the road, yet the road is proving far longer, more twisted, and more deeply rutted than I ever could have anticipated, no matter what planning or forethought was given.

Months ago, I thought I might be able to see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel by this point, that there might some brightness to the days, I might even plan a day for intense birding. That has not yet proven to be the case, and as the days grow ever darker, so do my spirits. I no longer have any thoughts on when the gloom may end, I can only hope that it will, one day. In the meantime, the birds stay grounded.

I still try to throw sparks, to find the fire I once had and light a flame to burn away the darkness. Some embers have lasted longer than others, but no flame has yet caught for longer than a moment. Yet because there is still some smoldering, I know the heat has not gone entirely cold. When will it fully reignite? I no longer know, but I hope there will be more warmth and brightness ahead than there have been for many months now.

Smoldering Embers - Photo by Andrey
Smoldering Embers – Photo by Andrey

4 thoughts on “The Year That Wasn’t

  1. Jayne Wilson

    I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through this. I can’t imagine what has happened to bring you to this point, but I hope that you find the strength you need to bring yourself through this dark tunnel and reach the warmth and light on the other side. Sending hugs and keeping you in my thoughts.

  2. Shelly Mathie

    Grieving takes a long time and you will go through many different phases. Give yourself time and be patient. My mom has been gone 2 years now and the loss of her still grieves me. You will eventually pick yourself up and the light will become brighter. There is hope and better days ahead. I promise.

  3. Gabi T

    Thanks for your honesty! I echo what others have said about grief–it takes time and the very honesty you are showing here. Know that others are with you in spirit.

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