Fantastic Friday: The Orange Bird of Dreams

Earlier this fall, while teaching via distance learning, I was speaking to my students while staring out the window at the beautiful golden sunlight of morning illuminating a tree that finally turned yellow-umber during a year when foliage around here had not been very vivid.

Amidst the golden glory, an orange bird landed. It looked simply majestic there among the branches—the orange of its plumage layered in the orange leaves glowing in the golden sun. It was a study in monochrome. My camera, mockingly, sat on the kitchen table two rooms away.

The beautiful leaves that would have been a perfect backdrop for the orange bird. . .

Later, friends and family asked me to describe the bird. It had an orange beak. Am I sure? No. It had orange feathers. Am I sure? No. It was orange, yes. Much of it. They sent me pictures of sample orange birds from North America. None of them looked quite like what I saw. “What kind of orange?” they asked. I laughed and said, half-jokingly, “It was the color of dreams.”

Sadly, NOT the orange bird.

I wondered whether I should have left class to get my camera. But even if I had not been in the middle of an active discussion with my students, the bird would likely have been gone by the time I got my camera and returned. But still.

I wondered if maybe the bird might come back later. Deep down, I knew the answer. I walk around often at my house, and I had never seen such a bird before. But I kept hope, and after class ended, I moved my camera (with zoom lens) right next to my laptop. If students in my next class had to see me stand up to take a picture, so be it. I could explain.

As you may have guessed, the orange bird never came back. But all day I paid special attention to the tree, and I saw birds I would not have otherwise observed, even managing to capture a few on film, including a shot of a blue jay (blue bird?) and a woodpecker.

Crows: more of the birds I spotted while looking for my elusive friend.

In the days and weeks that followed, I found myself more attuned to the birds out my window. In further researching, I think the mysterious orange bird was a Lady Cardinal, her colors magnified by the golden sun and surrounding leaves. But in my newly-alert state, I saw birds I never would have caught otherwise, including a Cooper Hawk that has been eluding me until very recently.

I had been trying to grab a picture of this hawk since the pandemic started. Patience paid off.

I realized the whole thing is a metaphor. In life we can either focus on mourning what we don’t have, or we can appreciate what we do have. I never found my elusive orange bird—or maybe I did. Maybe the orange bird was a reminder to always be attuned to the possibilities out there. Sometimes it takes only a second to miss what might turn out to be a life-inspiring spectacle–and a change of perspective.

Exorcist, anyone? The hawk decided my presence was not a threat.


Bird attack


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