There are certain sounds that belong to the wilderness. The howling of wolves is one, the primitive bugling of elk is another. I would also add the cry of the loon to that list. As a child, my family spent much time camping in northern Saskatchewan in the summer. In the evening, we would be getting into bed and from across the water would come the melancholy, beautiful song of the loon. It was (and still is) the best lullaby that I know.

Over the years my affection for loons has grown, even as I have learned more about them and discovered that they are aggressive and territorial and fierce. Up close they are both elegant and serious. I like that they are so exquisitely adapted to the aquatic ecosystems they inhabit. I would be satisfied with all this alone but their strong voices are their most powerful attribute. They make marvelous declarations that carry over long distances, and whenever I hear them, something stirs in my heart.

I didn’t realize until I was an adult that there are a few different species of loons, and although they are all similar, each of them is unique and interesting in their own way. Loons favor cool, clear water in isolated, out of the way places. Locations that I am drawn to are often inhabited by loons. They like quiet, drama-free sites with calm, still water. I do too. A lake surrounded by forest suits them very well, and it suits me also.  Shamans frequently call upon the spirit of the loon to act as a guide, and this makes sense to me. How often in my life I have been inexplicably drawn to peaceful, serene lakes where the loons are calling. Loons know both the surface of the lake and everything below it; they see what we cannot. The Blackfoot have a proverb that translates loosely as “the loon dives deeply”, with the implication being that one must not just take things at face value; one must examine things thoroughly.

For as long as I can remember, the loons have been calling to me. I so often find myself in the same places they are. Canada’s north speaks to me, sometimes in rousing choruses and symphonies and sometimes in gentle pieces of music that float to me on the wind. The call of the loon guides me back to myself. When I hear that wonderful call drifting across the water, I am somehow entirely safe and comforted. It makes me feel connected. A few years ago I took my nephew on an overnight trip up north. He was seven at the time, and as he was falling asleep the voice of the loon was descending over the water and woods. He asked me what that bird was and I told him it was a loon, and it was singing to him. “Why does it sound so sad?” he wanted to know. He was asleep before I could think of anything intelligent to say.

The ecologists tell us the loon’s voice announces territory; that it acts as an announcement of occupation and there are to be no trespassers. I find myself thinking there must be more to it. There is a spirituality to the call of the loon that is easily felt but not so easily explained.

On the wind there comes a lilting, musical twittering…I stop to listen and I know that goldfinches are coming near. Moments later they arrive here in the garden where I’m working. The goldfinches have come in one of their great gatherings, the males dressed in their bright gold and black and the females lighter, more subdued. They descend upon the seedheads I’ve left standing just for them; coneflowers and grasses and brown-eyed Susans. They are chittering and chattering to each other the whole time, with their strong little beaks prying seeds out of tiny crevices, and their small, scaly feet clinging elegantly to stems that barely notice their weight. I stop what I’m doing to observe them. I want to remember their beauty on dark winter days and I like listening to their conversations.

Goldfinches are such pretty, sweet little birds. They are well dressed and helpful and offer their music to the world and we are so lucky to have them here with us. They are traveling south now; they very sensibly do not linger with us over the winter months. What a joy to have them visiting the late summer garden!

Goldfinches feed chiefly on seeds, and they are very adept at both finding and extracting them. The immense, nodding thistles that grow in our ditches and waste places are favorites of theirs. Thistles are much maligned but also gorgeous, and offer food and sustenance to many pollinators and insects. Perhaps it is my Scottish heritage that drives my affection for them, but I think thistles are the most beautiful of all weeds. I love to see their jagged profiles crowned with these tiny birds deftly plucking and grooming the spent blossoms. How they clutch those prickly stems so delicately with their feet, how precisely and meticulously they withdraw the seeds with such speed and skill! The goldfinches and their kin are happiness personified. I think the world is better because they are here.

“Vile creatures!” the old woman spat at me as I tossed the scraps of flesh to the raven who eagerly watched and waited. It was early in the morning, and using a stick I had carefully scraped the dead gopher from the road and made sure the great dark bird could eat it in peace without having to worry about oncoming traffic.

I hadn’t seen the old woman appear. She was apparently out for an early morning stroll, as was I. She had watched me watching the raven, and for some reason I found this disconcerting. The woman radiated bitterness and spite. “Ravens are not vile”, I told her. “They are intelligent and quite lovely.” She carried on with her look of disapproval. The raven, for his part, had devoured his meal and stood a short distance away, his black feathers absorbing the light and his dark eyes gleaming. “They are deeply sacred to our indigenous people”, I added. “They are killers and bad luck!” she retorted. “They fed Elijah in the wilderness”, said I. The raven seemed intrigued by our conversation. The old woman huffed and disappeared down the path. The raven remained where he was. I had nothing further to feed him and I told him so. He nodded sagely.

I talked to him for several minutes and then he left, satisfied that no more treats were forthcoming. I thought about him for a long time afterwards. About a week after this interesting little interlude, the raven came to me in a dream. Perhaps it wasn’t a dream. Perhaps it was merely somewhere other than here. The raven carried a stick into the sky, and then returned for another one. Building a nest, I supposed. The raven came back and paused in his work. “Is there something you wish to know?” he asked me. I said I wanted to know everything but I didn’t know which were the right questions to ask; which ones were the most important. Where does one even start with questions, when there are so many mysteries in the world?

“Oh”, said the raven. “”What do you know of the sky? That’s a good place to start.” I said I knew nothing about the sky. “Do you know about the wolf that gnaws the bones of the elk, or the gleam of the winter sun on snow?” I said I knew the wolf and the elk were both out there, but little beyond that. “What do you know of the trees in the woods?” he asked. I said the trees were my friends, but they were shy and did not yield their secrets easily. “It takes time”, said the raven. “It is hard to see the whole; a tree is branches and leaves but it is also roots. We do not see all that it is. Quite impossible. The trees are busy, yes, very busy.” He flew away with another stick. He came back a while later.

“Are you still here?” he asked. “Do you still have questions?” I said the questions never really went away. I told him I had endless respect and appreciation for him. I told him I was sorry that his kind had been persecuted by my kind. “That is not a question”, said the raven, largely disregarding everything I had said. “I guess I just want to know what I’m doing here, and what it all means, and if anything I’m doing actually matters.” The raven flew to my arm and my breath caught in my throat. He was enormous and serious but there was a kindness to him. “When you speak to the bear, when you watch the mink fishing, when you hear the cranes high in the air on their migration, do you not feel connected? When you speak to the trees and find flowers in the woods, do you not feel like you are part of this all? When you recognize that all things are connected, when this beautiful world offers you fall colours and radiant light, do you not know that you are important? Don’t you know that we are not so different, not so very far apart? How is it that you don’t seem to know? Please excuse me”, said the raven, “but I have work to do, and so do you.”

Mention vultures to someone and they will often recoil with disgust. Even in First Nations cultures they are often viewed in a negative light, frequently seen as gluttons and liars. Even among those who appreciate them, comments are often made about how ugly they are. What is often unremarked is that few birds are as beautiful and elegant in flight as the vultures are, and few play as important a role in our ecosystems. Their ministry is to consume the dead; they are agents of disease control and sanitation. Carcasses festering and rotting in the sun that would otherwise begin to cause harm are quickly and efficiently disposed of by the vultures. Few are thankful to them.

Turkey vultures are the only species you will see locally, so named because of their featherless, turkey-like heads. With great black wings and their attraction to death, it’s not surprising that we both fear and loathe them. Farmers and ranchers of days long ago referred to them as buzzards. They were often shot. Fanciful stories of how they made off with newborn lambs and calves (entirely untrue) became popular. Humans are inclined to fear and hate things they do not understand.

I never saw turkey vultures when I was growing up. The first time I saw one I was a teenager. My sister and cousin were with me and we were sort of horrified and quite puzzled as to what it was doing out here. It was sitting on a fence post and no doubt had been feeding on something dead hidden in the tall grass. I didn’t think we were supposed to have vultures in Saskatchewan but there was no mistaking what it was. No other bird wears a monk’s robe of dark brown-black with a featherless, rosy pink face. By the time I moved to Alberta in my mid twenties, they were starting to become frequent sightings in some areas. It didn’t take long for my initial revulsion to become fascination. These gloomy, ominous looking birds that fed on carrion and never perch on trees or power poles like the hawks do, choosing instead to spend the entire day in the air…they intrigued me. Other than to roost at night, vultures come down out of the sky only for one purpose, which is to eat. For thousands of years, they followed the immense herds of bison across the great plains. When wolves or illness brought one down, the vultures would descend. With a kind of brutal elegance, they would strip clean the bones and return to the skies.

I asked an indigenous friend if her people knew anything about the turkey vultures and she said no, they didn’t. She is from north central Saskatchewan and vultures do not play an important role in her culture. We talked about the return of these birds; now occupying places that perhaps their ancestors did too. “They do not kill”, she said, “as other large birds do. They take only what has already died and they harm no one. I think they are peace loving.” I had never thought about vultures in quite this way and I immediately loved the idea.

These large birds are magnificent in flight. My friend Kevin remarked to me one day how they seem to play on the air currents as they come home to roost at the end of the day. It is also curious to me how they are so deeply silent. I have never heard a turkey vulture vocalize and who knows what their voices would sound like? (Their young will hiss if disturbed but the adults are wordless and mute.) One might expect a vulture to have a frightening, screechy voice. They do not. Like those who prepare bodies for burial, they are silent and respectful. They do their work quietly with no fanfare or noise.

Turkey vultures are unattractive up close and they are drawn to the freshly dead. We might easily look the other way, but it is indeed worth considering that they do not kill and they go about their lives doing the work that most others would find revolting. At the very least they are worth our respect.

The first time I saw one I was probably 14 or 15. I was tromping along on a sunny hillside and suddenly, along a fence line, there was a flash of blue. Not the blue of a jay, not the muted dusty blue of a nuthatch. This was a piece of sky that fell to the earth; a blue so radiant and unlikely it took my breath away. As blue as flax petals. He sat on the barbed wire fence and my brain ran as fast as it could to find the name, searching for the label that would make this beautiful insouciance a known thing. “Mountain bluebird” it said finally. I was astounded. I stood there with my heart thumping in my chest. A moment later I saw his mate emerging from a nestbox that someone had thoughtfully placed for them.

Mountain bluebirds are by no means exclusive to the mountains; they are found all across the central and western parts of North America. They like open, grassy areas where they can find the insects they need but canyons and valleys also appeal to them. They are common in the Cypress Hills and I used to see them in Horseshoe Canyon near Drumheller as well. For many years, there was even a banding program for them in Waterton Lakes National Park. I used to often see them when I was working there.

The first time you encounter a bluebird is something really special. We hear about them in songs; the bluebird of happiness, bluebird on my shoulder, bluebird in my heart… why so many songs about this bird? Perhaps because when you see a real one it is an experience that brings an unusual kind of profound joy. Bluebirds spend their winters in Mexico and return to us while there is yet snow on the ground, usually at the end of March. They brighten the prairies and they brighten our hearts. They return at a time when we are anxious to feel hopeful. They stir our souls and perhaps they make us feel optimistic again.

One wonders how long this will continue; studies show that since the 1960’s bluebird populations have declined by nearly 30%. We have not been good stewards of our birds, we have not protected their habitat or cherished them as we should.

How long yet will bluebirds perch on our fence lines? How long until they exist only in our stories and songs?

Hawthorns are gorgeous large shrubs or small trees in the rose family prized for their beautiful white flowers, stunning displays of berries, and often wonderful fall colour. They also have long, sharp spines that can be very attractive. Hawthorns are popular in horticulture but it is almost always spineless, fruitless cultivars which hold little appeal for me. I prefer the radiant beauty of the wild species, and so do the shrikes.

Shrikes are the only truly predatory songbirds. They lack the talons of birds of prey but they do have hooked beaks, excellent vision, and they are quite strong for their size. When they see something delicious looking, they drop down on it in a flash and seize it by the neck, killing it instantly with a quick, vigorous shake. Dressed in grey with black masks, they really do look just a bit like little criminals.

Shrikes have a diverse diet. Large insects like grasshoppers, beetles and dragonflies will work, but they also take mice, salamanders, voles, frogs, and even smaller birds and lizards. A toad will do nicely, or a shrew. Shrikes aren’t fussy. Really any small creature that they can overpower is going to be a meal.

Shrikes are territorial and incredibly alert. They find a prominent perch to sit on and this allows them to (A) scan for prey and (B) appear highly visible to any other shrikes that might be thinking of visiting the area.

So why do shrikes like hawthorns? To best answer that, I must take you back to the summer I was 12. My dad’s parents had a farm not far from Saskatoon, and down in the ravine behind their barn were some great thickets of hawthorn. Hawthorn doesn’t like windy areas so it doesn’t grow everywhere. This was a nice sheltered spot, however, and the hawthorn was happy down there. I was fascinated with the long, sharp spines and often went to visit “my” hawthorns. We were not supposed to be down in the ravine unsupervised but I frequently disobeyed this rule. (I wasn’t sorry about it then and I’m not sorry about it now.)

One day I went into the ravine to see the hawthorns and found something incredibly macabre and unexpected. There was a dead mouse impaled on one of the spines. Repulsed and intrigued, I tried to figure out how this had happened. Then I saw a salamander and several frogs arranged similarly. I was both puzzled and curious, but I couldn’t tell any adults about it, or they would know I had been alone down in the ravine. What to do?

I asked Grandma Wiebe about it; of course she knew. “That’s the butcher bird!” Grandma told me. “He hangs up his meat until he is ready to eat it.” I could hardly believe this gallery of death had been created by a small bird. “Oh yes,” said Grandma. “That’s the work of the butcher bird.” This is an old time name for the shrike, and while historically they preferred the spines of hawthorn, buffaloberry, or even wild roses in modern times they have found barbed wire fences also work perfectly for their purposes. Males will create a display of their kills, the better to lure a female. When she sees his incredible hunting prowess, she will be quite smitten and build a nest with him rather than with a different shrike. The shrikes that display the best larder (coupled with a lovely little dance) get to mate. Shrikes that aren’t good hunters don’t get to pass on their genes. Sometimes they even add bits of coloured paper or petals that they find to really impress a girl; reds and pinks are preferred. (Ornithologists say this is because these are flesh colours; I suspect it is actually about romance.) Once their babies have hatched, a shrike couple will often “stockpile” food by hanging or impaling it so they have a ready supply of breakfast for their hungry chicks. In a year of abundance when lots of prey is available, a shrike’s cupboard can be a somewhat creepy thing to stumble upon. I imagine this would be especially true if you didn’t know who or what was responsible.

Shrikes are declining in numbers across the continent. Pesticides, habitat loss, and predation from house cats have had a huge impact on them. I know many avid birders who have never seen a shrike. I hadn’t seen one myself for many years and now in 2020, I have seen them several times. I don’t know what to make of this, but it pleases me.

It’s often hard to feel hopeful about the world. It’s hard to feel positive or encouraged in these times. I sometimes get very discouraged and exasperated about people’s apparent lack of interest in the environment. Sometimes to cheer myself up I remind myself of all the people I know who DO care about the planet. I also like to think about little predatory songbirds out there catching mice and grasshoppers and displaying them to impress a lady. This amuses me and makes me happy. I enjoy thinking about little shrike couples in hawthorn thickets with nests full of babies and both of them hunting to keep their family fed. (Yes, the females hunt too.) Sometimes small things can bring us joy. I like thinking about shrikes in their little black masks and my 12 year old self being so enthralled when he discovered their kitchen.

For Paula…

Did you know, in the mountains, there is a small bird about half the size of a robin who plunges in and out of mountain streams, harvesting insect larvae that no other bird could get? He is called the dipper. He dips in and out of raging torrents and then sits on a wet rock singing about his afternoon. Dippers use their wings and feet to swim; they quite literally fly underwater. Gripping slippery stones with their strong, hooked toes they revel in the cold, fresh delight of rushing creeks before plunging in at great speed and diving straight to the bottom. They flip over stones and bits of driftwood grabbing caddis fly larvae and stoneflies before popping up again like a champagne cork. They have no trouble navigating in and out of water that a fly fisherman couldn’t stand in without being swept away. Of all the birds in the mountains, dippers might be among the most extraordinary.

The dipper is not extraordinary to look at, however.

He is small and coloured like a charcoal smudge. His song is nice enough, but one would probably not say it was outstanding. He is neither a thrush nor a warbler. He is attractive enough, but not a wonder of colour as the tanagers and orioles are. The dipper is small and unassuming, and he is mostly solitary (though he sometimes has a partner) and he submerges himself over and over again in water too cold even for the kingfisher. He dines on insects that only he can find and sings his little song beside the flowing water. There is something deeply admirable about him.

I had a teacher in elementary school who told us about the dipper. She even showed a filmstrip (remember those?) of him dipping and bobbing. I think the other kids might have been bored. I wasn’t. I wanted to know if he lived in lakes near where we camped in summer. “No”, said Mrs. Jeppeson, “he only lives in cool, clear water in the mountains. That’s why it’s important we don’t pollute the earth. Dippers can only dip in water that isn’t dirty or poisoned.” This made a lot of sense to my grade four self. It makes a lot of sense to me now, too.

In between the fourth grade and my mid twenties, there is a gap where the dipper was something I never thought about much, if at all. He reappeared dramatically on one of my first hiking trips in Kananaskis. There, on a rock, was a small dark bird who watched with an alertness and intensity other songbirds cannot match. He flicked his wings and vanished into the water. This is not a usual thing to observe a bird doing. I was transfixed. He emerged beak full and triumphant. He ate his lunch. He sang. He descended into the water again eagerly, shimmering with silver pearls when he came back to the surface. “What’s that bird doing?” my friend asked. “It’s a dipper”, I said with the same reverence that most people reserve for churches and temples. “A what?” said my friend. “It’s an aquatic songbird. They…they dive for food. They are, uh, sort of a kind of fisherman I guess…” my friend was unmoved and wanted to get going. I couldn’t tear myself from the dipper. He was beautiful, in his way. Into the water, over and over. I felt so sure I was on hallowed ground, standing on that mountain with him. Indeed; I had been watching a baptism.

Somewhere in the dense undergrowth, the wren in his earthen brown cloak is singing. He is hard to spot and almost never still. He is foraging here, now there, now back again and the whole time his mouth is dripping with music. He does not waste a moment. He is diligent and task oriented. He believes his work to be very important.

Wren is the king of a small world that most of us will never see. He knows where the fox walks quietly in the woods and he knows where the brightest patches of flowers bloom and he knows which trees have the best assortment of insects for his lunch. He knows where the merlin perches on a high branch and he does not begrudge him his role as executioner. Hidden away in the grass and flowers, the wren is singing. If he is scurrying under the dogwoods and rummaging about at the base of old cottonwoods, he is singing. There is no job too mundane, no activity too trivial that the wren does not have a song about it. He is the feisty little monarch who announces himself with song. I am overcome with deep affection for him; more than affection, in fact. The wren says everything my heart feels in a language I cannot speak. I have no need of cathedrals in which to hear the voice of God; I need only forests filled with wrens.

I wonder the number of twigs that the wrens carry to the dark hidey holes where they lay their eggs. Sometimes I see them zipping down to the birdbath or zooming into the undergrowth to pounce on a beetle that just lazily flew by. I could spend a thousand years in a gym and my reflexes would never be as quick and sharp as the wrens. A wren is a tiny package of boldness and precision. They are meticulous and thorough and they are so very small. If it wasn’t for their song, they might go entirely unnoticed.

I like to think the wren is my friend. When I hear him my heart warms like wood in a fire. I’m not sure if I want to be the wren, or if I just wish I could be as happy as the song of the wren sounds.

There is a bird I knew as a child, a bird from the pastures and grassy places, but I never knew his name. He was handsome and dignified, regal even, and his lovely song would come drifting on the air towards me long before I saw him. Often I didn’t see him at all; I only knew he was there. I thought him perhaps a sparrow of some kind. Maybe he was a lark. I got older, as we all do, and I heard him less often. Then one spring I realized I didn’t hear him at all. I did hear the neighbour’s tractor plowing away, and I did hear the traffic on the highway, but I didn’t hear my small friend who dressed in soft brown and wore a crown of tar and snow. I forgot him, eventually. It shames me, but I forgot him.

Many years later I read ‘Grass, Sky, Song’ by Trevor Herriot, that thoughtful prairie writer with the soul of a poet. He wrote of a bird called the chestnut-collared longspur and I remembered my friend who sang out beyond the straw bales. I wondered if he was not, in fact, a native sparrow. I wondered if my musical little friend who called me to the open places was the bird called longspur. Recordings of him on line said it was indeed so, and his photo matched my memories of him.

I went back to the places he once sang and I didn’t find him. I told myself it was the wrong time of the year. I told myself surely we hadn’t destroyed all of his habitat; we couldn’t have. There must be places he still sings! I have been searching for the chestnut-collared longspur for five springs at least; perhaps six or seven. My friend Kyron, who knows birds but is much younger than I am, tells me he has never heard him at all.

Is it strange that my heart is broken over this, that I am bereft by the absence of a small brown bird that probably no one really cares about? I have looked for him around Lethbridge and I have looked for him around Swift Current but my longspur, my friend whose name I did not know, has vanished from the prairies. “They still sing in Grasslands National Park”, one friend tells me. “We always have them on our acreage by Medicine Hat”, says another. Generations of indigenous people grew up under the songs of generations of longspurs on this land and now I cannot find a single one. “What’s a longspur?” people have asked when I have lamented their disappearance. I don’t know which is the greater tragedy; that our grassland birds are nearly gone or that people don’t even know we’ve lost anything.

A loud splash interrupted me as I lay on the cold, wet ground photographing wildflowers in Waterton Lakes National Park. A moment later, a dark shadow passed overhead and I looked up to see the handsome and formidable shape of an osprey rowing through the air like an Olympian in a kayak. Clutched in his impressive talons was a fish that must have weighed as much as he did. I smiled and went back to what I was doing, knowing he had a nest not too far away and pleased for him that he had succeeded this time.

There seems to be a prevailing idea that predators are always successful. They are not. Lions do not catch every gazelle they chase. Crocodiles do not get every zebra that they lunge for. Ospreys do not get every fish they dive in after. I read once that they usually manage to grab a fish in about one out of every four attempts. This seemed right to me. Since dawn I had been out there with the flowers, trying to get a good shot of one of the native lobelias (hard to photograph because they are so small) and two ospreys had been calling to each other since I arrived. I had seen him hit the water several times only to come up with nothing. He kept at it though and his efforts were rewarded. His mate called encouragement to him and he answered her, promising her he would return with breakfast for their chicks and he did so. 20 minutes later that dark spear hit the water again, once more emerging with a fish, this time an even larger one. I wondered how many times a day this dance played out.

The osprey, if you are not familiar with him, is a very impressive bird of prey. He is found all over the world, almost anywhere that there are fish you will find him. Lakes, rivers, and coast lines work very well indeed. They are neither hawks nor eagles; they represent their own family and their own lineage. Ospreys feed almost exclusively on fish and they are superbly adapted to this lifestyle. They have astonishingly good vision and can detect even the faintest ripples along the surface made by fish feeding below. They have extremely long legs with very powerful, curved talons all of equal length and opposing toes, the better to grab a struggling and slippery fish. They also have oily feathers that repel water, lest they become waterlogged and unable to become airborne again. When a fish is detected, they drop out of the sky like a bolt of lightning and plunge feet first into the water, grabbing their prey and then taking to the sky again a moment later. So skilled are they that bald eagles often pursue them, finding it easier to steal an osprey’s lunch than trying to catch their own.

Ospreys have hooked beaks and magnificent amber or golden eyes peering out from behind dark masks. They somehow manage to look both foreboding and slightly comical at the same time. In many indigenous cultures, the osprey is a symbol of power. They are masters of both sea and air and are sometimes seen as the embodiment of balance. I discussed ospreys with an indigenous friend once and she said “they dive from great heights and must hit their mark with great accuracy. They seem never to be blinded by the glint of sun on water, as we would be. They fish as we do, and yet not as we do.” I always liked this observation. We are the same as the ospreys, yet different than they are. We are all brothers and sisters. “There is only one world”, as Mary Oliver once said.

The lifespan for an osprey is about 15-20 years and I wonder how many times in their life they dive for prey and come up empty handed. I wonder how many chicks they raise successfully, and how many thousands of kilometers they travel on their migration to get to their wintering grounds in central and South America. They mate for life and often return to the same nesting site year after year.

Ospreys are devoted to their partners, excellent parents, and have so much to teach us about perseverance, resilience, and beauty.
I cannot dive into a lake and grab a fish like they can. I cannot fly to South America and back every year on my own strength. I cannot detect the movements of a fish at the water’s surface from 100 ft. away. All these things ospreys do, and they do them well and without analyzing or self-doubt or having an existential crisis. Perhaps the lesson of the osprey is to simply do what you do in the world without giving up, and without trying to be something you’re not. The osprey does not pretend to be the owl or the hummingbird. The osprey does not complain about having to eat the same thing every day or love the same partner his whole life or file a grievance against the raccoon who tries to raid his nest. He just gets up every morning and does what he does in the world, and sets an example for the rest of us to follow. The osprey knows he is a fisherman, and so everyday he gets up and goes fishing. There is an elegance to this simplicity, and I find it inspiring.