I’ve never been a bird girl. But I’m starting to see the beauty in the way they
journey during times of change.
Interstate 74. The last leg of my drive from Chicago to central Illinois. The usual scenery: potholes, trains, and a whole lot of corn. A pretty boring view on the way to my hometown. But on one particular trip, swarms of birds stole the show. That's right, birds. I’ve lived in the Midwest almost my whole life, but I’d never seen such a sight.
Watch the video below to see what I mean:
I didn't like them at the time (hello apocalypse), but I still think about that day. The way those birds danced together in the sky, like a choreographed ballet. I’ve never been a bird girl. But I’m starting to see the beauty in the way they journey during times of change.
now let's get in formation
Cue up Beyonce and dive into a Google search on “migration.” You might be surprised by what you learn. I know I was.
Just like these ladies dancing, it may look easy, but the long-distance flight for birds is no easy voyage. Collisions are the leading cause of death for up to a billion birds in the US each year!1 That’s why they travel at night, to avoid overheating and deadly distractions such as building lights and window reflections.
And yet, the birds forge on. They have to.
“As habitat, food availability, and weather all change with the seasons, birds must move from place to place to survive...”
And according to Birdlife International, migration for birds is hormonal, with the change in sunlight “triggering hormones that make them become restless, gather in flocks, and eat more food to stock up for the long journey ahead.
The technical term for this is Zugunruhe, which means migratory restlessness and comes from the German words ‘zug’ (meaning to move) and ‘unruhe’ (restless anxiety).”2
I don't know about you, but I can relate to this urge (and anxiety).
Like a snowbird, I feel the pull towards the Sunny South as summer turns into fall, and fall turns into winter. I’m all for cozy sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes, but there’s a part of me that feels the need to mourn the change in seasons, like a loss.
For me, this comes in the form of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I’m not medically diagnosed, but I know I’ve got some symptoms:
Tiredness or low energy
Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty3
The remedy? I plan to armor up with vitamin D, light therapy, and a whole lot of prayer journaling. But I can’t help but still feel uneasy going into the winter months.
Luckily, K.J. Ramsey, a trauma-informed, body-centered therapist and author, says that’s okay.
Just as green leaves turn to gold before falling to the earth, there is nothing more normal in the pattern of life than descent.
And she offers an additional remedy.
"God made your body to quickly walk down paths of stress to protect you from harm. When you are disillusioned, full of doubt, overwhelmed, triggered, or feel stuck, your body is telling you that you do not feel adequately safe, seen, and soothed. You are not failing; you are feeling. You are not faithless. You need a friend.”4
Oh yeah… friendship.
As a Capricorn, I wear the term “independent introvert” like a badge of honor.
But as proud as I am of that, I still need kinship and connection. It’s the hunger for companionship that all Zodiac signs crave. Call it primitive instinct. Just like birds, we journey safer in flocks. And just like the sparrow, we need not worry about tomorrow.
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26 NIV
your mind matters
October is National Depression and Health Screening Month. It’s important to take care of ourselves, mind and spirit, as we prepare for the colder months to come.5 Adjusting to transitions is hard. And if you're traveling on a boring road or not, look to the sky for inspiration. Even though there’s a chance of falling and crashing, the birds press on in good faith. Likewise, we can forge ahead in faith, whether through a changing season in a year or a season in life.
Fall migration runs through Nov. 15. Property and business owners are encouraged to make their windows bird safe, and to dim or turn off display lighting overnight during fall migration: https://abcbirds.org/blog/five-fantastic-bird-migration-facts/#:~:text=Many%20people%20know%20that%20bird,are%20nothing%20less%20than%20astonishing https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/activists-ask-public-for-help-as-millions-of-migrating-birds-fly-through-midwest/2947721/
Check out Mental Health America for free and confidential tools and resources online: https://www.mhanational.org/national-depression-screening-day