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Kendall focused his binoculars at the perched warbler. He knowingly smiled as he examined the bird. “Hello, my yellow-rumped friend. Have you seen any red-bellied woodpeckers in these parts?”
Kendall obtained a coveted position as feature writer in Birding Digest and was on assignment to write a story on the elusive woodpecker. He lowered his binoculars and looked up at the tops of the swaying pines. Beyond, dense pillows of high clouds were hurriedly pushed by the wind across the bright blue sky. He shook his head with amazement. Who would have guessed that he would get paid to do this? Just seven years ago he was a marketing manager for a plastic packaging company, focused on becoming vested in a career that left him empty.
The ground crunched beneath his boots as he continued to walk. He listened to the caw of crows flying overhead and the distant rushing of a stream as he investigated down a slow sloping hill covered in dried leaves and fallen branches.
Not too long ago, he bit down hard on the social importance of image. How others perceived who he was impacted his self-worth. Secretly, he loved to write. He ached, at times, to express his feelings using the written word. He also had an uncommon fascination with birds. They possessed an otherworldly quality; they could fly for chrissake! “What a curse!” he bellowed privately. “How could I possibly become successful with these pursuits?” pleaded his young self. He worked exhaustively to bury the yearning for the things his heart loved to do with the disembodied concept of accomplishment. What he thought he wanted most was to be deemed successful by the culture he valued.
He heard a bird call and stopped. Swiftly, he raised the binoculars and saw a red-bellied woodpecker flying in the direction of the stream. “Yes!” he whispered and continued down the slope, elbows high and smiling wide.
He shook his head in good humor as he recalled his own plight, which he referred to as “treading the path of Other:” On this path he collected image-enhancing assets, such as a valued job title, expensive brand products and lots of shallow relationships, but they left him bankrupt on many levels. He did everything the pathway required of him and yet he felt empty inside. The ensuing disappointment shook his personal foundation and spiraled him into a depression from which only reflective catharsis could release him.
He’d never forget the fear he felt not knowing what to do next. It was like a lingering free-fall in a black void where there was no up or down, and no east or west. There was nothing recognizable to grab hold of and no direction to go toward but inward.
Reflectively, he started writing and bird watching. Shortly thereafter, the speed with which new opportunities flowed for him could not have been planned.
He stopped at the bank of the stream and examined the trees on the opposite side. He knew he would see the woodpecker here soon. He then gazed down into the stream which densely roiled with bass. He watched the fish effortlessly flow, unimpeded by the obstructing rocks, and wondered if they knew where they were headed. He considered how they didn’t resist the water’s current and admired their trust in the process. They didn’t appear to panic over the fact that an external force, they had no control of, was navigating them towards a destination intellectually unbeknownst to them. They did not waver in their acceptance of being part of a mechanism.
He laughed at himself thinking that even as a fish, he would likely fight the current, flail to grab hold of anything and get battered by the rocks in the process.
Just then, the elusive woodpecker landed on a tree branch on the opposite side of the stream. Slowly, Kendall raised his binoculars and focused his lenses. His mouth broke into a toothy smile as he viewed the targeted bird examine him.