The usual cacophony of bird song does not fill the morning air in my backyard; my songbirds are scattered.
When I removed the bird feeders from the front porch last week, I did so with the hope that I would also remove the danger of spreading disease.
It broke my heart to see the birds’ confusion when they flew in, expecting breakfast. As they paced the length of the porch railing, looking for what they had come to rely upon as a sure and steady source of nourishment, I felt I had failed them.
As parents, we must often do things that we do not want to do as we work toward a greater good. We punish our children for misbehavior, we deny their wishes for a steady diet of candy and cookies, and we force vile tasting medicine down their throats when they are sick.
“It’s for your own good,” we tell them, as if that fact could soften the harsh reality.
We do what we must do because we fear something much more terrifying than an unhappy child (or a hungry bird). As we fear for their very lives. And we must remember, as we do what we must do, that momentary discomforts are just that — momentary.
The fear that we experience is not a comfortable feeling, but fear protects us.
We hold fears for ourselves, fears for the well-being of others, for wildlife, nature, and for the whole world. Fear is a gift that calls us into action. When we are moved to protect that which we love and cherish, we must give thanks for fear.
It is hard to look fear in the face and welcome it into our lives, although fear is often the door that opens the way for us to find the best in ourselves and enables us to seek what is best for others. Fear is the first step to courage.
Fear can inspire us to find courage and accomplish great deeds. Fear can also be the driving force that causes us to commit acts in which we would otherwise, in better circumstances, find ourselves ashamed to commit.
We all have a choice. Do we choose to allow fear to lead us to commit courageous acts? Or do we allow fear to push us into shame?
I still struggle with fear, but when I look upon fear as the first step in the transformation into courage, I am comforted.
It is in that breath that I must take as I move from fear to courage — in that very moment of contemplation and hesitation — that I have the opportunity to discover how very brave I truly am.
And because courage begins with fear, I am able to welcome that fear, lean into it, and see it for what it is — the impetus of courage.
In Fearful Silence
The silence that surrounds my farmhouse serves as a loud reminder of the many deaths I have seen this past week — birds that fell to disease, to hungry hawks and feral felines.
This morning the death-toll silence was transformed into a gift. Through that sad silence that I was able to hear the “rat-ta-tat-tat” of a Red-breasted Sapsucker pounding away on a far off tree trunk.
I would not have heard that sound had it not been for the silence. I would not have been reminded of the service that the sapsucker provides for our beloved Rufous Hummingbirds, who often create their nests near sap wells.
As I leaned into the fear today and reached for the promise of courage, I found an open door before me. All I had to do was reach for the handle and step over the threshold.
As the old saying goes, “When one door closes, another opens.”
But I have my own saying, “When fear bars the door, courage can build another way.”
Each time I don the Tool-belt of Courage, I try to remember it was Fear that gave me the opportunity to become a carpenter.
What tools hang from your tool-belt today? What will you use to build a door, to light the way, to become a hero?
Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and Outdoors enthusiast who lives in Cinebar, WA. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.