I have a senior dog named Duncan who is more or less the boss of our household. He has canine cognitive disorder which is just a fancy way of saying he has dementia. He is heavily medicated and 85% of the time, he is great and sleeps through the night and isn’t anxious. The rest of the time he is scratching doors and walls in the middle of the night and occasionally paces, pants and tip toes around the house, clearly afraid and unsettled.
I tell you this because we do everything in our power to get him centered, steady and happy. This includes routines, daily exercise and walks, which I let him be the boss of. If he wants to go far, we go far. If he wants to go two houses down and stop then we stop. Walks, therefore, are not that fun for the rest of us. And yes, you could argue that I am soft and need to be the boss, and I don’t disagree. I just also like to let the old guy think he is in charge of something.
This weekend, I had the opportunity to walk without the dogs on the beach. It felt a little like stealing because they are always on walks with me but my husband had taken them home with him shortly before. It was my moment!
I headed down to the beach to walk to the break wall at Cattaraugus Creek. It isn’t terribly far, but it is much farther than Duncan would allow. The weather was perfect, the breeze, the views, all of it was just right.
On the way back I noticed a little bird walking alongside me. Being the bird nerd that I am, I tried to identify it, while also taking it all in. I took multiple pictures as we walked so I wouldn’t miss anything.
My first thought was, “This is a sandpiper.” Having grown up on the beach, there are only so many birds that show up on shore. Only, it was different than all the other sandpipers I have known. He wasn’t brown and white as they often are. He was all grey with just the slightest touches of white. It was funny because this bird was not afraid of me or my inspection of him as we strolled together. I also doubt very much we would have had this encounter with the dogs nearby.
I uploaded a picture to my bird app and it identified this bird as a Red Knot. I have never heard of this bird so I was super excited to add a new bird to my repertoire. (If you are a bird person, he also got added to my Life List. Score!)
We walked for a bit before he turned the other way and we parted. It felt to me that there was something special about this bird, I just wasn’t sure what it was.
When I returned to the cottage, I looked up the Red Knot. This bird lives in the Arctic Circle. While migrating, they do stop along the East Coast but the shores of Lake Erie are definitely off the beaten path. This is when the doubt crept in. What are the odds this bird would be here at Lake Erie on this day, walking alongside me on the beach on a day I don’t have my dogs? My app must be wrong. The Red Knot is also quite reddish in color. This bird was all grey. Bird people know that birds aren’t as colorful when they aren’t breeding which might explain the color change, but still, this bird wasn’t supposed to be here.
Off and on, for the rest of the day, I kept looking up different sorts of sandpipers and shore birds that were more likely to be on the shores of Lake Erie in late August. I could not find one that matched the pictures of my bird.
Finally, I submitted the picture to a group on Facebook of very smart bird experts. I would trust their call I said, because these people are on it when it comes to birds. And guess what they said within minutes? It was a Red Knot!
In fact, some of these folks wanted to pile in the car to go find the Red Knot the next day because this was such a unique opportunity. A rare sighting of a bird that was off its typical route.
I did learn that the Red Knot is one of the farthest migrating animals in the world, traveling almost 18,000 miles a year during migration. (For the record, from my house to Australia is 10,000 miles.) It is also a threatened species which is a step below endangered. This made my Red Knot extra special to me.
So, if you have been reading my blog long enough, you know I am going to look up the spiritual meaning of the bird. Which I did, and I will share that with you but I do think in this case, the message is more about trust and faith. I was so confident on the beach that this was the Red Knot. It was not until I learned the odds of it being the Red Knot were slim to none that I began to question it. Why couldn’t this threatened bird from the Arctic Circle be on my walk in August?
It made me pause and think a lot of things.
When my Dad was sick and dying from cancer, I bought my parents a framed picture that said:
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
That quote has been made famous by Albert Einstein. I love that it was he who said this, a man of science who obviously had a unique perspective on life.
Is it a miracle that a bird from the Arctic Circle shows up on Lake Erie in August in disguise in his basic grey feathers rather than the vibrant red ones which would have left no doubt who he was?
There is so much to unpack here I really can’t get it all out of my head.
If you are still reading this, I bet you are inclined to think like me. What limits do we put on ourselves based on the “odds” of something being the way it is? Why can’t a bird decide to take a detour in Toronto on his way from the Arctic to sun himself on Snyder Beach? Why can’t you be all that you wish to be? Why do you have to do what has always been done? Can you invite more magic and wonder into your life?
And don't get me started on his name! Red is powerful, foundational, root chakra color and knots are about connections of course. Not even going there although I can't argue with that logic either. This bird speaks my language!
For those that stopped reading 8 paragraphs ago, who wonder why I need everything to mean something, I see you. And I get it. Sometimes I question myself. But at the end of the day, I think my way is more fun, even if I am wrong.
The following day, as I sat in meditation, I had this in my head: "I am here to find the magic and share it with people." This feels like exactly the sort of job I would apply for!
I would love to hear your thoughts on this very cool sighting and connection with a random bird from the Arctic Circle. I also encourage you to share this with someone who might need a jolt to believe in magic and wonder.
PS I told you I would share the spiritual meaning of the Red Knot. Here goes:
“represent strength, endurance, and resilience as they traverse vast distances through treacherous terrain and extreme weather conditions.”
“emphasizes the importance of following an individual path to reach long-term goals, no matter how daunting the journey may seem.”
In Native American cultures, the Red Knot symbolizes determination and faith.