We went to the Target shopping center today, trying to get out the house for a little while and stay out of the cold. As my family shopped, I went through the aisles and departments looking at things I didn’t want but knowing we would buy something anyway. Going through the checkout line, I thought of how hard it was to go a day without buying at least one thing, no matter the cost, for the sake of buying something. This instinctual consumerism that seems to be a part of American mentality is one of things I think about time and again. Walking to the car through the gray day, my free hand holding my youngest son’s, my thoughts were broken as I scanned the empty parking spaces near our car, and I saw an unusual sight on the dirty concrete.
A dozen blackish-brown magpies were pecking at the ground, eating scattered popcorn kernels someone had spilled. It was strange to see so many birds out in one place this time of year. Most of the time I saw them in ones and twos, Now, here they were, a dozen birds all together in the cold, eating an errant spill on the parking lot that was once a pasture.
“Look, look at the birds!” My sons cried, pointing in wonder at the flock.
“Yes, look at them,” I said, wishing I had the same degree of newness and wonder for the world around me.
Most of the time I walk through life with my mind either looking forward to what I’m going to be doing or to the past. I’m not mindful of what I’m doing, of the action in front of me as I try to do half a dozen things when I should be focusing on the one task. But here, now, I was focused and mindful, not passing judgment, but merely being aware of what I was experiencing with my family.
Looking at the magpies, birds I have traditionally paid no attention to, for once I could clearly see them as they ate the kernels of corn. I could see them, be mindful of what was transpiring, and I knew I was making progress with my practice. For that I am thankful. As we got in the car and drove off, I knew the picture of the birds was one I would carry. Let mindfulness set my consciousness free.
This is an article in my Subdivision Journal series. I am trying to use mindfulness to observe nature in my neighborhood. Other articles in the series:
The Tree Blossoms
The Dead Bird
A Budding Tree
An Encounter With a Falcon
The Carrying of Sounds
The View from My Window
Carl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.
Photo by Micha Klootwijk