What is Written Bird?


Is this about birds? It’s got to be about birds, right?!

Well… not exactly. Written Bird is a play on words and a joke about my life-long exuberance for all things feathered, but it’s so much more than birds. It’s really about finding awe in nature. I find constant awe both in falconry and in common backyard birds, but awe abounds in nature. It is free. It is accessible and it could change your life and probably the world.

No, for real. Awe could change the world.

When we experience a moment of awe a few things happen. First we feel small. I don’t mean tiny and ineffectual. I mean we feel like we are just a piece of something so much larger and grander than ourselves that we can barely wrap our minds around it, but we FEEL it.

When we feel small like this, it’s impossible to be self-absorbed and the next thing we feel is connected. We are connected to cycles in life much grander than that load of clean laundry I am continually dumping on my bed in the morning and shoving back into the laundry basket with a sigh when I go to bed. (You do that too, eh?) We are so much more than the laundry we won’t fold. We are a watchers, documentarians, and if like me you put out sugar water and plant milkweed, you are the reason hummingbirds can pause on their migration and monarch butterflies have a nursery for their eggs.

When you feel connected like this, you also suddenly feel more generous. You want to show and tell about your moments of awe. You want to make your yard a little better for wildlife. You want to help your neighbors. You start imagining what you could give instead of what you can take.

The next thing you feel is empowered. You know that you can make change and the changes you can make may be small, but point is that you can. In fact, you do make them. If you haven’t put out a hummingbird feeder, you find yourself putting one up, planting a few flowering shrubs that attracts pollinators or just sweeping your walkway so that it’s welcoming. Feeling powerless destroys us, but making positive changes elevates us. (Not that this means I’m going to put away my laundry. I’m just not convinced it makes the world any better.)

All that happens from simple moments in nature just because you paused to witness.

So, that’s what Written Bird is. It is stories, art, and meditations on moments of easily accessible awe, what creates them, how they make the world better and why I continue to seek them. I also include exercises that you can try in your own backyard or favorite nature space to discover your own moments of awe. (And yeah. There’s going to be a lot of birds, most likely.) Basically, I’m trying to explain awe and what it means to myself, but hoping you’ll start thinking about your own moments of awe and seeking them out too. Maybe together, we’ll change the world!

I mean, stranger awesome things have happened. I’ve seen them.

—xxRebecca

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An exploration of accessible everyday awe in nature.

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Rebecca K. O'Connor

Rebecca K. O'Connor is an an author, falconer and a 2023 California Arts Council Individual Artist Fellow. She is the Co-Executive Director of Rivers & Lands Conservancy and lives in Southern California.