“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms… I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” ~ Mary Oliver
This week marks one year since an unprecedented tornado tore right through our backyard. The feelings I experienced during the storm event reminded me without a spec of doubt what is truly important to me. As my life and the lives of my immediate family members passed before my eyes, everything else simply melted away from my mind. I realized in the end.. it was the journey with the people in my life~ the relationships, the experiences with them, and the connections between us all, that mattered.
Plain and simple as that.
(Check out my tornado blog post here: At that moment I knew… It went viral and was the most popular Mom’s Big Year post of 2016! I gather that people really like tornados or something. lol)
Reflecting on that surreal experience inspired me to write this blog post today, highlighting my gratitude and counting my blessings for some of the deep connections and special new friends that walked by my side during my Big Year.
On my recent trip to Maine, a friend asked me what it is that I miss most about the Big Year. I can be pretty indecisive, so much to my surprise, it took me only a split second to respond. “I miss the journey and meeting new friends like you along the way.” I answered with conviction.
During Mom’s Big Year I made every effort to grant myself the time, the space and the bandwidth to breathe in every single bird, AND to take time to appreciate every person and vista that crossed my path (unless I was running after a mega-rare bird 🙂 lol!)
And in doing all that.. I loved every. single. minute. of this journey!
I truly felt alive.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
I believe that every person crossing my path has something to teach me… and our meeting is not by accident. I honestly cannot recall a single plane trip during the Big Year where I did not learn the name of the person sitting next to me and some interesting information about them by the end of the flight.
Most recently, Don sat next to me on my flight back from Maine June 5th. He was eagerly returning from a 6-month deployment in the Middle East as a radio officer for the Army. He showed me pictures of the classic car he was going to buy when he returned to his home in upstate New York. We talked about the challenges of raising teens and the ins and outs of setting up radios and encrypted military communications. He was pleasantly surprised when he found out I was a licensed amateur radio operator and could hold my own as he described the technical parts of his job. I told him of my Big Year and why I had been visiting Maine. He told me about the birds he saw in Iraq. We talked the entire flight. Many folks could look at us and think that we had not a thing in common… but I guarantee we’d prove you wrong in a heartbeat.
The Mom’s Big Year journey contained many people, old friends and new, that played big and small parts in my travels and simply changed the course of my year for the better. They caused me to stop and take time to savor the journey in the midst of the planning and all the challenges of a Big Year. Several new friends I met in 2016 come to mind as I write this post and I cannot begin to list them all. (Many of you know who you are.) Like my steadfast old friends, these new friends made me a better person as a result of their wisdom, their unconditional support (for me and for my family) and their friendship…. Driving me to places when I could not drive myself, spending extra hours hiking miles to reach ‘just one more bird’ 🙂 , giving me little good luck charms to carry, and sending me encouraging messages to get me over that next bridge.
I am… in a word…
It’s my hope that I can give back even a fraction of the love and support that has been granted me on this journey.
I’d like to introduce you to just a couple of my special new friends I met during the course of the Big Year. They are beautiful to me inside and out and I count my lucky stars every day for having people like them (AND people like you) in my life!
This is the lovely Patti! I met Patti on one of my first local Mom’s Big Year trips. It was a Maryland ‘owl prowl’ and we had a blast! Her positive outlook and genuine love of our natural world and of learning caused us to hit it off right away! She’s a super sharp birder to boot! Read about our first time out in the field together here
Since that first day of birding together, I feel so very fortunate that Patti has become a dear friend and an awesome supporter of Mom’s Big Year. We had wonderful opportunities to bird together during the Big Year and also during the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in Florida this January. I look forward to getting out in the field with her again soon and hopefully for many years to come!
Deb and I met through my Mom’s Big Year blog and I am soooo glad she reached out to me! She’s truly an inspiration! Deb lives with FSH Muscular Dystrophy and shared with me that Mom’s Big Year inspired her to stretch beyond her wildest dreams and to do her very own physically accessible mid-Atlantic Big Year! She’s in the midst of it right now and I am simply tickled to hear how well she’s doing with it! The picture of us here was taken just after my presentation to the Howard County Bird Club. Deb drove an HOUR each way at night to come see my talk and completely surprised me when she introduced herself and presented me with flowers and the sweetest of notes. I was utterly speechless and brought to tears! Deb started her blog that VERY night after hearing my talk! I encourage you to support Deb and follow along with her Big Year and check out her super-inspiring blog “Gimpy Girl Goes Birding” here—>Gimpy Girl Goes Birding
Kim is the most recent of my new friends to cross my path. After purchasing an organic farm in Pennsylvania on a whim earlier this year, she was nervous she had gotten in over her head. She shared with me that the Mom’s Big Year story empowered her and helped her to realize that she’s on the right path to success with her new endeavor. We met in person after my keynote at the Acadia Birding Festival and had another unexpected and whimsical meeting in the airport as we discovered we were on the same flight home. She then shared a more personal struggle and told me that the Mom’s Big Year story had inspired her to finally try to quit smoking once and for all. We exchanged contact info and she has committed to keeping me posted along the way. Good luck, Kim! We know it’s not going to be easy.. but we’re rooting for you and all know you can do this!!
I have learned that new friendships, deep connections, and relationships like these feed my soul. I am so thankful to every one of my friends for renewing my spirit and my passion for life during 2016 and beyond. These connections and inspiring and heart-warming stories borne out of Mom’s Big Year were honestly not something I ever anticipated. A bonus! I love that! ❤
In the end, my Mom’s Big Year bird species counts were good and actually much better than I ever guessed they would be. (Stay tuned for upcoming posts describing the cool ending to the Big Year with all the stats!)
But numbers are simply numbers, my friend..
When all is said and done, what is it that really matters?
Love, Nancy xoxo