Struggling to Survive

January 11, 2022

A lone robin in a bare tree aptly symbolizes the starkness of a Michigan winter

Sometimes I struggle with finding a topic to write about. I can run down one rabbit hole after another looking for ideas and still come up empty handed. Sometimes, I’ll think of things while I’m out walking; other times, I have to browse through all the pictures I’ve taken during the last month or two before an idea pops into my head. As I looked through my December pictures, I was struck by both the hardiness and the loneliness of all the little creatures struggling to survive during our cold, inhospitable winters here in Michigan.

All bundled up and ready to brave the elements!

While I’m bundled up in layer upon layer of warm winter clothing taking pictures, I marvel at all the tiny little birds with their skinny twig-like legs and lightly feathered ‘coats’ braving these cold winter days with nary a mitten or a hat!! Not only do they struggle to stay warm, they have to keep foraging for food or they will die. Some birds will huddle together for warmth, and some will help each other gather food but, for the most part, survival is a solitary pursuit.  

American Robin looking for berries in this heavily snow-laden Juniper Tree.
It wasn’t until just a few years ago, when I started taking pictures of birds, that I learned these Eastern Bluebirds stay in Michigan all winter!

In many ways, this pandemic has also felt like a solitary pursuit for survival. Instead of huddling together and weathering the storm with family and friends, we have had to distance ourselves from each other.  We have had to stay isolated—even within our own homes sometimes! Luckily, though, we haven’t had to forage for food in the same way or with the same tenacity as birds. Granted, our favorite foods may be in short supply during this pandemic, but our very survival has not been dependent on the availability of ice cream and chocolate! (Although they have certainly helped!!)

Earlier in December, before the heavy snowfall, the Robins had a much easier time picking Juniper berries!

Some Great Blue Herons stay in Michigan throughout the winter. If they can’t find open water to catch fish, they will eat crustaceans, mice, voles and small birds!

Even though we have not lost any friends or family members during this pandemic, and even though we have always had food on the table and a roof over our heads, these past two years have been difficult. They have taken a toll. We have all lost something.

Eastern Chipmunk
The Mallards always seem to have a smile on their face no matter how cold it is!!

What has made everything a bit more bearable for me during these long months of isolation have been my picture walks. Spending time outdoors in the active pursuit of beauty has been an almost perfect antidote for all the ugliness wrought by this pandemic. For a couple of hours each day, I’m lost in the happy pursuit of birds, bugs, and critters, followed by hours of pleasant distraction browsing through the resulting pictures.  The final joy comes when I can share what I’ve found with others. Sharing has been a way of staying connected with friends and family.

A little Red Squirrel tucked in against the cold!

A beautiful White-tailed Deer in our backyard with a crown of pine boughs

My picture walks have been a daily reminder for me that even in the darkest of times, beauty can still be found. Some days, though, it’s just harder to find than others.

5 thoughts on “Struggling to Survive

  1. We too are now struggling to recover. At the beginning of the pandemic we decided we are retired and could do our part. We have only gone to the grocery every two weeks. We are vaccinated and boosted. But ready to start living again!. Our staying at home has not seemed to help but we know for sure we have not hurt or killed anyone. Life is a crap shoot and we can only do our best. We did order a new toy on line and I will send you an email!

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