My Snow White Moment

Tifted Titmouse bird on my shoulder

Sunshine on my shoulder. Or a bird.

I am lucky enough to live on a property that includes a small wooded area. The best part is that our land connects to a tiny parcel of undeveloped woodlands, which in turn is contiguous with a large county park. This means we get lots of visits from the wilder residents who live here. The way I look at it is, I live in their neighborhood. 

I try to go to the woods every day, if only for a few minutes. I bring seeds and dried mealworms for the birds and small creatures, and set out kibble for the small carnivores who live there: fox and coyote. And then, I just sit on a log and take bathe in the forest. 

Nature’s ambient surround-sound gifts me a flutter of birds wings as they take off and set down, or grab a seed and flit away. I am soothed by the soft syncopated scratching of someone digging under the leaf litter.  With every inhale, I savor warm soil, crisp snow, musky moldering leaves, or even petrichor, the unique and delightful scent after a summer rain, coincidently a term this wordsmith has always wanted to use in a sentence. Woodland meditation like this centers me in a way no pill or pot can come close. 

I’ve been visiting my small forest for a few years now, and many of the residents recognize me. I encourage that, by wearing similar color attire when I visit. I whistle to them with a specific two-beat whirreep whirreep, but most often it isn’t needed. The birds already saw me, the word is out, and I have an avian honor guard accompanying me to the log where I feed them. 

In my a backpack, I carry food for my friends, and a rolled up blanket that serves double duty as a comfortable cushion; a log is not comfortable for human rear ends for more than a few minutes, and I don’t want to discomfort to be the reason I leave my woodland haven.  As I settle in, I take my SLR camera from around my neck and settle it on my lap with the viewing screen tilted upwards, so I can watch everything and easily snap a few pictures. Throughout my short walk, and even while I sit on the log, I move slowly, quietly, deliberately, so as not to startle the wildlife. Over the years, I’ve been rewarded with close encounters and satisfying photos of multiple bird species, such as sparrows and Blue Jays, woodpeckers and Cardinals, as well as four-footed creatures like squirrels, chipmunks, fox and deer. 

What I always hoped for, though, was that one my non-human neighbors might come close enough to sit on my shoulder or let me hand feed them. Blame it on the Disney princesses. I envied Snow White and Cinderella not for their gowns and their princes and their happily ever after. No, I envied their animal friends. My wild neighbors appreciated the food, but even after years of visits, they still keep their distance. 

We also keep multiple bird feeders in our back yard, and our family room windows offer an expansive view of everyone who comes to the bird buffet—including the hawks and raptors who have a dangerously different definition of “bird buffet.” And while I think many of the non-carnivorous birds recognize me as the filler of feeders, I am nearly always accompanied by our exuberant terrier Halley, who thinks running after birdies and other chaseables is a grand pasttime. I don’t even begin to imagine that wild visitors would want to risk coming close to me.

The other day, though, a somewhat chastened Halley and I were sitting on the steps of our deck. Halley hurt her iliopsoas muscle a few months ago, and she’s on restricted activity until she heals. (We’ve been doing physical therapy and acupuncture, but that’s another story.) 

Admittedly, I was looking at my phone, probably at Facebook, or maybe playing Solitaire or a Scrabble knockoff game, when something fluttered by my head. Then I felt a light touch on my jacket. What the fluff? Did a bird just land on me?

Instantly I channeled all my woodland quietude and calm stillness. Halley stayed calm; we’ve been working on not lunging after birdies, and my smart pup had learned to ignore what she could not chase.

Suddenly, I felt a sharp insistent tug; someone was yanking on my hair!

Since my phone was already in hand, I did what anybody would do these days: I turned on the camera and very slowly lifted it up so I could see what was going on behind me. And record it of course.

On the hood of my jacket was a little bird with big black eyes: a Tufted Titmouse. It didn’t notice the phone slowly rising from my shoulder, as it was very focused on a mission to liberate strands from my head.

After all the time I spent in the woods, channeling my inner Jane Goodall, here I was sitting on my deck, focused on my phone instead of nature, and there was a Bird. On. My. Shoulder. 

I’m guessing it thought my curly silver hair was perfect nesting making material. The Tufted Titmouse wanted my tufts. And let me tell you, that thing could pull. Hard. Like a miniature schoolyard bully. 

It was as glorious a moment as any Disney princess experienced. 

The bird was there for less than a minute. I moved my head a little, startling it, and it flew away, tufted in name only.

I took a moment to just sit there and marvel. This was something I had sought and worked for for years. And maybe because I—and my dog—had practiced stillness and calmness for so long, we were able to hold ourselves together naturally when the moment called for it. 

Sometimes you prepare and search for special moments, and sometimes when we’re ready and open to them, they just come sit on your shoulder.  And tug on your hair.

Here’s the video from that moment:

I dreamed that one day I'd have birds or squirrels or other wild creatures landing on my shoulders or eating out of my hands, just like Snow White. I didn't think I'd have a bird—a Tufted Titmouse to be exact—trying to steal my hair for their nest. Still, I call it a life goal reached.

4 Comments on "My Snow White Moment"

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  1. What a magical moment! And how cool that you were able to record it. It has always been my dream to have those Disney moments. Thank you so much for sharing yours.

    • Magical! Yes, that’s the word. It’s now happened a few more times, always the same species, but I don’t think it’s the same bird. Must be something about my curly grey hair. I haven’t been able to take another video, though, but I’ll keep trying.

  2. WOW. That is amazing! What a blessing!

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