Baby Robins!

For the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to see three little robins grow up, from the moment the mother laid her eggs in the nest until the moment those little birds began to fly. It was a delightful experience, checking on the nest each day and seeing those hungry mouths waiting for food, and then spotting the baby birds hopping along in the grass after their mother. I also learned a lot about robins along the way. Did you know that baby robins must be fed as much as they can eat every half hour from sunrise until sunset? Those parents sure have to work hard! Even after they leave the nest, the fledglings have to stick around and be fed by their parents for three weeks.

I wish I had a better picture of the robins, but I try not to go too close to them, so they don’t get scared. The robin on the bench in this picture is one of the babies. He’s grown up quite a bit, but he’s still got some fuzz on his head and he still has to follow his mom around for food.

I don’t really know how to describe it – but watching birds in the backyard makes me smile so much. It’s peaceful and it gives me this happy feeling watching them play in the birdbath or hang around in the yard, hopping around on those little feet and digging for worms. And I love hearing their sweet little chirps, especially since they’re all different. The cardinals have got this long chirp that sounds so loud coming from their tiny bodies. And the robin babies make such a racket when their mom comes back with food. They just sit there in the nest with their mouths open, going “peep peep peep!” I love it. Sitting in the yard and watching these birds have a grand old time makes it truly feel like spring.

And it looks like I’m not the only one who feels happy to have birds around: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/watching-birds-near-home-good-mental-health/

I hope that no matter where I go, I’ll always be able to enjoy the sights and sounds of these lovely little creatures!

P.S. My new poem makes a reference to robins in the birdbath. Check it out on the sonnets page here: http://sarrahhakim.com/poetry/sonnets/ Scroll down until you find the one called “Home.” I hope you enjoy reading it!

Once Upon a Time in the West

A little over a month ago, I had the opportunity to take a three-credit field course at a camp surrounded by mountains in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It was honestly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The duration of the course was three weeks, but since we drove to and from Wyoming, we spent about six days just in transportation.

The topic of the class was energy – primarily production, consumption, and policy. In addition to receiving lectures and completing assignments, we had the chance to learn from the field. We visited a uranium mine, nuclear testing reactor, wind farm, fracking operation, and two hydroelectric plants. I found it incredible and fascinating to be able to see exactly where our energy comes from and how it gets to our homes, but I was also just awed at how much we’re able to do. I still can’t get over the fact that we are literally able to pump uranium atoms out of the ground with water and fission them for energy. And although I was shocked by the inefficiencies and environmental impacts of coal and the outdatedness of our current power grid, with all of the options and technological breakthroughs out there, I’d like to remain optimistic about the future of energy – both in the U.S. and in the world.

Aside from being thoroughly enlightened by the actual content of the course (believe me, I could talk about it forever), I was also able to spend some time in the Tetons and in Yellowstone National Park. It was my first time out west and my first time hiking through the mountains. And it was breathtaking.

The Tetons

The Tetons

I’m not sure I can begin to describe what it felt like up there in the grandeur and solitude of nature. It reminded me of all those wilderness and survival books I used to read – like Hatchett, My Side of the Mountain, and The Cay. I felt like one of those characters, off on a great adventure.

On a 14-mile hike through the Tetons and looking down into Yellowstone Grand Canyon

On a 14-mile hike through the Tetons                               Looking down into Yellowstone Grand Canyon

Oh, and to gaze upon the stars at night! There’s something magnificent yet somewhat unsettling about looking up at the stars. It just puts things in perspective in a way we don’t get to experience during a typical day. The universe is so vast, and there’s so much more out there than the little bubble of our lives in which we’re so wrapped up. Isn’t it incredible that life on our planet depends on a burning ball of gas more than ninety million miles away? It blows my mind just thinking about it.

Grand Prismatic at sunset

Grand Prismatic at sunset

Yellowstone was also pretty amazing, although not quite what I expected. It’s amazing because although rife with wildlife (namely bison), it’s also home to incredibly acidic environments that look like an alien landscape. It was like being in some kind of science fiction movie! The vast thermal landscape, barren except for a few hardy shrubs and hot, bubbling pools of acidic water. Not to mention the geysers constantly emitting steam. I don’t think any other place like Yellowstone exists on Earth.

West Thumb Geyser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone

West Thumb Geyser Basin and Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park

Looking up at stars and mountains, down into a canyon, and upon all the natural wonders of Yellowstone was quite an eye-opening experience. If I didn’t find our planet incredible before, I definitely do now. I think Einstein was right when he said there are only two ways to live life: one as though nothing is a miracle, and one as though everything is a miracle. And I know which one I’m living.

The Ocean

I’ve been meaning to share this for a long time now, ever since I stood on the shore in Florida and watched the ocean.

That was in December.

And now, it’s April.

But it doesn’t matter. Because even now, I can close my eyes, and I can still hear the waves rolling, and I can still smell the salty sea air. It’s dark, and I’m a part of it. A part of the ocean. It rises and falls in my heart.

The ocean is big. Really big. I know that sounds painfully obvious, but it didn’t strike me until I stood on the shore and watched it for a while. It’s just so vast and endless… especially at night. You know something? When the ocean is all you can see for miles and miles, and it’s dark and ominous instead of a happy tropical blue, it’s a pretty scary place. All you can hear is the splash of the rolling waves, and it’s hard to tell what’s water and what’s sky… kind of makes you realize how insignificant your GPA really is.

One of the most relevant moments I had when I went to Florida was just watching the ocean. Seriously. Yeah, it was calming, but that’s not all. I felt small and unimportant when I stood on the shore… but I also felt free. Any worries that might have clouded my mind were gone. The smell, the sound, the sight… I felt more human, more alive than I had ever felt before. And yet… still different. Still me.

I don’t know… maybe this doesn’t even make sense. Maybe I’m just rambling on about something crazy, and maybe you don’t think the same way as I do.

But it doesn’t matter. Because either way, I know what I felt when I stood on that shore, and I know what I heard, and I know what I saw and what the air smelled like. And I know that I’ll never forget it.

That’s what matters.

Edit: The ocean photo is from Key West. Southernmost point of the United States.

Spring

I realize that it’s been almost two months since my last post, and I apologize for that. Fortunately, I no longer have marching band or synchronized swimming eating up my time, so I can spend some time updating my blog and such.

Oh, and working on that, uh, manuscript. 😛

At any rate, let’s pretend I don’t have a chemistry lab sitting in my backpack, waiting to be done. Let’s pretend that all I have to think about is the fact that it’s a sunny day outside (which does tend to raise one’s spirits), the flowers have been poking their little heads up out of the ground for some time now, and the air smells crisp and fresh, like we’re done with this half-winter and ready to move into a full spring.

I think spring must be my favorite season of the four. (Of course, during the summer, summer is my favorite, during autumn, autumn is my favorite, etc.)

But there’s something about spring that makes a person just feel good. Maybe it’s because winter is beginning to move out. Maybe it’s because everything’s turning green again. Maybe it’s those silly birds that have begun to call to each other and just won’t shut up. I don’t know. Something of the sort.

Sometimes, I realize that there’s just a lot that I don’t know and never will. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. And the more I realize how little I know, the more I’m able to appreciate life because I can relax. There’s no struggle to learn everything there is to know before my time runs out.

There’s stuff I just won’t know. That’s it.

I’m not the first person to realize this, and I won’t be the last. But, if anything, I’m glad I’ve realized it now, while I’m still young. Now, instead of trying to learn everything, I can focus on my true passion.

But sometimes even that gets a little confusing or stressful. And whenever that happens, it’s nice to remember that the sun still shines and the grass is still green, and those those silly little birds still call to each other. And they still won’t shut up.

Reason #3: The Garden

School has started, so I won’t be updating as frequently as I would like to. But I’m still going to try!

Anyway, I love the garden. My mom is an avid gardener, so our yard is lush and green and blooming during the spring and summer. It’s beautiful.

One of the greatest things about it is how calm and unworried you feel when you’re out there. Seriously, it’s impossible to be stressed out about anything when you sit on the bench and watch the birds and squirrels and butterflies. One of my favorite things to do is grab a book and sit out there and read. (I can’t really do that right after it rains or in the evening though, because that’s when I get eaten alive by mosquitoes.)

It’s also wonderful to sit outside with my laptop and work on my manuscript. (The best part is when the internet is too slow or doesn’t work, because then I have nothing to distract me.) I even do my homework outside sometimes.

And sometimes… sometimes I do nothing. Sometimes I just sit there, on the bench, and look around me, and breathe in the scents of the garden, and just… think. About life. About how wonderful it is to be alive and well. Sometimes I watch the birds in the birdbath or the squirrels scampering around or the occasional rabbit that eats my mom’s hostas. (We also get a lot of deer that eat the tulips, but you never see them during the day. They come by night. Those sneaky deer!)

Anyway, when I sit in the garden like that, it reminds me of this quote from The World of Pooh by A.A. Milne ( an excellent book, by the way- if you haven’t read it already, read it, and if you have read it, read it again):

Christopher Robin has just asked Pooh what he likes best in the world. Pooh says, “What I like best in the whole world is Me and Piglet going to see You, and You saying ‘What about a little something?’ and Me saying, ‘Well, I shouldn’t mind a little something, should you, Piglet,’ and it being a hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing.”

And then, Christopher Robin says, “I like that too, but what I like doing best is Nothing.”

Pooh: “How do you do Nothing?”

Christopher Robin: “Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it, What are you going to do, Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and then you go and do it.”

It’s just… so simple and so true. I mean, the best part of Pooh is how simple he is- not a care in the world! All he worries about is his honey. Silly old bear. 🙂

And when I sit out in the garden, it’s sort of like taking a break from life- I can get away from all the hustle and bustle of life, and all the stress from school… and I can concentrate on simple things. Sometimes life is way too complicated… and you just need to stop for a moment and smell the flowers (yeah, I know that was really cliche).

But it’s true.