Put Down Your Phone and Pay Attention

Today I’d like to talk to you about mindfulness, brainstorming, and what house wrens are really capable of. (If descriptions of the non-Disney side of the natural world are disturbing to you, consider this a content warning).

No, I’m not anti-technology, and this isn’t a rant. Smart phones have brought many positive changes to modern society, from making it easier to navigate an unfamiliar city to finding out what time a specific venue closes before you traipse halfway across town for it.

I simply believe in balance. Right now, I think I’m relying a little too heavily on my phone for entertainment at times when I could be paying attention to other things instead. Sitting quietly on a bench and seeing what happens can be a nice palate cleanser at times.

Now that the caveats are out of the way, let’s talk about what happened at the park this past weekend. It was a little too warm to do anything strenuous outdoors then, so my spouse and I sat on a bench in the shade and relaxed.


One of the things I’ve been trying to work on lately is spending less time on my cell phone. It’s so easy to browse Reddit or read my newest email when I’m out and about but nothing particularly interesting is happening at that exact second. Since we don’t go to that particular park very often, I tried to drink in every detail around us.

The forest behind us was filled with the sound of cicadas buzzing. There was a picnic table off in the distance filled with people eating lunch together.  A woman and her dog jogged past us at one point, and I marvelled at how well the dog was keeping up with her.

The writing portion of my brain always wants to make up stories about the people, animals, and places around me. I let those thoughts bubble up but didn’t encourage them. They’ve caught my attention before, and they will catch it again.

It was at this point that I noticed the house wren. These birds are incredibly common here in southern Ontario. I often see them hopping around on the sidewalk and nibbling on seeds or other bits of food they can find there. They’re fluffy little creatures that I’ve always felt oddly protective over.

House Wrens and What They’re Capable of

The wren was picking something up with its beak. At first I assumed it was a seed, and then the house wren’s lunch wiggled.

It wasn’t a seed.

It wasn’t a stray crumb from someone’s hot dog.

It was a bug.

Not only was it a bug, it was a bug that continued to wiggle up until the point that the house wren tore it in half and began eating it.

I will admit to not responding particularly mindfully to this scene at first. Up until this point, I’d always assumed that this species of bird was vegetarian.

It is not.

If I were the size of that bug, I might have been next on the menu!

Brainstorming and Mindfulness

Mindfulness and brainstorming can coexist. I tucked that mental image into the back of my mind and continued to sit quietly on that shaded bench.

For the time being, I lived in the moment once I adjusted to what that bird was having for lunch. It isn’t every day that the weather in August is cool enough to sit outdoors for as long as we did that day!

Now that I’m back home again, I can’t stop thinking about how the same creature can be a vicious predator in one scenario and fluffy and harmless in another.

This is common knowledge, of course, but it’s not something I as a city person see being played out very often.

It makes me wonder how our human ancestors over- or underestimated other species in the distant past when we moved to parts of the world no human had visited before.

To give this line of thought a futuristic bent, it also makes me wonder how humans from generations who have yet to be born might misjudge an alien species if we were to ever meet one. Maybe astronauts should be taught mindfulness. Or, if you’re writing something that would work better if humans acted impulsively, maybe NASA should specifically select for people who react as soon as they see something out of the ordinary.

Mostly, though, I’m thinking about house wrens and how ideas truly can pop up anywhere if you put down your phone sometimes and pay attention.


How has practicing mindfulness influenced your writing? Am I the only person who didn’t realize house wrens were omnivorous? When was the last time you came up with an unexpected idea?


Filed under Mindfulness and Meditation, Writing

12 Responses to Put Down Your Phone and Pay Attention

  1. I guess I’m used to assuming that all birds are omnivorous. I don’t see all of them eating bugs, but I’ve heard “the early bird gets the worm” so many times that I just assume all birds eat worms. 🙂 The scene with birds eating that threw me for a loop, though, was when a friend’s kids were showing me their backyard chickens, and they threw them an egg. It broke on the ground, and the chickens got all excited and ate up the treat. I hadn’t expected that.

    • That’s a good point. I hadn’t really thought of that saying.

      And what an odd scene it must have been to see chickens gobble up a broken egg!

  2. Wife and I were eating at a restaurant when we spotted a roadrunner outside our window. It picked up something and ran by us. It grabbed a sparrow. I knew they ate lizards, but not that they ate smaller birds.
    In our back yard we have hummingbird feeders and birdseed feeders. It’s pleasant to just sit here and watch the finches, sparrows and pigeons go after the feeders and on the ground. The hummingbirds will fly right up to our sliding glass door thinking their seeing another bird.

  3. I think it’s awesome that after that experience you started thinking about how we might react to aliens one day. I suppose that’s how the writer’s mind works, but it’s cool to see what kind of lines people draw between experiences. I’ve never actually seen a bird eat a bug, though I know they’re supposed to eat worms. I think I might have a similar reaction to actually seeing it ^^;;

  4. When I went to Arizona, I spent a lot of time relaxing in the pool, looking at the blue sky, feeling the wind on my face… or sitting on the lawn chair reading a book. It was so peaceful. Lately, since the weather is pretty nice, I’ve been going outside on the deck to read.

  5. I was taught as a child that wrens are our friends because they eat flies and mosquitoes.

    Mindful writing practice is a delight…as mentioned at my website, I’ve only just begun to notice that what I always thought of as one kind of not very interesting insects was actually several distinct, interesting species!

  6. This is a great post. Sometimes we need to get our heads out of our phones more than we do. It’s hard!

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