Journaling is a storytelling practice.

Journal writing is also a self-inquiry practice, a reflective practice, a meaning making practice. Writing about our inner lives and outer worlds helps us make sense of our experiences, helps us heal, and helps us grow. Journal writing is a way of noticing and acknowledging the mystery, wonder, complexity and beauty in our lives all at once.

Welcome to our NEW Story & Prompts Feature
where a storytelling journal example will be shared and it’s followed by journal prompts inspired by the story. Enjoy!

“We live our stories.” ~ Michael Margolis

A Story: Birds of Wonder by Peter Allan

Birds have always had an abiding interest for me. As a child visiting the shores of Lake Ontario on a family outing, I remember the experience of swirling seagulls challenging picnickers. I must have been three or four years of age.

I have been grateful that providence had me settling in like a crab along the shores of Fulford Harbour in my late 20s and ever since, birds have been part of the every day fabric of my life.

Like Icarus, for humans the flight of birds is compelling and mesmerizing and watching them soar, a form of meditation that takes us out of ourselves firmly rooted as we are to the Earth below. For Lynda and I, two particular birds speak to us above all.

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and its life mate ply the waters in front of our home searching for fish-they sit shoulder to shoulder in the craggy tree at the turn in the road on Isabella Point. Did you know that eagles mate for life?

The great blue heron (Ardea herodias) wades and waits on the tidal flats deep in concentration searching out fingerlings, snakes and other small mammals. Their six foot wing span and dramatic silhouettes, when flying, remind us of pterodactyls. When ‘our’ heron lands on its perch outside our window, it makes a landing call with squawking roh-roh-rohs. In the still of the night its primordial Ock Ock call will startle with a prolonged scream.

For me the Heron is a poem, a marvel, an example, my spirit animal. It embodies the virtue of patience, calm elegance, economy of movement yet coiled in a way and ready to strike.

There are dozens and dozens of other bird species about. An array of ducks appear seasonally although in dwindling numbers. Bufflehead, the Harlequin Duck, the Barrow’s and Common goldeneye, the Surf, White-winged and Black Scoter. These once bountiful populations sustained local indigenous tribes for millennia. We could probably hang that on the rising population of Canada geese. We can also ascribe to them the serious degradation of the eelgrass over the last four decades to their plundering of the tender new shoots of grass.

How tough it must be to be a Canada goose, so maligned. It is an impressive bird in so many ways but it appears antisocial and congregates in places humans ‘flock’ to: grassy Seaside fields and beaches, Soccer fields and golf courses. I would like to share a curious story with you about Canada geese. I hope it may lead to some prompts for your journals.

I was a kayak guide for many years on Salt Spring Island. One fine day I took a solo client for a three hour paddle in the harbour and beyond. I was diligently pointing out the flora and fauna and the various birds along the shore: the black oystercatcher with its lunatic cry, the wonderful kingfishers hovering and diving, an elusive Osprey…

My fellow paddler interrupted me and said that I need not point out birds to her because she decidedly did not like birds and more than that, she confessed to her real overriding fear of birds. I moved on to pointing out the antics of the harbour seals and drew her attention to the purple starfish beneath our boats. I had never met anyone with Ornithophobia. I subsequently learned that my favourite film director Ingmar Bergman and yes Scarlett Johansson both shared their fear of birds.

We tucked into a white shell beach on a small islet for a snack and some warm tea. Nature was calling for her and my guest shared that she had to go pee. I suggested that around the rocky outcrop would provide some privacy for her. Within seconds, I heard a nerve shattering squawking and honking and powerful fluttering, then gasping and sputtering and my guest staggering back. She was breathless and in shock, her sunglasses had been knocked off her face. She had been attacked.

I poked around the corner to retrieve her sunglasses and encountered a raging Canada goose in full protection mode. It thumped against my chest and batted me around the head and shoulders. I squatted for the sunglasses and then spun and ran.

In all my years on the water, I had never had a bird encounter like this. What law of attraction was at play to bring such a traumatic and calamitous experience to one who feared it the most? Why does the capricious hand of fate thrust these moments upon us?

And now, for your story inspired journaling prompts…

Bird Inspired Journaling Prompts:

1. Is there some area in your life that wants to take flight? (lift off, soar…)
2. It’s time to fly! How would you like to spread your wings? (expand, be free…)
3. Where do you long to soar in your life? (feel good, succeed…)
4. Do you have a fear of birds? If so, do you know why? (I remember babysitting when I was a teenager and the family had a pet bird that got out of its cage and was flying around the living room. I was terrified and kept us, myself and the two young girls I was caring for, in a bedroom, with the door firmly closed, playing Go Fish for hours until their parents came home!)
4. Do you have a “bird of wonder” (a favourite bird)? If so, write about it. What makes it special to you? What do you love about this winged creature?

Mary Oliver writes, in her beloved poem,
Wild Geese:

“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination, 
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”

Author: Peter Allan is a husband, father, son, brother and friend to many. He is the Executive Director of I-SEA. He is the founder of the Youth Climate Activism Award. He is an artist. He is a realtor. He is a journal writer. He’s a busy guy! :)