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A relaxing lesson from wild turkeys

I observe my home-office habitat, and I think the turkeys' habitat is a nicer place to be.

By Leigh Ann Henion / September 14, 2006



My computer has been struck by lightning. I cannot check my e-mail. I have no way to connect with the outside world – or so I think. Typically, I work at the computer all day. It is my lunch companion, colleague, and confidant – but not today. Where will I have lunch if not at the computer with its Internet news to peruse, e-mails to write between bites, pop-up ads to subdue? I look around my computerless house and ultimately head outside.

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Despite the beauty of the southern Appalachian region in which I live, I don't venture into nature as much as I should. I like to pretend that working from home gives me boundless freedom, but I'm starting to realize that I might as well spend my days in a cubicle. I am more familiar with my screen-saver photo than I am with the terrain of my front yard.

My yard is a great expanse of gently rolling grass, rare for the steeply sloping terrain of the Appalachians. When friends visit, they often make comments such as, "Oh, how I would love to have a yard like this." When that happens, I often feel a little guilty for not appreciating this patch of land more.

But today is different. Today, I am sitting on the grass with a plate of cold pasta salad balanced on my knees.

"OK, taken-for-granted yard," I think to myself, "you've got 20 minutes to show me what I've been missing."

Unexpectedly, nature takes me up on the challenge.

A hawk flies low over the cow pasture next door, and sparrows flit overhead, their shadows dancing around me. Then a small flock of wild turkeys appears, walking in an uneven line across the grass.

I watch the turkeys work, wandering from my neighbor's garden – where they eat insects – and then down to thedappled shade of the small orchard beside my house. They peck at the ground as they walk, necks pumping forward with each step – long, mottled tail feathers trailing. They are at once comical to behold (because of their waddling gait) and beautiful (because of their sleekness). They are the perfect combination of goofiness and grace.

I don't know that I've ever noticed their substantial charms before. Then again, I've never looked at them this closely.

These are wild birds, scavenging for their livelihood. Their work, like mine, must seem never to be done. Given this, I am surprised by what I see next: These hardworking birds fold their long, lean legs and sit down. Like giant nesting hens, they settle into the grass. They've got worms to catch and bugs to bite. They've got things to do, but here they are, relaxing. They look as though they are keeping watch over the yard, listening to the leaves say, "Shhh, shhh, shhh" in whispering waves.

From my perch on a high knoll, I have a view of the turkeys, as well as my office window with its blinds drawn shut. The birds are less than 20 feet from my office. If I were at my computer right now, I would not even know they were there. I would not feel this breeze through my hair. I would not see these clouds rolling overhead.

I am observing my home-office habitat from a distance, and I must say, I think the turkeys' habitat is a nicer place to be.

Maybe a broken computer isn't so bad. Well, no, a functioning computer would be nice, but only if I can learn how to, occasionally, let the screen fade to black so I can get out into the sun.

In this open-air lunchroom of my lawn, I have been reminded that it is sometimes necessary to disconnect in order to rendezvous with a greater power. And I've remembered that nature is here, always waiting to be observed.

I set my plate down on the grass and gather my knees to my chest. All around, the tree leaves say, "Shhh ... be still, calm down, listen to the world."

I watch the turkeys as they sit as still as stones; their relaxed necks are as long and curved as walking canes leaned against the tree trunks. They seem to be enjoying their break from work. Just as I am.

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