Thankfulness Journal: An Indigo Bunting of Happiness

I first heard the term “Bluebird of happiness” many years ago.  My sales manager at the time used this term to refer to a sale that more or less lands in your lap – just comes in out of nowhere unexpectedly.  I guess I have heard the phrase used a few times in other scenarios over the years since then.

Two weeks ago I bought the book, “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.  This book was a spur of the moment purchase at the airport.  During my flight and only 12 pages into the book I learned that there is actually a play called “The Blue Bird”.  The plot of this play apparently revolves around two children that travel the world looking for the Bluebird of Happiness.  They have no luck in their quest and return home and find the bird waiting for them there.

This all leads to my Indigo Bunting of Happiness story.  Three weeks ago, while traveling for work in eastern North Carolina I kept seeing these blue colored birds.  They would appear at the side of the road, usually flying along the edges of thick vegetation.  I spotted them all while driving, and even at 60 miles per hour I could tell their blue was too vibrant to be a standard Eastern Bluebird (also a beautiful bird).  I had seen Indigo Buntings a couple of times at bird feeders in the past so I guessed that this is what I was seeing along the road in eastern North Carolina.

Fast forward one week to Tuesday evening, June 19 (the same day I bought the “Happiness Project” at the airport) .  I arrive at my hotel in Memphis, TN after a long day of travel.  I know I should run but my mind has other ideas.  I am travel weary.  I have this weird tweaky thing going on with my left knee.  My stomach hurts a little bit.  All kinds of reasons not to run are going through my head.  Fortunately though, my runner’s will power kicks in and I decide to give it a try.  I will take it slow and see how it goes.  “A slow run is better than no run” I tell myself.

Amazingly it turns out that there is a great park directly across the street from my hotel – Wolf River Greenway.  I decide that I will run about three miles on the Greenway’s trails.  These trails literally run over the river (as you might expect) and through the woods.  I settle into a nice easy three mile pace, enjoying the scenery along the way.  About halfway through my run I notice a quick movement in the thick brush to the right of me.  I glance over and catch the stunning sight of a male Indigo Bunting sitting on a

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting (Photo credit: hart_curt)

branch not three feet away from me.  I am so moved by its appearance that in mid exhale I audibly exclaim, “Wow!”.  There is nobody and nothing around to hear this except me and the Indigo Bunting.  This beautiful bird did not appear frightened by my presence – not even by my voice.  Instead, it flicked it wings a bit, ruffled its feathers, and looked right back at me as if saying, “Yep, you know it!”.

At such a close distance, there was no mistaking that this was an Indigo Bunting.  It is almost hard to describe how they look.  Their blue is both vibrantly bright and deeply dark at the same time – especially depending on the light you catch them in.  They are not a bird that you see very often so it is interesting that I saw a few of them in eastern North Carolina three weeks ago and then this one in Memphis, TN (over 800 miles further west) so soon after.  Then, two days later, while running in the same park and while I was putting this blog post together in my head (I do some of my best rough draft writing in my head while I am running) I saw another one!

I am so glad I willed myself to get out and run that Tuesday.  If I hadn’t then I would never have seen that beautiful Indigo Bunting.  There were several things I was thankful for during that travel day but my encounter with the Indigo Bunting really stands out as the highlight.  In that quick instance in the middle of my run my mind went from the troubles of the day to being in awe of the world around me.  I felt a connection to that bird and that connection put me more in touch with everything in this world that is amazing.  I needed that connection at that moment and I am thankful that it occurred.  I am thankful that the Indigo Bunting appeared to me and held its ground without flying away, thus giving me a chance, even for just a second or two to be touched by its magnificence.  I am also thankful that I was somehow at that moment open to seeing this bird.  While I am sure I was thinking about something (even if it was just about how I was glad to be halfway through my run), I was not so lost in my thoughts that I did not notice this bird sitting nearby.

While this encounter with the Indigo Bunting is a relatively minor example, it is one of a number of serendipitous experiences that I have had over the years.  I needed something to lift my spirits a little and this bird appeared to me when I was ready to see it.  I am a firm believer in the thought that when you are ready for something it will appear for you as long as you are open to noticing and accepting it.

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still I wonder what there is out there in the world that I am missing because I am still closed to seeing it…experiencing it…living it.   This Indigo Bunting sighting was a spirit lifter.  This bird helped bring me out of a travel and work funk.  But it was more than that.  It was a reminder to strive to be more open to the world around me.  It was a reminder to look beyond my general surroundings.  It was a reminder to think about more than just myself, to think more about myself as part of this wonderful world and universe we are all part of,  to think about myself as part of something much larger, to be open to the teachings of everything.

Thank you Indigo Bunting of Happiness!

Have you had any experiences like this?

What unexpected person, animal, place, or thing has brought an element of happiness into your life recently?  Please feel free to share your experiences via a comment.  I look forward to hearing from you!


Steve Strother

About Steve Strother

I am a husband/father/human being looking for ways to move past the status quo. I strive to find solutions; to find the positive; to celebrate the joyous, the just, and the inspirational. Living peacefully and compassionately in the present is my ultimate goal. I love to write! To learn more about me please visit my blog at
This entry was posted in inspiration, lessons, Nature, Thankfulness and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Thankfulness Journal: An Indigo Bunting of Happiness

  1. sherry says:

    Oh, what a lovely experience, Steve! I so agree about serendipitous experiences being all around us, but it is also true, we need to open and receptive for them to register on our radar. For me that means the mind has slowed down, even if just a little bit, allowing something to enter that ordinarily can’t make it past the noisiness of our monkey thoughts.

    • Thank you Mom for the kind words and support and also for your additional thoughts on serendipity! I will eventually have a whole post on serendipity and my experiences with it. It is one of a decent number of future articles that are swirling around in my head. It is just a matter of time before it rises to the top and becomes written reality 🙂 !


  2. Jim Kelly says:

    Hey Steve, very cool story. I often wonder the same thing – – how many things are going on out there that I am not aware of because I’m not open enough to notice?!

    • Thank you Jim, both for your comment here today and for all of your friendship and support! One thing I think I am learning is that the more relaxed and “happy” I am the more likely I am to be open to key moments. I put the word “happy” in quotes only because it means a lot of different things in this situation and not just necessarily the usual definition. It really means that the more I am being myself the more likely I am to notice things. Wow, I think I feel another article idea brewing 🙂 .

  3. Great post, Steve! Those birds sure are beautiful.

    I’m often wrapped up in my own thoughts, especially if I’m worrying about how to get things done. A few Sundays ago, Jon dropped me off at church on his way to the zendo where he meditates. I had to wait more than an hour before the Mass I wanted to attend, so I settled onto a bench in the fellowship hall to read and wait. I then realized I had forgotten about an event after Mass that I was supposed to attend, but I hadn’t arranged transportation for it. Jon’s normally finished with his meditation sessions just before I’m finished with Mass, so it’s relatively convenient for him to pick me up afterward and bring me home. I didn’t want to make him wait around for me or go home and then come right back and hour later. I mulled the situation over, got a little stressed, and then decided if I was meant to attend the event, I would run into someone who could take me home. I then put it out of my mind and went back to reading.

    Not five minutes later, the man coordinating the event I was supposed to attend walked by, asked if I was going, and offered to take me home if I needed a ride. Wow, talk about something happening when I was ready for it to happen! I received a small reward for patience, trust, and living in the moment without worrying too much about the future. 🙂

    • Thank you for your words of support Grace. Thank you also for this great example of the benefits of living in the moment and being open to the events and possibilities of life!


  4. Karen Hill says:

    Great story! I had a flock visit me a couple days ago and had a similar experience. I felt the birds were a positive messenge from the universe. Very powerfully beautiful birds, pictures do not do justice, they actually glow.

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