How a Dancing Bird Helped Me Slow Down

A duck dives down in a pond to get some food, leaving its feathered butt in the air.

Duck butts and dancing birds! What a trip!

Who knew a dancing bird would help me relax.

It was a long-awaited PTO Friday with gray skies and tiny raindrops speckling my car’s windshield. My dog and I had just completed a tiring two-mile hike on the trails at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa.

The goal? To unwind.

flowering spring tree with white blossoms

This was snapped with my cellphone using the longest zoom feature. I love how the low resolution makes it looks like a watercolor painting.

Disclosure: This blog is reader-supported, which means this post contains affiliate links and advertisements. I earn a small commission if you shop through them, which helps fund this website so I can continue to bring you amazing content. Thank you! ~Angela

Of course, being surrounded by budding spring trees and calm reflective ponds helped us exhale a bit longer, but tension still remained. We walked fast. We snapped tons of photos. We talked to the trees. We greeted other parkgoers.

We forgot to just be.

I had planned to just find a cozy spot in the forest and sit for a bit, but my monkey mind was still running the show and reminding me to keep going and make progress on the trail. And, we did. Go, go, go!

Author Angela with her dog Leo on a trail walk in a forest

Leo and I are exploring one of the nature trails at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa.

It’s cool how the universe is like, Hey girl! I’m gonna make you slow down. Check this out!

Then, I saw the dancing bird.

At first, I was concerned the wobbly water foul was having a problem and might need help. I slowed my car and watched the fluff ball amble across the road. But then I remembered, I’ve seen this weird two-step saunter before. It’s a woodcock!


I paused. I put on my car’s emergency flashers so others wouldn’t rear-end my now stopped vehicle on a park roadway. Although traffic was moving slowly, this bird was moving slower. I mean, sloooooow. So slow my anxiety bubbled up and I wanted to help him cross the road. Then I told myself, nope. He’s healthy and moving just as he’s designed to, with his Walk Like an Egyptian rhythmic bobbing.

I exhaled and watched.

I wanted to snap a photo, but between the rain and not wanting to disturb the bird, I didn’t. I thought about Googling it to know what type of bird it was at that moment, but I didn’t.

I just sat. Observed. Noticed. Slowed down. Oh yeah… that’s what I’m here to do, I tell myself. Good job, Angie!

Side Note: For those who are new to the Cupcakes and Yoga Pants blog, I’m sharing my journey of managing autoimmunity. Long story short, chronic health issues can be fueled by unprocessed emotions that get stuck in the muscle memory of our bodies. Old traumas keep my body in a state of fight-or-flight, or always being on and ready to respond. It’s exhausting (and causes tons of physical health issues!), so I’m working hard at slowing down. I’m practicing how to relax. If I don’t mindfully pace my days, I never slow down. I’m always doing, going, creating, writing, talking, cleaning, moving, thinking and processing.

Ok, back to the dancing bird.

Now the bird is about halfway across the road. I peek in my rearview mirror. The red truck with the telephoto lens hanging out the window is still far behind me, snapping images of the colorful ducks on the pond. There’s no oncoming traffic, so the slow dancer is still safe.

I watch some more. This baby woodcock is in no hurry. He’s literally marching to his own beat. He’s so zen. My yoga-loving inner hippy wants to say “Be the woodcock.” but it makes me laugh too hard to be serious.

I sit longer. Still. Exhale.

Finally, the bird has reached the thick grass just off the shoulder of the road. In a few feet, the feathered friend will reach a shallow marsh. Maybe he’s on his way to meet friends, have lunch or go for a swim. I have no idea, but it was nice to slow down and share space with him for about 10 minutes.

I may have been too focused on finishing the hike to remember to slow down and sit in the forest, but dang it, a dancing woodcock came to my rescue.

Until next time,
Choose healthy!

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Note: This post was last updated on October 4, 2022.



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