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As an ever-so-slight chill has crept into the evenings here in New Hampshire, birds are starting to return to the feeders outside our kitchen window, after several weeks of no visitors, and it’s been awesome! Chickadees, goldfinches, blue jays, and even a couple of ambitious woodpeckers have begun frequenting the tube feeder again. Food is plentiful for our bird buddies in the summer, so it was expected to not have any visitors for a few weeks—but with the slow and steady return of longer nights and shorter days, the natural world is responding and getting to work, and I’m happy to be able to spy on those efforts from the kitchen table.

I’ve been getting a kick out of this chipmunk who lives just outside the kitchen window, too. He’s been determined as hell to get at the feeders, and he hasn’t got it figured out yet, but he keeps trying all the same. I notice that he’s been using the same approach—running up the pole, attempting to jump from the pole to the feeder—again and again, and getting the same result—falling to the ground—again and again.

It reminds me of something that someone in an Al-Anon meeting said to me years ago: ’If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.’

It also reminds me of that old saw about the definition of insanity, which is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time.

And yet—sometimes doing the same thing again and again can bring a different result. Practicing a passage of music (or meditation or drawing or cooking or anything else) can yield more facility and more ease over time, and a deeper understanding of the processes at play.

Like that chipmunk, I’m doing the same thing again and again, which is wondering how things will unfold for our upcoming touring plans. Does it make more sense to go on the road, or to stay home? Is it more reasonable to have trust in the current situation, or to be more cautious? The soft breeze of optimism upon which so many of us had been floating seems to have dropped me straight to the ground, and there are moments when I feel immobilized by anxiety about determining, and then doing, the right thing. The idea that my livelihood, the very thing that feeds every part of me, body and spirit, could put me and others in harm’s way, is heartbreaking.

So, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, which is keeping my ears and mind and heart open to both the inquiries and to the possible answers that bubble up. I’m sure that the chipmunk and I will have success soon enough.