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I went to Menard’s yesterday because rumor has it Watkins brand black pepper is the best, and I wanted to try it out for myself. (I haven’t used any yet, so I’ll have to let you know.) I walked through the automatic doors and fumbled through the turnstile (I’ve managed to bruise my legs on those things a few too many times), and wandered through the aisles trying to find the place where the Watkins spices were on display.
As I walked through the store, I watched the people – many of whom seemed either lost or completely overwhelmed by all the things you can buy at Menard’s. Sometimes I think Menard’s is a store for “all the things.” I could hear people on their cell phones, and I saw people asking employees where they might find this or that item. I saw some signs advertising sales, and I passed a whole lot of Christmas decorations.
Then I heard chirping. Lots of chirping.
I looked down an aisle, and there were birds on the floor eating birdseed. They were in an aisle that sold birdseed and bird feeders. I’m not sure if a bag had spilled, or if they had pecked a hole in the bag, but they were chirping happily and getting their fill of sunflower seeds, right there on the floor in Menard’s.

I took a step closer, and they flew way up into the metal rafters. They watched me, most likely hoping I was about to leave their spot. I walked just a little ways away from the spilled birdseed, and I watched the birds resume their frenzied pecking and eating. Then I continued on to find the black pepper I had come for.
I don’t know what it is about stores like Menard’s that makes the birds fly inside. I think it may have something to do with the garden center and the outdoor shopping area. The opening and closing of that door allows the birds the opportunity to fly inside. I also think the tall ceilings and exposed rafters make for great birdy hideouts.
But, what I’ve been thinking about today is that those birds were trapped. Regardless of how they flew into the store, they were trapped. They were stuck in this giant store that I can so easily get lost in. They may have been in where it was warm, but they were also in with lots of hazardous things that they wouldn’t normally encounter outside. They had to dodge people and carts. They had to hunt for food in an unnatural environment. They were finding ways to survive, but I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before they ever found their way back outside – or if they would be stuck in that superstore forever.
I wonder what kinds of habits, trends, and expectations I’ve flown into and can’t seem to get back out of. I may be able to scavenge and scrape and get resourceful in order to survive, but when I’m living trapped within those things, I am not living the kind of life I was intended for. I might be alive, but I will not be living.
Identifying those habits, trends, and expectations is hard, especially when I’ve been in them for a while.
Identifying those habits, trends, and expectations becomes all the more difficult when they are what I was raised in…or what my family was raised in…or what our society as a whole has been raised in.
I sometimes wonder if I am like a bird trapped in Menard’s, only I don’t even know I’m no longer outside.
I wonder what signs and scents and experiences I will need to chase after in order to find the exit door.