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Opinion
Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

On My Mind: Rated R For Robins

Tommy Tomlinson

They are the longest movies we’ve ever watched. There is no plot. We don’t know any of the characters’ names. But we’ve become mesmerized.

The movies weren’t meant for us. They were meant for the cat. He’s been pretty wild some nights, and I saw that a Twitter friend had distracted her cat with bird videos. So a few nights ago I fired up the TV, called up YouTube and clicked on the first one I found.

It was eight hours long.

I think we watched the first three hours.

This is literally all that happened: There was a fixed camera shot from a backyard somewhere. There was a brick post with some birdseed on it. Birds came by every so often to eat the seed. When the seed ran out, the video would blend into a new shot where more seed magically appeared. Then the whole process would start over.

It worked pretty well on the cat. He went over and crouched in front of the TV for a while.

But it worked even better on us.

The ebb and flow of the birds sucked us in. Most of them were species we didn’t know, and we were wishing the video had subtitles. But it was enough to just take in the little details. Some birds mashed the seeds in their beaks, and others swallowed them whole. Some birds were colored with bright, sharp lines, and others were blurred like watercolors. The camera was so close that you could hear the power of their wings as they took off, even the small birds making a sound like a slamming door.

There are dozens of these videos. There are also dozens of videos of long walks through Paris or Rome or Central Park – not narrated except for the normal city sounds. They last for hours and you can drift in and out for as long as you need them.

They all remind me of the virtual log at Christmas, a video you can play on your TV if you don’t have the real thing.

When it comes to the birds, we still have the real thing around here – Wednesday morning we went for a walk through the neighborhood and saw cardinals and doves and a solitary hawk soaring above it all.

But at home, at night, we’re drawn to the bird videos way more than horror movies or that "Tiger King" series everybody’s talking about on social media. I don’t know how y’all handle that stress. These days I need double helpings of calm and soothing.

I’m a little worried about the bird videos, though. The last one we watched had a shocking plot twist. A squirrel showed up.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

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