The Comfort of Bird Songs

In these troubling times, it’s easy to lose sight of the good stuff in life and get caught up in all the fear and anxiety. I am not immune to such feelings and I think it’s quite human to be afraid and uncertain about the future right now.

I am guilty of checking Twitter and Facebook for updates on COVID-19 far too often throughout the night because I’m afraid of things like lockdowns and shelter in place orders. Mind you, I already don’t leave my house much because I work from home and don’t have a social life to speak of, but somehow the idea of not being “allowed” to leave my house is unsettling. However, no matter how much tunnel-vision I periodically feel when reading the news, there’s always something that widens my view: the continuing arrival of spring.

There’s one thing that always helps to ease the fears I’ve built up overnight and that’s the coming of a new day. As the sky begins to lighten with sunrise, and even before sometimes, the birds begin chirping in the huge maple tree and pine tree outside my bedroom windows. The first birds are always the robins and they’re followed closely by the eastern bluebirds which stick around all year on my property.

It’s not just in the mornings that I hear bird songs, I hear them all day long and I know who sings most of them. I have a nice flock of goldfinches that are always happily chirping away, some cardinals that sing “pretty, pretty, pretty” frequently, blue jays that sing/screech in their unique way, red-winged blackbirds, wrens, crows, woodpeckers, nuthatches, tufted titmouse, a variety of sparrows, and many more.

Some of my resident goldfinches from a few years ago.

I’m happy that I’ve figured out as many bird songs as I have because I remember growing up that my dad knew lots of bird songs. I remember walking through a park somewhere and hearing a rather distinct bird song and not knowing what it was. Without even seeing the bird, my dad said it was a Scarlet Tanager. We walked a bit more and sure enough, we eventually saw the bright red body of a Scarlet Tanager high up in the pine tree branches.

Scarlet Tanager image courtesy of All About Birds.org

I remember being so amazed that my father knew the bird by its song and I promised myself that someday I’d have that same ability. I’ve spent years listening to and figuring out bird songs and now whenever I go on walks with my girls I can tell them which birds they’re hearing. I feel an immense sense of pride knowing that I’ve managed to follow in my father’s footsteps in that regard.

Hearing my feathered friends singing brings me great comfort throughout the day and reminds me constantly that the world is still spinning and life continues to renew with spring. When the weather permits, I will continue to go on daily walks and take in and enjoy the beauty of nature around me. Nature is receiving a bit of a break with less people driving their cars and such and I’m sure it appreciates it. We must never lose sight of the blessings around us and the fact that we’re just a very small part of a vast, unknowable universe.

Changing Winds

View across a field on today's walk

Despite the mostly overcast skies and gusty winds, it was a remarkably nice day today! The temperature reached almost 50 and there wasn’t a sign of snow in the air. It smelled like spring and while detergents that are “spring scented” are excessively sweet, to me spring smells like mud. As it warms up, spring will smell like mud, worms and flowers as they eventually bloom. You’re not going to find “worm and mud” scented detergent in the aisles anytime soon because that’s perhaps a bit too natural.

I took Jazz for a walk this afternoon and decided to venture off the road and up one of the hilly fields. I thought because it was a hill it wouldn’t be as muddy but it was still quite soggy. Jazz and I made it up the hill, our feet squishing all the way, and we were treated to a fleeting glimpse of blue sky amid the clouds. The wind was quite strong at the top of the hill but I wasn’t cold.

I walked Jazz over to the tree line by the nearby stream’s ravine and she immediately started sniffing around familiarizing herself with all the deer scents in the area. The water in this section of the stream was still under ice but the roar of the water up stream was almost as loud as the wind blowing through the trees.

dog backpack

 

I leaned against a nearby tree and took a moment to breathe in the wind and feel the change in it. March is nearly over and April promises a much-desired warm up but there’s still the lingering feel of winter in the air. The melting snow, the partially frozen ground, the bare trees and the woods devoid of animal sounds are all remnants of winter. It’s been a difficult winter and if we humans don’t make some serious changes, future winters will only get worse.

forest stream

 

We humans forget the cold and snow of winter amid the warmth of spring and summer and that forgetfulness leads many to believe that Mother Earth is just fine. But she’s not. We’re gradually destroying the only world we have because of the endless pursuit of material things. If more people would stop, listen, look and feel as I did today, they’d hear and feel the anger, fear and sadness in the wind. They’d hear it pleading for healing and reminding us that we don’t own the Earth, we’re part of it and when it dies, so shall we. The changing winds are a powerful force and it’s up to us to insure that those changes are positive ones.

Be still, listen and look

Look closely...

Look closely…

Throughout my life, I’ve learned the benefits of being a silent observer. When you close your mouth and open your eyes and ears, you learn a lot about the world around you. When you quiet your mind and calm your spirit, the world opens up to you in new and beautiful ways.

My ability to be still and listen proved to be an especially wondrous trait during my recent visit to Florida. I was walking one of the trails at the Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersberg when I had a rather adorable encounter. I’d just stopped to read one of the signs throughout the trail when I heard a rustling in the tall grass and palm fronds behind me. My first thought was that it was a squirrel because I’d already seen several during my visit. As I turned and peered into the grass though, I realized that the creature was much too big to be a squirrel. As it rustled around and emerged from the grass, I was overjoyed to see that it was a nine-banded armadillo!

Armadillos might very well be as common as squirrels for residents of Florida, but to me it was one of the neatest animals I’ve ever laid eyes on. I watched the little guy snuffle around in the underbrush digging for bugs and took several pictures with my phone and my normal camera. I stood very still as I watched him and not another soul came along the path the entire time he and I were in close proximity. Eventually he ambled right up to the path within two feet of me and strolled across, unfazed by my presence. Inside I was jumping up and down that he’d come so close to me, but on the outside I was still and calm…while wearing a huge grin on my face.

There he goes, strolling right by...

There he goes, strolling right by…

He eventually disappeared into the brush on the other side of the path and I knew I’d seen what I was meant to see while walking that path. I imagine my smile was bright enough to light up the gray, cloudy day and perhaps made the people I passed later on the path wonder about my sanity, but I didn’t care. I’d opened myself to whatever amazing and positive experiences Florida had to offer me and nature had happily delivered in the form of a peaceful encounter between a quiet girl and a friendly armadillo.