I was in Saskatoon last week and met a friend who had something very special to show me. He took me to a quiet wintery park with a bag of mixed nuts and seeds under his arm. “I hope you’re wearing good boots, the snow is pretty deep,” he said as we crunched our way out of an empty parking lot and past some trees. The sun was just barely up and the golden rays made this still place feel magical. “Hold out your hands,” he said as he filled my palm with a mix of seeds and peanuts. “Now we wait.”
In a moment, sooner than I thought and out of nowhere, a bird flitted down and snapped a seed out of his hand. The first brave visitor. Soon the silence gave way to tweets and beeps and chatter as the word spread through the sticks and trees. Breakfast was served. With my hand still out and full, nut hatch birds and chickadees bounded and bounced through the shrubbery around us, moving in to see if the rumours were true. Then, one by one they landed on my hand, tiny feet gripping the edge of my outstretched fingers. It was delightful! Birds came and went, sometimes two landing at a time. I’ve never before thought myself a Disney character, but with song birds all around on a winter morning, it was as close as anyone can be to magic, I think.
For the next hour we stood there and enjoyed the birds coming and going. My friend explained that they take the first seeds and hide them, and if all is well, they’ll eat their fill. He has come to this spot over and over and the birds know and trust him now. Perhaps others have fed songbirds from their hands, but for me this was brand new, and an amazing gift. I felt the peace of it all. My friend explained that for many who suffer from mental illness or depression, feeding songbirds from your hand is the best medicine. I could see why. It felt serene.
Frequently we think about our neighbourhood as it relates to humans; families and friends who live on our street, people we know and have come to love. Feeding these song birds reminded me that others live in our neighbourhoods, too. Birds who choose to stay in Chestermere all winter and stay warm in a tree or bush, they also call our neighbourhoods their home. We’re not alone.
Around a pond in our neighbourhood one home has become a haven for birds. Lots of trees and well stocked bird feeders have allowed birds to find a refuge from the coldest days. When we walk by we always stop and watch. One family has created a space where even the birds experience hospitality, it is inspiring.
This winter we’ve added a few bird feeders to our yard and we hope that our home, too, will become a haven for the chickadees and nut hatches that pass by. While they might appreciate the meal, I wonder if feeding birds might be as much for my wellbeing as theirs. The peace that comes from stopping and noticing, even the songbirds, is something I need in my life. Who would have guessed that the smallest neighbours could do so much.