Birdsong & Balance

“A birdsong can even, for a moment, make the whole world into a sky within us, because we feel that the bird does not distinguish between its heart and the world’s.” Rainer Maria Rilke

Now that Spring has sprung here in the UK, I’ve been spending more time sitting in the garden. I basked in the short burst of warm sunshine earlier this week, and braved the chillier temperatures since, with a blanket and steaming cup of tea. After many months hibernating through a long Winter in lockdown, I’m craving the fresh air and plan to venture outside for some quiet contemplation at least once a day.

It’s been a tough few months for me, with serious family illness and the loss of a loved one; my world has been turned upside down, I’ve felt crushed by grief, disorientated and off-balance, but am trying to anchor myself in nature. Some days I want to pull the duvet over my head and hide, but the resilience inside of me and the fact that I’m mother to a beautiful little girl gives me the strength to rise each day. There is still a lot to be hopeful for, and nature constantly shows me that. Spring is my favourite season, and seeing the buds form on the trees and wildlife reawaken is a reminder that even in the depths of winter, new life will emerge, things change. And though clouds may be obscuring our view of the sun, it is always there.

Sparrow sat on log

During lockdown, I would go for long walks and as I strolled across fields and up hills, birds would flit by me or soar above; red kites riding high in the sky and skylarks singing overhead. I would look on and contemplate how the birds, the trees, the sky, the sun…they are not aware of a global pandemic, they just ‘are’ and that helped me ground myself in that moment.

As the clocks changed and the light began to return, so too did the beautiful morning birdsong and evening chatter from blackbirds. This week, as I’ve sat and sipped tea in the garden, there has been an orchestra of song from robins, blue tits, sparrows and blackbirds. They’ve been darting and flying, perching on bird feeders and branches, sat on the fence and splashing in the birdbath. Blackbirds have been busy gathering materials for their nests and fledglings have emerged. It’s been an absolute delight. Now, I’m no Bill Oddie (for those of you who don’t know Bill, he’s an expert birdwatcher and conservationist), but could sit for hours just watching and listening to this display. I find it grounding and a joy to witness.

Robin sat on branch

In fact, so that I can immerse myself even more in the wonder of birds, I’ve pre-ordered this beautiful book, ’12 Birds to Save your Life: Nature’s Lessons in Happiness’, by Charlie Corbett, which is out in June and available for pre-order now (this is not sponsored, I just loved the sound of the book). Here’s a bit about it.

“Can you recognise the cheerful chirrups of the house sparrow? A song thrush singing out at winter’s darkest hour? Or the beautifully haunting call of the curlew. At a time of great anxiety and uncertainty, while coping with the untimely death of his mother, Charlie Corbett realised his perspective on life was slipping. In a moment of despair, he found himself lying on the side of a lonely hill with a melancholy drizzle seeping into his bones. Suddenly he hears the song of a skylark – that soaring, tinkling, joyous sound echoing through the air above – and he is transported away from his dark thoughts. Grounded by the beauty of nature, perspective dawns. No longer the leading role in his own private melodrama, merely a bit part in nature’s great epic. Through twelve characterful birds, Charlie shows us there is joy to be found if we know where to look, and how to listen. From solitary skylarks to squabbling sparrows, he explores the place of these birds in our history, culture and landscape, noting what they look like and where you’re most likely to meet them. By reconnecting with the wildlife all around him and learning to move with the rhythms of the natural world, Charlie discovered nature’s powerful ability to heal.”

So, when the world all gets a bit too much, I encourage you to go outside, even for a moment and just watch and listen.

Photo credits: Amee Fairbank-Brown, Erin Minuskin, Pauline Bernfeld

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