Consider the Chickadees
What comes to mind when you think of peace? Is it a feeling? Perhaps of tranquility wrapped in
warmth? Is it a place? Somewhere you frequent regularly, the surroundings worn into your
memories? Or a beloved space in your home that radiates comfort? These are sensations that
are conjured for me, your sense or place of peace may be different; however it manifests, it is
deeply felt, its absence experienced as a loss.
Many individuals describe viewing or being in nature as peaceful. This feeling of wellbeing is
strongly acknowledged in the field of medicine with doctors in all provinces prescribing nature as
a therapeutic treatment (PaRx, 2023). Conjuring feelings of elation and wellness, the act of
watching birds specifically has become a focal point of study for its medicinal and health
benefits. Ornitherapy is defined as “the mindful observation of birds benefitting our minds,
bodies, and soul” (Crossley, 2021).
When we stop and consider the birds and their movements, we’re fully investing in something
outside of and yet deeply connected to ourselves.
Consider a chickadee as it collects food. Watch them choose a black oil sunflower seed, pause,
drop the seed, eye another seed inquisitively, pick it up, flit to a branch, and with great dexterity
cling upside down, move itself around and into position to coax and – if that fails – force the
seed under the loose bark of a tree to repeat the process ten, twenty, thirty times. You may feel
the process to be comical, it might make you smile. As you settle into position, leaning against a
tree for support, you find the world falling away. You exist in this moment, there is no other
earthly concern on your mind but the movement of the chickadee. Maybe you pause to think
about how hard these little beings have to work to survive. And then maybe you think about how
you fit into this. And just maybe, you feel a little closer to nature, to yourself. You find your
heartbeat is steady and slow, your breathing even and regular: peace.
Ornitherapy is a practice of personal betterment with ecological benefits. Because once you
have considered the chickadee, you consider the chickadees, and the cardinals, and the
goldfinches; the considerations become ripples for a larger awareness of the natural world.
We might then consider how being in nature and watching the birds forms a relationship
between us. In observing, we see unique behaviours, in feeding the birds we learn food
preferences and receive pleasure inherent in offering help, how we are accepted, cautiously,
ever so cautiously at first, into their circle of comfort. We, in turn, bring them into our own
metaphorical room of comfort. Gone are the walls to be replaced with trees and meadows and
every living thing in between.
Bringing nature closer to us and our daily lives brings us tangible and measurable health
benefits, and, dare I say, joy. It’s as simple as that.
So what do you say? Should we go and find that chickadee?