Yesterday, I was feeling a bit down, struggling to deal with a situation I’ll attempt to write about next time. I was out on my bike, and although it was decidedly grey and a bit cold, I decided to go to come home via a big park to take in the splendor of the autumn colours. The dazzling hues of yellow, orange and red were truly uplifting, but I had an even greater surprise that awaited me.
I was feeling hungry, so stopped on my bike in a field near some bushes to dig out a small granola bar I had brought with me as a snack. No sooner had I unzipped my backpack than a red topped downy woodpecker landed on my bag, peering in, as if to say, ‘And where’s my treat?’ I was quite surprised and then immediately sorry that I didn’t have any nuts or seeds with me, as I usually do when planning an outing in nature.
Well, there was nothing for it, but to share my granola bar, hoping it was suitable avian fare. I broke it up into little pieces, and the woodpecker, which had flown away, soon returned, popping onto my hand to snatch the little nuggets. He was soon joined by other chickadees and nuthatches – some feeding out of my hand, some on the ground, along with the ubiquitous black squirrels scurrying about for any missed offerings.
The scene instantly transformed me into a joyful, timeless space. It never ceases to amaze me the restorative power of animals – of all kinds – to our wellbeing. It put me in mind of a donkey sanctuary I visited recently, run by a dedicated older couple, who care for rescued donkeys. It’s truly a labour of love and heartening to see how well looked after the donkeys are, but my most recent visit taught me something more. The man has dementia, and his wife said that looking after the animals gives him a purpose and a focus to his everyday life and that the animals have truly rescued him.
Animals give by just being – by exuding a strength just from existing in their true natures, pursuing their basic needs with a clarity and focus we humans could benefit from emulating. The donkeys, like the birds, were engrossed in eating – delighting in their treat of pickled hay, and my just watching them eat was soothing and grounding, reminding me of the basic necessities of life and being present within them. Such moments release my fragmented thoughts to flee in the wind.
The gift of nature – of wildlife – is that it is always there, always available, always giving of its presence, ready for us to receive and lift us from our fractured state and join and be part of an eternal whole.