We went for a walk at the Audubon center this morning. It was an overcast day in an autumn landscape. At first glance, aside from the sweeping views of the field and the river beyond, it seemed there wouldn’t be much to see. At least not when compared to earlier in the season when so many birds flitted one way then another, flowers were blooming, turtles skimmed the pond, and the grasses grew tall and green.
Today the only green offered was harbored in the pine trees on the field’s edge. And it was unusually quiet. We spotted just one crow, another (unidentifiable) small bird, and in the distance by the river, a flock of seagulls. So many of the birds have migrated, the flowers and grasses have gone dormant, and there’s a chill in the air that seeks and settles in the gap of an open collar.
But there is beauty and intrigue to be found. Close up and at a distance if you look for it.
Red berries on bare twigs. The lilt of the marsh grass. And scat deposited on the edge of a well worn path. Yep, we’re talking poop. Pretty sure it didn’t come from a dog because they’re not allowed. And with all the berries in it, it was most likely fox droppings. Two sightings ... of poop, not the fox, unfortunately.
The walk was a bit of forest bathing; immersion in the natural landscape. Even though we weren’t in the forest, we focused on the landscape, the sky, the air, plants (and yes, poop), and nothing else. No worries about what to cook for dinner, the news, or impending chores. In return, we found what we were looking for ... calm in an otherwise hectic world.
We may not be able to visit or travel these days, but if we get out and explore what's close to home, there’s no telling what we might see and share ... in a letter, a phone call, or Zoom event.
Is there a park, walkway, stretch of beach, or field where you can go to get outside? Where you can watch, listen, and let nature wash over you? Go.
It will make you feel better and give you the scoop on new things to talk about.
It was a bald eagle that started a conversation about feathers and that led to a discussion about finding and keeping feathers.
Do you know it's illegal to possess most feathers? It's true.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (1918) was passed to protect birds from being killed for their feathers.
If you come across a feather on a walk or hike, you can take photos, but it's best to leave it where you find it. There are hefty fines for possession.
If you do find a feather and you're curious about what bird the feather comes from, try identifying it. The Feather Atlas at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife is a good place to start.
Feathers and art
Feathers are symbolic of freedom and the presence of spirits. They are used in art and poetry.
Here's Emily Dickinson's well-known poem, "Hope" ...
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
The feathers at the top of the post are cut paper feathers I made from some of my painted sheet music. If you're looking for an activity, click on the image below to download and color or paint your own feathers. You can also use it as a template to draw your own, or cut paper feathers.
And if you do, I'd love to see it ... and maybe share it in an upcoming email or post. Together, we can inspire others.
Blustery weather and over a foot a snow. We’d been inside for the better part of two days and it was time for a change. Time to get outside and do some forest bathing in the newly transformed winter landscape.
Have you heard of forest bathing? It’s the idea that spending time out in nature is good for us. Good for you, good for me, good for all of us.
It’s not about camping or bugs or getting dirty. It’s learning to appreciate the healing nature of the outdoors. It’s a Japanese pastime rooted in the concept of using nature as therapy.
It’s about slowing down and noticing what you see, hear, and smell when you’re outside.
Yesterday we took a walk in the woods. There’s over a foot of snow on the ground and I was taken by the way the snow drifted up against the trees and settled in the crook of the branches. How blue the sky was.
When we got back, we were hungry and ate lunch...inside. Clearly there’s no seating at the picnic table.
Where words and paper come together