On Birds and the Season of Rest

January is a slow month, season-wise. Everything in nature has settled down, entering hibernation or a more gentle routine. Most of the plants are bare. What birds are still around are slowly hopping around in the leaves, looking for fruit or bugs to nibble on. In the woods at my parents’, little sparrows and dark-eyed juncos can be seen with their soft winter feathers along the forest bed. Woodpeckers flit from tree to tree in the winter sun. The occasional chickadee will tease me, standing close by for a moment but flying away as soon as I press the shutter button on my camera. We have bluebirds in the spring and summer, and they actually stay the winter, moving from the front yard birdhouses to the woods in the back. Last winter I was blessed to see the entire family at once, and get so many photos of them.

A bluebird hiding in the branches of a bush.

I enjoy brisk walks outdoors in the winter. The chill of the air passing through my lungs feels refreshing, invigorating the senses. Last winter, I’d hike daily down the backyard trail my dad made during the pandemic (see an older blog post of mine, “Trailblazer”), seeing only rosehips and other berries (I like to gather several of these berries to create winter bouquets for the home. Foraging for décor. See my Instagram reel), and many birds. At the river, I’d see flocks of geese. While geese are in the area all year long, it’s only in the winter that they rest in our section of the river. Watching endless flocks of geese fly overhead throughout the day is a tell-tale sign it’s winter.

Also at the river are a pair of bald eagles. This is their mating and nesting period, and they’re more likely to be spotted as they prepare their nests. I saw them almost daily last winter, and though they’d avoid people, I managed to snap a few good photos of them. I saw them whenever I was meditating along the riverbank, contemplating life’s bigger questions, with their watchful, sharp eyes and arching wings as they silently flew by. I truly believe they’re good omens, guardians watching us and giving encouragement, letting us know we’re on the right path.

A male bald eagle with wings spread out, flying through tree branches.

This Christmas Eve, my boyfriend and I spotted another pair of bald eagles from our 3rd floor apartment window. My boyfriend saw them first; “What kind of bird is that?” he asked, as we ate breakfast. “Looks like a bald eagle.” And it was! And soon there was a second! We watched as they flew overhead for several minutes. I believe this was an extra good sign for the year ahead.

I especially enjoy these winter observations because they remind me that there is still life in winter, and so much to be enjoyed, though perhaps at a slower pace. In our modem society, there is not much room allowed for rest. But January serves to remind us that rest is part of nature’s cycle. We, like the plants and animals, must have periods of rest while we get ready for the spring and busier season ahead.

Take these coming weeks as a period for self-care and recharging. Cozy up with a cup of tea (I’m drinking chamomile from Katydid Hill Farm, a small, women-owned herb farm in Pennsylvania). Cook something warm and grounding (my recent favorite has been the roasted root salad from Spencre McGowan’s Forest & Home). Take walks and familiarize yourself with the natural world around you. Breathe in that crisp winter air, and embrace the slow beauty of the season.

Gallery

A collection of photos from last winter and this winter – the eagles (at the cottage and apartment), the birds, the berries. Some berries are invasive (crawling bittersweet, privets, even roses), so if you see them in your own yard, research the best approach to dealing with them. I hope to address them soon as well.


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