The Cuteness Factor

By Syivie O'Rourke

My pockets are full of bird seed. I am ready for an impromptu hike with outdoor club friends at Gray’s Creek. I like to replenish the feeders along the trails when I visit the conservation area. Truthfully, I am secretly hoping for an opportunity to entice fluffy black-capped visitors along the way. After two years of pandemic with no end in sight, our spirits could certainly use a little boost of positivity. Being out in nature with lovely people is a good start, but I know what would make it even better: Chickadees!

The biggest concentration of chickadees seems to be by the creek. Soon enough, the sound of fluttering wings around me announces their presence. I look around in amazement at the daring birds whooshing around our heads. I suspect that they know I carry snacks and are not stalking me for my charming personality.

I watch my friend “G:” hold out her hand to offer them seeds. What I particularly notice is the smile on her face because that is what chickadees do. They bring lightness to a world of uncertainty. Their feathery touch is heartwarming at a time when hugs and close contact between humans are restricted. Their ability to trust us, knowing inherently that we mean them no harm, is as comforting as their sweet song.

After spreading seeds on a snow-covered branch, G and I observe the precious creatures, noting how they refrain from converging to their meal all at once, but rather, take turns. I can distinctly see a line-up of physically distanced birds. Although they move rapidly, they have a system. Altruistic by nature, they prefer order to chaos. As humans, we can certainly learn something from this.

They are becoming more daring, landing on my shoulder or my phone as I attempt to photograph them, even teasing me with spontaneous photobombs, deliberate or not. We laugh at their antics. What if their very existence is meant to offer relief from our daily worries and to remind us to live in the moment? Judging from the faces around me, it is not so difficult to imagine. Unintentionally, they are teaching us to unwind and to let things go, if only for a brief time.

They are such inquisitive birds, curious and aware of their surroundings. Watching them reinforces the fact that it really it is the simple things in life that bring the most joy: sunshine, fluffy snow, a smile, or the scent of pine. We can learn from them to replenish our souls by spending more time outdoors and finding those wonders that nature has to offer us every single day.

I notice a friend sitting quietly on a log enjoying the social aspect of this forest visit. Mischievously, I sprinkle seeds on his hat, inviting my new miniature friends to pay him a visit too. Although he acts nonchalant, I can tell the little ones are tugging at his heart strings. No one is immune to the cheerful chickadees. Any resistance is immediately dissolved by their cuteness factor.

As much as I would like to stay out here longer, the time has come to part ways. My pockets may now be empty, but the company of friends of the human and non-human variety, has gifted me with enough happiness to sustain me for the rest of the day.

Published in The Cornwall Seeker, 2 in 1 Flip Magazine, www.cornwallseekerca, February 2022, page 4.

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