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A wren

As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, Ranger Tony shares his thoughts on the generosity of the birdsong we hear every day, and the importance of taking time to stop and listen as a way of bringing ourselves into the present moment.

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‘There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature,’ wrote Rachel Carson in her book, ‘The Sense of Wonder’, and as I sit here in my garden on a sunny spring morning in May, listening to the constant musical refrains of a wren, a tiny bird, singing its pointedly harsh yet sweetly melodic song until its lungs are fit to burst, I get a sense of what she was connecting with.

That incredibly energetic bird, generous to a fault with the offering of song, and desperate for me to hear its message, is doing what it has done since it came into being, that is, to sing out and expound the wonder and awe of nature.

Not content with one song perch, my little feathered friend moves deliberately around the garden, testing me to see if I’ve understood the message yet.

As I keep listening, this lovely little nature’s messenger draws me ever closer in.

With every note he sings – and at this time of year it is likely to be a male, although females sing too – I am enveloped by a covering of awe and wonder at the beauty of its song. I note that my busy thinking mind is slowly submitting to the magic of this bird’s song; the sound of nature and to the space contained within the melody.

As I listen deeper, each note appears suspended in stillness for a moment, before it slips back into the stillness and silence from which it came and the next note inexplicably emerges in perfect harmony. A dawning appreciation overcomes me as I continue to sit and listen that the stillness out of which the song emerges is my stillness, not a different stillness.

This amazing bird with its magical song has, through the power of its presence and generosity, cast a spell and brought me completely into the present moment. What a gift, if only I could tell him how grateful I am. I soon realise how unnecessary that is. The wren doesn’t sing for reward, it sings because it is alive, it sings as a celebration and I just need to be a part of the celebration.

And so the song goes on and on, repeated refrains of perfection, of poetry, until a blackbird hears the call and joins the chorus too.


A blackbird in a tree

Moments like these are precious as they remind me of the life force that courses through all of nature, often through song, and of its presence within me. It reminds me that I am not an island on my own, separate from nature, but an integral part of it. I am nature. Simply allowing myself to listen and connect to the incredibly beautiful songs of these two birds is allowing nature to penetrate inwards to have its healing way, to reconnect me with that sense of wholeness that is always present but often covered and forgotten by thought and imaginings. All I need to do is offer the time and attention – moments will do – and simply be present.

I remind myself that there is minimal effort involved on my part, other than surrendering to the dulcet tones of these warbling wonders. The wren and blackbird do not charge for their concert, song and poetry are what they give freely, no venue accept the outdoors is needed either and the liveliest of live music is what I receive as a soothing sound balm. How could I not just listen? Life should never be that busy that it dupes me into believing that I can’t take a moment just to stop and listen, and, with the help of my feathered friends, just be.

So I resolve that every day will contain a moment of live music listening as a way of bringing me into the moment and as a gentle reminder of my own true nature.

As Buddha once put it, ‘If you wish to know the divine, feel the wind on your face and the warm sun on your hand,’ and I would add to that: listen to the sweet song of birds. You should try it; it’ll be worth your time.