Getting there

Getting there

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Patience, Chickadee

I will be the first to admit it. I have a problem with patience. I do not like to wait, and I do not like to be kept waiting. Patience may be a virtue, but it is not one of mine. Recently my greatest impatience has been to do with waiting for spring to truly arrive.

Every morning I wake up and hope it will be 15C outside. Then I can toss on a dress and espadrilles and head out for my day knowing that it will only get warmer. Instead I get up every day and discover that it is still -3C and the high we are headed for is in the single digits. Some days the forecast even calls for "wet flurries" (shudder!). I know it's northern Alberta. I know its only April. This means nothing to me, or to my impatience.

The sad thing is that it seems I have passed this trait on to my daughter. She is not a patient person, either. She does not like to wait. She has been known to become whiny and irritating when impatient, and I strongly suspect I do, too. The other day, though, I remembered an event that gave me some perspective.

Our previous home was directly across from the forest that surrounds our city. As I am a great lover of animals I quickly adorned our yard with as many bird feeders as I could possibly maintain. Year round they attracted all manner of birds - woodpeckers, blue jays, pine grosbeaks, sparrows, and, of course, the ubiquitous chickadee. Far from being the most humble of birds, though, I think the chickadee is the most spectacular. I love everything about them, from their charming "chick-a-dee-dee-dee" call to their lovely black-capped coloration. What I love even more about the chickadees are their quick swooping trips into the feeder to snatch a sunflower seed and then flitting back into the forest to eat. What is so charming is that if you are very, very still, and very patient, a chickadee might land right in your palm to grab a sunflower seed before winging away. There is nothing quite like the feel of those tiny clawed feet and the little rush of air that they leave behind them as they wing away.

A few years ago I told my daughter about the chickadees that had been landing on my hand to feed. She insisted she wanted to try it, and I had some serious doubts. She is not patient. She is not good at sitting still. She is not willing to wait for things. I put these doubts aside, though, and she grabbed a lawn chair. She stationed herself directly beside one of the feeders, filled her palm with sunflower seeds, and waited.

She waited in silence. She waited calmly. She sat, stock-still, for what seemed like hours. And then, suddenly, one of those wee little birds landed right on her hand and snatched a seed. My daughter's face was absolutely indescribable. There was joy and incredulity. There was satisfaction. There was accomplishment. She had been patient. She had waited. She had succeeded.

One morning this week when I got up and again began internally bemoaning the lack of those warm temperatures I stopped. I thought about my daughter and her willingness to wait for something she really wanted. I thought about how patient she was, despite it being so foreign to her nature. I thought about how perhaps the fact that it wasn't easy and didn't happen quickly made the experience of having the chickadee land on her hand even more memorable, and how perhaps it made her even more grateful. I thought to myself "Patience, chickadee. Spring will come, and when it does you will be even more joyous and even more grateful because you had to wait for it".  Sometimes it seems the greatest lessons come from the smallest sources, like chickadees and impatient little girls.

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