My friend Ruth is in a hospital ward at the moment. She has kindly contributed this post about how mindful birding is helping her. Ruth’s previous guest post is here.
I cling on to the back of the sea bird and feel the wind on my face as we soar through the sky narrowly missing the jutting out rocks of the sea cliffs. I can smell the salty sea below and feel the wind rush on my cheeks. There are cries of the nesting sea birds all around and the scream of the gulls fighting for their dinner. As we come into land on the glimmering beach the tide laps at my feet, the water warmed from the days sun. I step away from this scene and back into the moment.
I’m in an eating disorder ward sat at a table with 8 other patients. The emotion of everyone’s difficulties fill the room. As I sit in my own turmoil I often like to take myself back to the moment on the sea birds back. It evokes memories of where I feel most at peace. In the sea, held by the tumultuous ocean. The force taking over my emotions, holding my skin – there is no space for thought here. For the first two weeks of my hospital admission I’ve not been allowed to leave the hospital ward, accept to sit in the garden. The hospital surroundings are amazingly birdy and I’ve spent a lot of time sat in the garden listening to bird song. There are two great tits who sit on the fence each day feeding on the insects and every day my room is filled with the sound of gold finches chattering on the trees outside. I don’t feel sad that I can’t see them as somehow their song is keeping me company and is a treat in itself. The garden also has many wildlife watching opportunities, from the cheeky squirrel who has made his nest in the pagoda, who brazenly stood by the backdoor this week eating a bulb he’d dug up for us all to see to the gulls who sit up on the roof making all manor of squarwks and parading themselves up and down. The other day I stood close to a female blackbird, the closest I’ve ever stood, whilst she looked at me in the eye for a good 5 minutes. It felt like a profound moment, until she did a poo and I wondered if perhaps she was just constipated.
During darker moments I often hear a robin singing outside, the robin for me is a symbol of hope and it comforts me when I’m feel hemmed in and isolated to hear it’s friendly song. The pinging of the starlings remind me of walks home as they often sit on the electricity lines close to our house and there’s always a good chorus of sparrows chattering on. As I sit in the ward garden with my eyes closed, barefoot, with the gulls wailing in the background I close my eyes and I am back on the seabird, smelling the ocean and at peace with myself.