Late winter is one of my favorite times of year to be outside in New England. The days are so much longer and the sun so much stronger that being outside – even on a very cold day – is palpably different from earlier in the winter. In the late winter woods, I feel a shared joy as the world comes again to life. I can even hear the forest sing for joy.

That voice of joy and delight I hear, really, is that of the chickadee – a common and lovely little bird, and a stalwart of wooded areas across much of North America. On a blue sky day when I feel the warmth of the sun on my back as I pause in a snowy clearing, the call of the chickadee seems to be the voice of the entire forest singing.

One could have an entire spiritual practice – as some people probably do – of nothing more than listening with full attention to the songs of the birds.

Some spiritual traditions use bells, or slaps, or sung calls to prayer to remind one to pause, to pay attention to the present moment, and to offer thanksgiving to the Source of all that is.

In our practice, we can be reminded by the birds. In the woods one can rely on the sweet call of the chickadee, the raucous caw of a jay or crow, the wind in the trees, or the passing of a cloud as a call to prayer. Then prayer need be nothing more than noticing who it is that called – and saying thank you.