“In so many ways the pandemic has emphasized the importance of nature for our health. As traffic declined during quarantine, many people connected with the acoustic environment in a whole new way — noticing the relaxing sounds of birds singing just outside their window. How remarkable that these sounds are also good for our health.”

                                                ~ Mary Jo DiLonardo quoting researcher Rachel Buxton

It seemed like a long winter, yet when the weather finally turned, I found I had little energy for leaping into my spring chores. Apparently, the dry winter had deprived the compost of the necessary moisture, and when I broke the pile open, I found mostly dry rubbish rather than the rich, wet mess I expected. I’ve finally cleaned out the garden beds from last year, but even getting my seeds in the mail and the trip to the nursery to buy plants left me tepid.

I guess it is the last year’s politics and pandemic that have wore me down.

Lately, each morning, I awaken to the sounds of birds in the trees and feeders outside. I ultimately summoned the will to turn over the garden beds, plant some seeds and do some cursory watering just before three days of rain came through. The raindrops hitting the windows and skylights are a gentle accompaniment to the breeze in the trees outside our bedroom windows.

Reporter Ashley Stimpson has looked into the impact of trees on people and neighborhoods. “The adverse effects of treeless neighborhoods are well-known and many … In addition to heat-related illnesses, residents who lack tree cover consume more energy to stay cool, endure poorer air quality and report diminished mental health … This everyday contact with nearby nature — either through a window view at the home or on the street — has been shown to be beneficial for mental health and wellbeing.”

Mary Jo DiLonardo reports, “Researchers have long known there are benefits from being in nature. Living around trees can help you live longer.  Walking in the woods is good for your mood. Being near water can have positive effects on your well-being … But it’s not just what you see that makes an impact. A new study finds that natural sounds offer health benefits too.”

“Interestingly, researcher Rachel Buxton says, there was also some evidence that natural sounds have benefits over silence. There was also evidence that more different types of natural sounds — more types of birds singing versus just one type of bird — have benefits over fewer sounds.”

We’ve noticed a few new birds on our feeders this spring. We still have the usual mix of house finch, black capped chicakdees, pine siskins, doves, juncos, several kinds of sparrows, and goldfinches. Some less frequent or new visitors include multiple Lazuli Buntings, Bullocks Orioles, and a Black-headed Grosbeak. We can hear warblers or wrens in the shrubs, but can’t identify them. My old birder mentor called those LGBs (little grey birds) or LBBs (little brown birds). The Blue Jays and Grey Jays scream their displeasure from the near-by pine trees, and the Northern Flicker quietly probes the lawn, then sits in the trees making jungle noises. The occasional flock of geese from the nearby park soars overhead, honking their lonely cries. We’ve not seen much of the local magpies, but they’re no doubt around.

Our shrubs and several trees are blooming to the accompaniment of the trilling of the hummingbirds, back from their long winter in the south. The bees are working the Mountain Bluebells and Bridal Wreath bushes, as well as the plethora of dandelions in the yard before it was mowed. The lilacs have bloomed slowly this year, but maybe they’ll come on late.

It’s still drizzling outside, but I can see the vegetable garden beds from the kitchen window and the rows of seedlings are beginning to show.

Maybe spring has come to me at last.

Additional information:

Mary Jo DiLonardo, How the Sounds of Nature Affect Your Well-Being, March 26, 2021, TreeHugger

Ashley Stimpson, Green Health: A Tree-Filled Street Can Positively Influence Depression, Study Finds, March 12, 2021, The Guardian

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