As I sit here this Monday morning, I can see my newly installed hummingbird feeders hanging just outside our living room window. I haven’t seen many of the delicate creatures yet, but Charles said he spotted more over the weekend. Our front yard is a busy place between the birds and squirrels and the flowering dogwood, the tulips, forsythia, butterfly bushes and other bloomers who are also waking up to this season of renewal and resurrection.

Beautiful. It all makes me happy, for a moment anyway.

In pursuit of the elusive feeling of happiness, studies have shown that no matter our socioeconomic status or our personal situations at any given time, a closeness to nature can provide us with this feeling, free of charge, if only we take the time to look.

In a recent article in The Hill, the author noted that this feeling is particularly true when it comes to birds. It noted that a recent study showed that Europeans are particularly satisfied with their lives if their immediate surroundings have access to a diversity of bird species.

It’s not just seeing them, in my own opinion, it’s also hearing them. They provide the soundtrack to spring and summer, my favorite times of the year.

I could open my front door right now and hear a chorus of different bird sounds, from the raucous to the sublime, a signal that life abounds. And though they don’t sing (they do produce the occasional high-pitched chirp) the hummingbirds and the whir of their delicate color-shot wings make the transition to the season of light complete.

This was especially true during the social isolation we experienced as a result of the pandemic. It has pushed many of us, and those that are fortunate enough to be able to, to seek escape in the natural world.

If I can point to one good thing from all this, that would be it.

Research also suggests that spending more time in nature and with animals can help people relax and even lessen physical and mental stress.

I have known what this study suggests at least since I was 10 years old. After my daddy died, as a basically only child living in country home with no ready access to playmates, it was the animals, both the tame and the wild, and the natural world that helped me literally to survive the years that came afterward.

Walking in the woods, sitting underneath the high open foundation of our house, I could watch a whole world that lived its own life, totally (or mostly) unaware of me or my troubles. It was enlightening and grounding in many ways. It’s one of the reasons I love sitting on a deserted beach. It makes me feel small in a good way.

Scientists have also examined the socio-economic data of people who were surveyed and found that avian diversity was as important for their life satisfaction as was their income.

In other words, money can’t buy everything.

I hope that my grandchildren will be able to enjoy the diversity of birds, animals and nature that I have and that my children do. I hope as they grow older they will continue to turn away from their computer screens (like my daughter makes them do now) and look outside and take a walk or ride a bike like we did with their mom and her brother.

I hope that the natural world will continue to be there for them.

Climate change, however, is threatening many species’ habitats and the researchers pointed to studies of avian species in agricultural landscapes in Europe that show that the diversity of birds there is lessening. It’s happening here, too.

As our environment changes, there is no doubt that the birds and animals suffer from not only lack of habitat but from the toxic fumes and the trash we pour into this planet we call home. We lose entire species every year.

And it’s not just them that suffer. We will all suffer from an impoverished nature. Conservation of all life is as necessary to our ultimate well-being as it is to the creatures who share our world.

Margie Richards is a reporter for The Madison County Journal. She can be reached at margie@mainstreetnews.com.

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