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The black-capped chickadee is a charming little bird found all over North America. It gets its name from the most familiar of its calls — there’s no mistaking that distinctive chick-a-dee-dee-dee. I love that they look like feathery little puffballs, and their shape and color is especially striking against winter’s bare brown branches and snow.

Chickadees tolerate humans well all year long, but in the winter they will actually eat from human hands. I find it fascinating that this small, undomesticated bird has learned to trust humans in order to obtain food during the leanest months. That willingness to take nourishment where he can find it, combined with a remarkable ability to use what he takes in efficiently, means the chickadee can endure harsh winter conditions that might otherwise threaten him.

It’s fitting that the last watercolor I did in 2007 was of a chickadee. I didn’t know at the time that it would be almost two years before I held a paintbrush again, and I never could have imagined the winter that was about to follow. I have that painting on display in my living room now — not because it’s the best I’ve ever done, but because it reminds me every day of how important it is to trust, especially during the hardest times; to take nourishment when and where it is offered, even if it means leaving myself vulnerable.

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