Think

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Hello, Chickadee

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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.

Optimism

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I’ve been reading The World I Live In + Optimism: A Collection of Essays by Helen Keller. Her writing is powerfully frank and fiery, but also remarkably humble and full of wonder. One of my favorite passages is from Part One of her Optimism essays, “Optimism Within,” which reads:

Most people measure their happiness in terms of physical pleasure and material possession. Could they win some visible goal which they have set on the horizon, how happy they would be! Lacking this gift or that circumstance, they would be miserable! If happiness is to be so measured, I who cannot hear or see have every reason to sit in a corner with folded hands and weep. If I am happy in spite of my deprivations, if my happiness is so deep that it is a faith, so thoughtful that it becomes a philosophy of life, — if, in short, I am an optimist, my testimony to the creed of optimism is worth hearing. As sinners stand up in meeting and testify to the goodness of God, so one who is called afflicted may rise up in gladness of conviction and testify to the goodness of life.

Can I get an amen?! :)

(Dover Publications, New York; originally published 1903 + 1908, new edition 2009; ISBN 978-0-486-47367-3)

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