HomePublicationsThe Tracker MagazineVol 3, No. 1, First Quarter 1984

The Tracker Magazine - Vol 3 No. 1, 1st Quarter, 1984

The Chickadee
By Vicki Mills

In one standard class Tom was telling us about how Nature's University can teach us so many things that we want to know, providing we have the time out there to learn its secrets. He asked Stalking Wolf once what his favorite animal was. In all Stalking Wolfs wisdom, he said it was the chickadee - not the bear, not the magnificent eagle, not the mountain lion, but the chickadee. Why? Simply because the chickadee is a bird that is always cheerful and enthusiastic; no matter what the environment around him is like, he always sounds like he's in a spring day. Even in the coldest, iciest storms the cheery "chick-a-deedee-dee" can be heard. When all other creatures are burrowed deep in their secure dens, the chickadee is able to come out and bring encouraging word, because of its inner strengths and abilities created in it by the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit sustains the chickadee through His power and the bird is able to be like rays. of sunshine even in the darkest storms, even though outward conditions might tend to discourage such a spirit.

I have thought a lot about what Tom told us; I realize that it is my attitude that makes me happy or unhappy. I want to have the chickadee attitude no matter what is going on around me, no matter how bitingly cold the environment may be. I want to be rays of sunshine and encouragement to others. So I have been learning more about the qualities of chickadees, and have found some interesting food for my thoughts that I'd like to share with you.

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The chickadee is a small bird, so its body cools quite rapidly. Yet this hearty little creature is able to withstand sub-zero weather because it has a highly effective layer of insulating feathers. With these feathers the bird is protected from the cold and maintains optimum warmth by ruffling and puffing them up, which by so doing it traps airspace for better insulation. During the winter the little chickadee also grows many more feathers than it does in the summer.

The chickadee attitude can withstand the rigors of persecution, trials, problems because it has many insulating factors like love and mercy and patience and kindness and gentleness and goodness - can I tuck these around and under me? Can I trap some of these qualities in my daily life so that I am not easily offended, not easily hurt, don't allow the occasional coldness of a rebuff or a criticism get in to offend me? Can I be sheltered from the chill winds of gossip, lies and backbiting by turning my back to the biting blasts and instead look to the warmth of praise and respect and giving others the benefit of the doubt, expressing cheery optimism and giving other people space by looking toward the best in them?

The chickadee does have enemies such as small hawks and shrikes, but this little bird has two effective defenses. The first is that it is always watchful for danger. The second is its ability to move quickly. Launching into flight with both its wings and legs, this little bird is so quick that it is able to change its course of travel in less than a second if frightened. Can I be prepared and alert enough to steer clear of risky situations, potential dangers, avoid letting myself get too tired or down or busy that I am not thinking ahead to my wisest course of action, too lax or careless or selfishly motivated that I am blind to the important things in life, or oblivious to the needs of others?

The chickadee has something unusual about its eyes. It is able to not only focus its eyes together on a single object like man can, but it also can use each eye independently. By using its eyes separately, it can actually be both nearsighted and farsighted at the same time. Can I get the "big picture" and exercise vision even while I am busy at my daily tasks and involved with my day to day problems and concerns, and not get all bent out of shape by them?

Tom's teachings have always proven to be full of good medicine - the lessons learned expand and deepen as he said all coyote teachings do. Tom told us this story: "In Montana, I remember walking from one campsite to another campsite trying to get to that point before we froze to death. Our hoods were pulled over our heads and our beards were frozen into our chests, Our feet were frozen from the waist down, and every animal that the Great Spirit ever created was hidden in that vile storm and that tremendous cold; hidden, sheltered, shunning that storm, huddled in fear, and we're walking - and then that one little voice broke through an that day - it was a chickadee. And I realized that bird didn't care if it was winter or summer. He was happy no matter what the storm. What a way to base your life after. No matter what happens in this world, take that chickadee attitude. Always have great, buoyant sunshine pouring from your heart".

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