Chickadees for the Day
Pshht, pshht, pshht we call as we sit on the frozen ground so close to one another that we can feel the cold spray of our neighbor’s pshht. In the distance I had heard a few black capped chickadees and gathered the group to try our luck at calling them closer. It worked. We sit talking to the chickadees, looking at them eye-to-eye, our breath mixing with their breath like some whispered secret
It is a bone cold day in December, windy and gray, and I am surrounded by a tight little huddle of third graders. I look at their young faces, red cheeked and mouths opened. They are frozen, but not by the cold. Rather they are in the moment. We have lost track of who we are, forgotten ourselves in an instant. Even our icy breath seems stilled. We have become chickadees.
All around us perched and curious, are these small sturdy birds. Some are so close we can see their bright inquisitive eyes staring right at us and hear their wings beat as they sail past our heads. We have called them in–or perhaps they have called us in. The line between us is fuzzy, the boundary unclear.
We’ve tried before to join our voices with the animals around the school. Crows never respond, blue jays scatter and the cicadas just sing over us. But this never stops us. The language we speak, whether chickadee, blue jay, cicada, or even owl is really the language of hope. My third grade students are filled with hope. They still live in the world of Charlotte’s Web where a pig can talk, a spider can spell and a little girl named Fern can understand it all.
It lasts maybe 5 minutes, our conversation with the chickadees. While it’s going on I’m in love with the world. It’s a place where chickadees huddle around children huddled around children. We are all right here. When the spell is broken and the chickadees fly off, my students are quiet as though they have forgotten how to speak our human language. One little girl breaks the silence when she whispers, “Let’s just be chickadees for the rest of our lives.”