Sunday, April 6, 2008

Language of the Birds (a.k.a. Belvedere Pocket Parks)

When I came back from Africa for good, fifteen years ago (long story), people asked me, What is the most exotic country you have ever been to? I answered, This one. Truly, the United States is one of the most impressive countries when it comes to natural beauty. We came back in late winter and I was wowed by the snow and icicles. Then, spring came. I was blown away by the flowers and the trees, even though I hadn't been away from this country for long (on and off for 10 years). What an incredible place this is. And then there are the birds. Back then, I could not believe the beauty, grace, abundance, and colors of the birds of North America, and I felt special that I could see them every day. And I still feel that way.

As a naturalist, I say that birds are a girl's best friend. I completely rely on them in the forest to tell me what is going on. When I was trained in nature awareness, my teacher, Jon Young (, taught me that there are five different calls that are important when paying attention to the birds. Each call has a different meaning, and there are different behaviors to observe as well. Birds will tell prey that a predator is approaching. Birds will tell me if a crazy person is in the forest. Jon has amazing stories about what birds can communicate.

In Vermont, I had a small group of chickadees adopt me. Sometimes when I went into the forest, they came along, and I could hear them saying, Here she comes, she's going into the forest, the one who feeds us, the one who lives in the yard! It was often quite sweet. There have been times when I have been soundly scolded by chickadees, too. For those who have been scolded by chickadees, you don't forget.

I first heard about Belvedere through my realtor, Jim Duncan. He listened to what was important to us and then said, consider Belvedere. I read the website, thought about it, and called up Stonehaus saying I want to be a homeowner and a businessowner. I am researcher, a scientist and a healing arts practitioner working with children in nature ( I said, if you are designing all these pocket parks as a part of your neighborhood, then you might want to consider the research on children and nature. I directed them to the powerpoint presentation under Resources on my website, but the good research can be found at the Children in Nature Network.

It was clear from our early communication that Stonehaus had a big commitment to providing a good natural environment for the residents of Belvedere. I was able to give the organization a complete presentation on the research of children and nature, including recommendations on how children use the land. Landscape architects involved in the project attended. On the way out of that presentation, I heard chants of "Jim Duncan." Yes, he matched us up.

I am hoping that other residents of Belvedere will help in the design of the pocket parks, making them friendly spots for the birds. I can see Blue Bird houses and park designs for other birds down by the Storm Water Park, and plants that encourage butterflies in other parks. Early designs for the Village Green and nature trails reveal the intentions of Stonehaus to make good on their claims to get children off the couch and into nature, harkoning back to days of old when children played outside all the time. And then the birds will know us, and tell our stories.

So, I say, Stay True Stonehaus.

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