The Gift of the Treecreeper

The gift of the Treecreeper

Ian Harper


Lockdown number three. Both teaching on-line from the laptop in our small flat, my partner and I are sharing out the time with our toddler now not allowed to attend nursery. We have few moments to ourselves. Exhaustion – the hypopituitary induced sort that I am now learning to live with - pervades my being and presses down on everything. We are struggling to get from moment-to-moment.


Yet there are flashes of joy. I increasingly have this deepening sense that life, all life, is a gift. In one of our local gardens in Edinburgh the other day, on a snatched moment of time alone, I paused on the lower path above the Waters of Leith. There is a simple exercise that I have picked up from Toni Bernhard’s book How to be Sick that I find useful when I am distracted and stressed. It allows us to recognise that lost in the whirring of thoughts (usually, for me, tinged with anxiety) I need to pause. And so I take three breaths, to focus on the movement of the chest rising and falling, the air passing in, then out.


Lukasz Szmigiel Jfcviyfycus UnsplashAnd on this occasion, with the consequent arrest of my whirring mind that this simple action induced, I noticed a Treecreeper on the trunk of a denuded tree, striking with its white front and short curved beak. It sidled up and around and out of sight. And above this on a branch was a Redwing, one of the migrant thrushes that winter here in Scotland, and although I have usually seen these in large flocks this one was alone. Then, in the same tree, a Coal Tit, recognised because of its white stripe on the back of its head, part of a flock of foraging birds, with many Long Tailed Tits, the most lovely of this species. Behind, a flash of yellow diverted my gaze and it belonged to a Wagtail that alighted on a rock at the side of the river, whose flow and volume had gathered momentum with the melting snows. The Wagtail, true to its name, bobs up and down, its tail “wagging” behind it. Jackdaws that roost in the arches of the high arched bridge above cawed and swooped. My line of sight is drawn upwards, across the river and up the bank, up across the tenement flats towards the clouds, the cotton wool contrast with the blue of the morning sky striking. And in these few moments, I sensed how interconnected we all are - that the water in the clouds feeds the rushing river, and in this January day there is the sense that spring is emerging through this seemingly oh so long winter as we move towards the annual cycle of the re-emergence of life.


This was the Treecreeper’s gift this morning, to which it remained oblivious. It lightened my step for the remainder of the day.