When I moved to Amsterdam in 2015, there was a much needed quietness. I couldn’t understand the language so even if on a train, tram or bus … I was protected from chatter, opinion and politics.

I can not recall how long this lasted - maybe just until my understanding of language and the expression of talking - stopped me completely retreating.

I also realised that while I was choosing to give myself a break from ‘talking’. Amsterdam was actually a very noisy place - birds singing, woodpeckers pecking, ducks quacking, and Rose-ringed parakeets.

It make sense and much research supports that ‘natural environments, and  particularly visual stimuli in nature, are usually perceived as restorative following stress and attention fatigue’,

Researchers from  Kings College London published a study in 2018 testing the effects of exposure to nature on mental health. Birdsong improved people’s mental well being - and not only was relaxing, it reduced our ‘impulsivity‘… making people more deliberate. 

Yet it was interesting to read Eleanor Ratcliffe perspective on this topic. 

Personal connection to nature may also influence how restorative birds and their sounds are perceived to be by different individuals. While existing theoretical approaches to restorative environments generally view connection to nature as a general human trait, recent work in the fields of connectedness to nature suggests that this may vary individually (e.g. Mayer & Frantz, 2004). 

Birdsong recurs as a type of sound used in such studies, but little is known about restorative perceptions of bird sounds on their own and how these may relate to existing theories of environmental restoration.

To extrapolate, not all birds may be perceived as restorative, and not all listeners may find them restorative. As such, it seems sensible to explore how personal associations with different birds and their sounds, as well as one's overarching relationship with the natural world, might influence the extent to which they are considered beneficial for restoration.

While bird song and calls were found to be the type of natural sound most commonly associated with perceived stress recovery and attention restoration. However, not all bird sounds were regarded as helpful for such processes. 

Three themes formed the basis of these perceived relationships: 

  • affective appraisals, 
  • cognitive appraisals, and 
  • relationships with nature.

Sub-themes of the acoustic, aesthetic, and associative properties of bird sounds were also related to restorative perceptions. 

7th January 2022

I am not one for making New Years Resolutions. More spending time focused on what I either need or enjoy *but have little time for). Then spending time - in a focused way - increasing its presence in my life.

On the 7th January 2022, I was lying on my back, floating in an outdoor swimming pool and saw this ‘almost bird shaped cloud’ in the sky.

It was glorious. 

I choose to understand it as visual confirmation that ‘everything was going to be ok’. It was the day (the still yet to develop) ‘Project 42’ was formed. Later, arriving home - my natural nature (the optimist) crumbled. I realised I needed to see more of the sky - a daily intent - but the what I had seen was a warning. Life shattered. 

A selection of the sky - seen at the worst and ‘just hanging in there’ days.

Without recalling the date; on the way back from dropping the children at school, I stopped, sat on a nearby bench and listened to the two birds chattering. In the middle of the park, filled with friendly faces - I know I felt it important enough to record, but was it the bird sound alone?

During my intent to see the sky more - there was one view that fascinated me more than most. The layers of reflections and differing perspectives add to the sky by the time of day, or angle or window. It reminded me of  La cathédrale engloutiePrelude by Claude Debussy.

The perspectives, the gazing, seeing new - saw a re burst of brain overdrive, a foundation of ideas. Then one evening the comment  - mid conversation - was made ‘your ideas are dependent on my windows’.

I miss the view, but not the individual - but that’s a whole story for another day

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