The year 2020 is quickly coming to an end and for some it brought good memories and for others it brought sad ones. It definitely was a unique year of learning how little we can live without and how much our connection with people and the great outdoors means to each and every one of us. Some of us lost some loved ones for one reason or another and others remain to continue fulfilling our lives with joy, understanding and contentment.

I found the garden had extra special meaning for me as I spent more time in it, and there were so many symbolic elements that brought a smile to my face each and every day. I would also have to say it kept me from going stir crazy on various levels as there was so much unrest that surrounded us all. The garden was our one place of grounding, humility and joy. The beauty that I saw in everything around me will carry me through the winter season with ease. I have already started my to-do list for next year’s plans.

This isn’t to say that I feel the garden season is done, it has just taken on a different appearance but I still get rewarded with the views frequently. Unlike the color of spring, summer and fall that is so plentiful in the garden, winter brings less color and more activity. The birds are more apparent in winter over most other seasons and nothing obscures them from view.

Bird watching is a great pastime for me in the dormant season as I love to see how many different types enjoy themselves at the feeders. It may seem silly, but I find it quite relaxing and enjoyable, not to mention rejuvenating.

So far, the birds I have seen are purple finches, redpolls, various sparrows, rose-breasted nuthatches and regular ones, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, even the infrequent red-bellied woodpecker, and we can’t forget the blue jays!! Many other people see grosbeaks, pileated woodpeckers and cardinals, but I am still waiting on them.

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Along with the beauty that birds bring into the garden comes some symbolic meanings of lore. For instance, the eagle symbolizes pride, longevity and inspiration. That would make sense, as every time I see a bald eagle soar above, I am placed into a sense of awe and grandeur. They seem to have that elegance and great self-esteem that no other presents.

Our common sparrows symbolize hard work, persistence and productivity. That also makes sense to me as they don’t stand out over any others but they are always busy doing something and seem to be content doing their thing while going unnoticed. There is a special kind of grace that comes with making a difference without seeking the limelight.

The blue jay symbolizes truth, faithfulness, solidarity, endurance and loyalty. Most of us are familiar with the loud noise they can make with their squawking trying to stand out in a crowd. Some call them bullies while others call them territorial, but the hidden fact lies beneath their noise with their desire to be monogamous and faithful to their partner. They are one of the birds that stay with the same mate for life.

Many of us are aware of the symbolism of the dove. They resonate beauty, hope and peace and give us all a little more in which to be grateful. The symbol of the dove is used for many different events internationally, often with an olive branch in its mouth to show that peace is the desired goal all around the world.

The cardinal is a unique bird that shows another symbolic representation that is very meaningful to most. It represents courtship, loving relationships and devotion. In Native American lore, it is known as the messenger of the spirit world. It is said that every time you spot a cardinal it is the visiting spirit of a loved one long gone. How wonderful to think that those we have lost have ways to come and visit us at various times to let us know we are being watched over and checked upon. For me, that is a very comforting experience and event.

With the onset of the new year ahead, why not look at some of the symbolism in life that surrounds us and try to take solace in the fact that we are never alone. Each day brings a new discovery and also creates a new memory that will last forever.

The garden may seem like it is asleep during this time, but it is alive and well and continuing to make new things while creating old memories. Here is to starting the new year off with an amazing beginning ... in all areas. Appreciate all things in life, not just those that are the obvious.