19 Jan

Morning Hunger

The air is bitter, its winter wind brutal, and barren trees feel the cold not only in their branches, but in their trunks as well, creaking to their core. The tamed timbers of the house creek too as the wind outside thunders by like a train. The house shivers.

Steam rises from the mug cupped in my hands. I breathe in its warmth and await my morning guests.

Outside the window, a frozen tundra blankets the yard. Snow has fallen overnight, and in the morning light snowflakes dance with the wind. I wonder whether the snow has, in fact, stopped falling from the sky. Such is the power of the wind, its spirit seen only in the movement of those it touches. I watch the snowy dance.

Before long, my guests begin to arrive. Where they came from I do not know, but they approach on feathered wings and they too dance with the wind. One by one, they alight on the branches of a nearby tree like perched ornaments. Then, taking turns – and sometimes not – they begin to feast at the feeder swaying outside the window.

Dark-eyed juncos are the first to feast. They look like a community of mendicant monks just back from morning prayer. Dressed in feathered black habits, they dine together, leaping from branch to feeder and back to branch again. Black-capped chickadees soon join the banquet, and before long word has spread to the tufted titmouse. Even the nuthatch, creeping down the trunk of the tree in his oddball way, sneaks in for a bite.

A flash of red darts through the sky and perches in the tree. The lone cardinal watches and waits. I do the same. He looks familiar, this bird dressed in red. As if we’ve met before. Perhaps we have.

Without warning, he bounds on the feeder and the smaller birds take flight. He pecks at the sunflowers, but not for long, for the backyard bully is in flight. The blue jay arrives, crashing into the feeder and sending seeds scattering like a torn piñata. Chickadees and juncos plod along the snowy ground, scavenging for birdfeeder flotsam.

A howling gust of wind soars by, sending the birds back to their hiding spots. I take a sip from my mug. Warmth pours through my body.

The banquet never gets old, and day after day it feeds my soul. Why, I wonder, as I take another sip.

Perhaps it is because somehow, birds have found a way to harness the wind, capturing its spirit and giving them the gift of flight. Angels have wings, after all.

And so it is that I find myself returning to this daily feast, in envy and in awe of our winged brothers and sisters, and longing to capture the spirit as well.

With their banquet over and the feeder and trees deserted, I slip on a hat and coat and retreat to the yard. The door almost blows off its hinges as I leave the house behind.

I force it shut, and join the wind.

04 Apr

Easter morn

Looking out the kitchen window on Easter morning, I discover four cardinals perched in the branches of the ornamental dogwood tree.

Though spring has arrived, the tree still holds onto its winter dress – woody branches and nothing more. Its buds, leaves and blooms have not yet begun to take form.

The four birds dance from branch to branch in the barren tree. Their bright red feathers bring the tree to life, providing a glimpse of the blooms soon to come.

The cardinals dance on the wood, as if painting the tree red.

Then, as quickly as they appeared, together they take flight and ascend skyward.

Blood on the cross begets the resurrection.

13 Feb

Visitors

Robin at Sunset

"Robin at Sunset" (Molly, Age 5)

It was a bad day for the worms. Frozen for weeks, the snow-covered ground thawed in one of those misleading warm February days that hint at spring. Mud replaced the snow, and the worms had nowhere to hide.

Just before dusk, the birdfeeder freshly filled, the robins came calling. Well over a hundred red-breasted birds descended upon the lawn from every direction, and my daughter and I found ourselves witness to a winged winter’s picnic. It was as if a piñata had been opened up as the birds frantically gorged in the mud. They flew by our heads without care, their beaks too eager to take advantage of the thaw. They knew better than to think spring was here. The thaw was fleeting, better seize the day!

Excited by the sudden visitors, Molly ran inside and came back a moment later with her notebook, a pen, and some crayons. We perched ourselves in a nook next to the forsythia, where just a few minutes before she was trying to make friends with a rabbit by hurling some lettuce and carrots at it.

Now, sitting with canvas in hand, Molly began to draw the scene before her. Robins frolicked in their manic state, flying, hopping, and pecking all around us. It was a race against time, for the freeze would come in the cover of night and the worms would be safe come morning. The birds gorged, the sky bled red, and the sun began to show signs of calling it a day.

We sat there in our invisible state, witness to God’s creation, and visitors in our own backyard.

20 Nov

Wings

It was a grey November afternoon, the air cold but not too cold, the sky dark but not too dark. I sat in my car at the traffic light and a flock of starlings caught my attention. Simultaneously, hundreds of them ascended from a barren tree on the side of the road, black dots starting to the heavens in communal flight.

Skyward they went, circling vertically through the air. Then in unison they swayed left, then right, then circling again. I kept waiting for them to settle on a direction, presumably south, and fade into the distance as black specks carried off by the wind. They didn’t, though. Rather, they kept dancing with the wind in a display of aerial acrobatics.

For a moment I questioned the leadership in the group. Was it indecisiveness that kept them from choosing a direction? Or was it the wind, perhaps too strong or too swirling to keep the birds on course?

Then, as if a conductor signaled the final sudden note of a symphony, the troupe of starlings danced their way back to the empty tree. Blackness covered the branches.

As the light turned green and I shifted into first, a realization came to me. Perhaps these birds weren’t lacking leadership. Perhaps they weren’t noncommittal in their destination. Maybe the wind wasn’t overpowering after all. Rather, perhaps the birds were simply taking advantage of what they were born with – their wings!

To dance with the wind! What a gift – to truly make the most of the gifts given to us!

Dance on, little starling! Dance on!