Last Post of the Summer

It’s fledgling time here in the country and just a few days ago I heard a bump as something collided with the screen door. I hoped the bird was okay. I looked around and sure enough, there was a baby bird sitting on the deck. It looked alive and fine, upright and staring. I walked slowly toward it, aware that I must look like a giant monster advancing. As I got close I bent down to scoop it up and put it somewhere safer, like on a tree branch and what did the little thing do? It opened its wide beak, still lined with the markers of yellow, and begged the giant monster for food. “I just got out of my nest and this is the only thing I know how to do,” it seemed to say. And what a lovely, innocent, trusting, chutzpah-like thing it was, too.

This is what I leave you for the summer–what that little veery demonstrated for me: Have faith in life and move forward with confidence.

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The Red-eyed Vireo and the Pope

Not eight feet outside my studio window, a red-eyed vireo has built a nest. It is a wondrous thing of fine birch bark, pine needles and spider silk. The spider silk not only holds it together, but also holds it suspended on the twigs. I have been watching the vireo daily and I’m impressed with the quiet, most decidedly non-instant gratification life she leads. She sits on the nest, sometimes with eyes closed, for hours on end. During thunderstorms and driving rainstorms (the little basket-nest tossing, but holding) she sits. Once or twice a day, her mate visits the tree next to her and sings out a few lines of his song to say “this place is taken.” I’m flattered they have chosen to build their nest so close to our nest, as it were. I feel like I’ve been accepted as a part of nature.

Observing this ordinary, but still wondrous, natural event brings Pope Francis’s recent Encyclical to mind. He knows what he’s talking about. We are from, of, and nurtured by nature, whether we know it or not. Our culture of instant gratification—the way we try to fill the holes in our souls with things—is a direct consequence of our emotional and physical separation from the natural world.

The closer we nest ourselves into the natural world–noticing it, living in it, absorbing it–the closer we are to the small rhythms that nurture our well-being.

Because what is well-being after all but simply a sense of belonging?

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