The Realms We Do Not See
I birdwatch. I am dreadful at some of it -- the warblers and seagulls drive me mad when I try to identify them. The same seagull can look wildly different depending on its age and the time of year. And the warblers move so fast and are just different in subtle ways. But I love to birdwatch nonetheless. And I think the gulls and warblers get a secret kick out of my frustration. (I occasionally imagine that I hear them snickering amongst themselves, especially the gulls.)
The first time I went officially birdwatching was when my sister-in-law (who has been an avid birder since childhood) took me on a birding day in Colorado when she was visiting us during the time we lived there. I was prepared to be bored witless. But I love Nancy, so I went. Grudgingly.
Oh my how I loved it. Being with a birder who knew what she was doing made it so much fun. It gave me all the thrill of a great hunt, except (thankfully) I didn't have to kill anything. It appealed to my love of nature, my intellect and my affection for challenge. I was hooked.
I am a casual watcher. I have good binos, but not extreme binos. I have great field guides, but a sloppy "life list". I watch for the joy of it and as a meditative practice.
What? A meditative practice? Yup.
To watch birds is to become very silent, very focused, and entirely in "the now". Everything inside calms down and a serene sense of place-awareness kicks in. Suddenly you begin to notice the meta-world that surrounds you every day - the world of birds. Each day we encounter 100's of them and do not even notice them. They are barely blips on the oscilloscope of our consciousness. They live and mate and die and sing and soar virtually unheeded. Until we decide to watch.
Then suddenly this vibrant universe of flying beings comes into view. Oh, unheeded magnificence! Un-noticed drama! The background becomes the foreground and the world slips away. It is a remarkable sensation.
On a summer's day, to sit quietly in the woods and to notice the slightest flash of a wing amidst the leaf canopy -- ah, delight.
Birdwatching is also a metaphor for all the universes we do not see around us because we are focused elsewhere. For those of us who live in comfort, that universe could be the world of poverty. For those of us who live in countries of plenty, that universe could be starving, war-torn countries in Africa. For those of us who live selfishly, that universe could be the feelings of those around us.
The world of Nature is a profound and challenging gift from God. There in front of us is all this magnificence -- other entire realms of drama and beauty -- asking only that we protect and love it. Yet there are times when we do not even see it.
My wish for all reading this is that you can take some time this week to be still in Nature, whether that is the woods, a park, your backyard, the desert or a mountainside -- and allow its birds to teach you its intricate lessons.