Just when I think I’ve seen every different cardinal possible another appears. This one is probably a female, but her coloring is mostly grey, not the variations on a brown theme that I am used to seeing. Grey head, grey body with a fair dusting of red along the lower wings and tail feathers. She looks more like the black-headed scruffy cardinals than the sleeker ones. I am interested in the cardinals for two reasons: their coloring is so spectacular and they so often come in pairs to my feeder. I have even seen a male cardinal feed seed to a female several times.
With the house finches I am not so sure that when a male and a female are at my feeder that they are a couple. With the cardinals it seems clear, because they relate to each other. Now in the case of the chickadees or the titmice, they are almost always male, as far as I can tell. The birds entertain me when I look up from my writing these days and always lift my spirits. Looking up from the screen gives me a needed break from all the mental work.
Birds and the rest of the natural world provide me with beauty which my eyes seek at every turn. I can’t state this strongly enough—I need beauty! I can feel my body relax into a beautiful vista, into the recognition of the thousand shades of green on a hillside in front of me, at the sighting recently of two teenage raccoons crossing Hillside Road, seemingly unsure of where they were going, or at the sight of the flowers planted along the freeway. I need beauty and nature for my own spiritual nourishment. Beauty is ubiquitous and gratuitous. We don’t have to do anything to earn it, but it’s always available. Beauty is God’s way of gifting us with something that stops us in our tracks, lifts us out of whatever mood we are in and returns our attention right back to him(repent in Biblical terms), if we are willing.
Besides beauty I am nourished by God in other ways, too: in the blessing of good friends, in the midst of my family, in the treasured honesty of a small group, in my work and in inspiration particularly. I am so dependent on God’s Spirit for inspiration. I keep a notebook nearby on my couch (where I meditate and write), in the car, by my bedside; into these notebooks I write down anything that occurs to me in a fresh way, not in the way I habitually think. The ideas come singly or in great rushes; they come for the book and the blogs I am writing, for the retreats I’m leading or now for the small group I am co-leading. If I listen carefully, the Spirit will guide me through my day, helping me set agendas, prioritize items on the list and bless each encounter that I have. I have learned over the years of listening that there is a right time to do things, not in the linear, headstrong way that our culture teaches, but often more circuitously and more sensitively that I can imagine. Just listening to the Spirit provides me with ample resources for whatever I need to do or say.
Through icons or nature, crosses or religious books, people talking about what is important to them and more, there are as many reminders of God as there are people and all the things in nature. We join with likeminded people in our churches or temples, but still we have to make our own way by listening to how the Spirit of God calls each of us. We don’t need teachers or gurus, we just need to pay attention to what wisdom God offers through our own DNA; God takes into account our talents, even weaknesses, and desires. He has a particular program for each of us, if we will but attend to all the signals he sends.