I’ve been watching the birds at the feeder out the dining room window. Before this particular feeder, which hangs from the house, and can be filled merely by opening the window, I had tried others. These others were all out in the back yard, visible, but not reachable from the house, so I had to go outside to fill them up. This fill up did not happen as often as it should have. It did not happen when I had to pull on boots and wade through snow. It did not happen when I had to put on a coat because it was -4. And it did not happen in warmer weather when the grass was wet with the dew and I only had on slippers. In short, because at the time I bought the first feeders I did not know my limitations (anything that required effort), I was a crap bird whisperer.
Now, however, firmly aware of these limitations and with the feeder nice and reachable, it is almost always full, both of birds and seeds. Occasionally also athletic squirrels, who launch themselves from a nearby bush onto the window screen and then, with some smugness, transfer themselves to the feeder. Whenever this happens I start to muse on what it would take to electrify the screen.
Personal fecklessness and squirrels were not meant to be part of this post. It appears they crept in while I was busy establishing a background. What I meant to write about was how just looking at nature can be, in the very loosest of loose sense, a kind of lectio divina. Invariably, when seen from my dining room, the coloring of the different birds as they all flock together reminds me of the Church with it’s diversity of charisms, people and history.
There are the juncos with their white underbodies and black capes. These winter birds, who are supposed only to forage on the ground, but who nonetheless like my feeder, are the Dominicans. (Perhaps the added height makes it easier for them to preach.) The brown wrens are the Franciscans, while the little brown and white sparrows are the Carmelites. The chickadees, all white with their black scapulars and hoods are the Trappists. The house finches sporting their brown backs and red throats are the martyrs.
The house finches are generally pretty feisty. I would think that to end up a martyr you would have to be feisty. And of course there are the scarlet cardinals. There is a particularly round and pushy one I call Wolsey.
Like the people who make up the church, these birds don’t all get along. They don’t all have similar tastes. Some like the millet seeds and some prefer the sunflower seeds. They jostle for position. They save places on the feeder for their friends, but not for strangers. There are the entitled sorts who shovel the seeds out of the feeder and onto the ground, looking for the choicest bits. Then there are the ones on the ground who are grateful for what falls. Sometimes the ones, like the doves, who normally feed on the ground decide to take a different pew and you see them up on the feeder, confusing the rest of the flock and throwing everything out of order. In short, it’s a meditation on the church, on life, on foibles, on gifts, on gratitude and even on fecklessness. All appropriate for Holy Week.