Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Spiritual Practice of Backyard Birding


I have a daily spiritual practice that includes sitting on my back porch in silence, pondering the lives of birds while also keeping my eyes roaming through the multi-layered habitat of my backyard.  There daily dramas play out among the complex social systems that don’t really have a lot to do with my own ego concerns. 

A few days ago a movement in one young Magnolia tree revealed an immature Red-shouldered hawk that flew to an adjoining tree.  There, in a newly fledged way of beholding the world, he or she watched the ground closely.  Following the hawk’s eyes I saw a Florida Box Turtle ambling along the edge of lawn and woodland, his bambooed patterned shell well worth my gaze, and perhaps the hawk's as well. After several minutes the hawk flew away and the turtle disappeared into the ground cover, perhaps bored with one another and the terrain of our lawn. (I say lawn although that is liberally applied – it’s more like mowed “whatever that wants to grow here, may.”


From that same Magnolia tree a Mourning dove fluttered to the ground, followed by a Ruby-throated hummingbird who hovered over the dove and then flew away.  A minute later another dove joined the other, this one too chased by the hummingbird, who in one still moment was the apex of a relationship triangle formed by doves and hummer. 

As I considered my role as observer in this geometric biologic form, the Red-shouldered returned, and as it flew across the back yard, the doves erupted into a whirlwind of wing beats.  Now alone I wondered about my place in this drama playing out between the chaser and the chasee.  Am I just an impartial watcher?  Am I part of their world they create with each other?

I believe that I am.  They respond to each other, and in my distanced voyeurism, I create a beautiful world with them, and now with you.  We each take into our holy interiors stimuli from shared exterior worlds, actors, directors, audiences each of us in every moment as we both chase after beauty and life, and are chased by tragedy and death. 

Seeing these winged wonders play out this ancient chase game, I imagine myself as if a little girl squealing in a game of tag, fearful of the chase yes, while also half wanting to be caught by the fierceness of life and death so that I may remain free.  Tag, this moment is it.



 Florida  Box Turtle (photo by Jonathan Zander)


No comments:

Post a Comment