Thin Spaces, and the Joy of Birds
I remember the first bird that piqued my interest in taking up the hobby of birding —it was the strangest thing I’d ever seen! It about thirty years ago, and this fellow was sitting as still as you please under a tree in my backyard. I was able to draw a terrible rendering of it and mailed it to a birder friend. After she finished laughing at my artistic skills, she wrote back and said it appeared to be a Northern Flicker, and it was a very good bird to see in the backyard. I went to the yellow pages to find a local bird store (did such things exist? yep, they did), marched in, bought a field guide and some binoculars, and signed up for classes. I was hooked.
Over the years, I became known as the bird mom at my children’s school — I would teach them about bird song (ask me sometime about the bird clock chorus lesson) and migration, about creating bird friendly habitats in their own backyards, and how to make their own bird feeders. I would take small groups of them out to a local lake and show them the beautiful spring warblers with their vibrant colors, the thrushes with their musical instrument-like songs, the tiny nests of the hummingbirds and the funny ground nests of the killdeer, and the raptors and other large birds that were always hanging around in the shadows, or way up in the sky.
One of the things I learned when I did my research for these lessons came from my great grandmother’s King James Bible, with its pages falling out. There was a section at the back entitled “Aids to the Student of the Holy Bible,” and in the section about animals and creation, it had this ponderous statement about birds: “The creation birds is placed in Genesis after that of fishes and reptiles, and before mammals, in exact accord with what paleontology has indicated.” The kids thought that was way cool! (So did I; this Bible had to have been printed well over 100 years ago.)
The grounds of the Church of the Holy Comforter offer a phenomenal habitat for our avian neighbors, especially now that we’ve begun to clear the non-native plants while leaving those that birds and insects depend on for food, nesting, and shelter. I’d encourage you to stop by the church early in the morning some day and sit on one of the benches by the labyrinth (or walk the labyrinth — just don’t put on your earphones and listen to music while walking!) Listen to the songs, to the chattering and chipping, to the skittering through the grass and the trees. Come again in the evening, at dusk, and you’ll hear all different songs and sounds (again, ask me about that bird clock chorus!) Close your eyes. Breathe.
Lots of folks at Holy Comforter like to talk about “thin spaces”, which to me means places where the distance between heaven and earth, between God and me, feels thinner, feels closer. I’ve just described to you what the everyday thin space is like to me — the grounds of the sacred space where my church family will someday come together again, in the company of those creatures that defy gravity and soar above us, singing their own praises to the same God. This is bliss.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members