Tuesday, November 27, 2012

birdsong in grey skies

Small is the worth
 Of beauty from the light retired:
 Bid her come forth,
 Suffer herself to be desired,
 And not blush so to be admired.
--Edmund Waller, Go Lovely Rose

This morning, I ran around the lakes. They are like two pools of melancholy. They reflect the sadness of the clouds.
I stopped at the Grotto as I walked home. And I knelt down, surrendering myself into silence. But the sound of silence was broken by a very shocking noise: the trilling little songs of birds. I hadn't heard a bird sing in so long. It seemed very strange on a day that was on the cusp of winter. The springtime joy that was inherent in the voices of the little birds was shockingly bold to hear on a dull November day. Bold young things, singing with all their little avian hearts, full of unmeasurable joy, without any regard for the season.

Animals have an uncanny self-awareness that is often invisible, but sometimes flares up out of nowhere. If you look a squirrel in the eye, you can just see it's little rodent brain calculating how much it trusts you vs. how much it wants the food in your hand vs. how much of a sucker it thinks you are. It's goal: achieve the stale bagel bit dangling in front of it; and sometimes a little playful gleam will sparkle in it's eye, like it knows how much joy you get from feeding it, and how silly he thinks this whole operation is, but how much fun he's having anyway. Squirrels are little flirts, and if they could talk, I don't think they would deny it. 

It takes a lot of courage for a bird to sing in November. In the height of summer, the outdoors are alive and bursting with life, a little bird can barely help but sing. It's a natural response to the incarnate Joy that's bursting through the world. It raises its little voice to add it's own beauty to the harmonious cacophony that envelops the world. In high autumn, its little bird voice is a musical version of the colorful symphony of leaves raining down from the trees. Joyful movement is the theme of the season. But November is silence and stillness. And in the midst of the silence, a single bird singing stands out like candle in the dark. It can't be easy to muster up the courage to sing when the cold is setting in. But once one little sparrow starts singing, if you listen, you'll hear two or three more join in--encouraging him, and adding their music to his own. Their love for each other creates an oasis of warmth, in the desert of cold. And safe in that little summer they've created together, they find their voices.

Zelda Fitzgerald says that nobody has ever measured how much a human heart can hold. I think if you could write down a birdsong, you might be able to.

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