The air is heavy this morning, fog still waiting the burn or maybe a storm’s announcing its intention to visit. Still, I’m outside sitting with pen and journal in hand and steaming, or at least still warmish, coffee beside me.
I greet most days this way, if rain hasn’t usurped me and taken my seat at the table out here. It’s my touchstone for the day, my place to connect with myself and with God and with His creation. At least as much of His creation as I can see, seated here behind my tucked-into-the-woods house.
I see the cherry tree, the one that sits halfway down the hill where the yard drops off steep to meet the woods. Picking her offerings is not easy, standing on the side of that drop. I see it has fruited, but the fruit’s still green. It will be a couple of weeks before the pearls redden to sweet. I don’t usually pick them, leaving them for the birds to enjoy.
The birds greet me with symphony this morning, and every morning, and their song is always beautiful, sweet, and varied. On cloudy days like today it is more subdued. On days when the sun shines strong and clouds are thin and few, it is more robust. But it is always there, and it always delights me.
There are blackbirds that live here. They can be seen all hours of the day, hunting whatever edibles they can find in my lawn. This morning there are two, having quite a discussion in the pines that sit far across the expanse of yard. Truth be told, it sounds more like a robust quarrel than a discussion. They go hard at it, squawking and yelling and getting out their frustration with whatever it is that has become stuck under their respective craws, and then they fly off to somewhere else. Perhaps somewhere more suitable for an argument. Or perhaps they’d resolved their differences.
Then flits into view the tiniest bird I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what kind it is. It is black and white, and seems rather fluffy looking for a bird. It is alone, and it is silent. Not a peep. Literally.
It flits from the bush whose name I do not know – the one with the bright pink blooms that have long since bloomed and taken their leave – over to the maple tree whose name I do know, which hangs heavy over the patio and the table at which I sit. I have a giant umbrella set up over the table, because the maple is generous with sharing its droppings.
The bird darts to the bush, seems to think, and then darts back to the tree. This happens half a dozen times before her mate shows up. A matched set, now. Flitting not from bush to tree but from limb to limb on the same tree. She leads, he follows.
I have already decided, you see, that it is the female who was there first. Although I cannot confirm this. She leads him from limb to limb, and he follows as he followed her from wherever the two of them started to the tree whose branches they now investigate.
Oddly, neither of the two has made a sound. Or perhaps not oddly. They have each other, they are together. And unlike the blackbirds, they do not seem to be upset with each other.
She flutters off. Just like that. No warning, no chirping, no telling. Just up and leaves, flying to the crab-apple tree halfway across the yard.
Her mate hops to another branch on the maple tree. I see her in the crab-apple, across the way. Branch to branch. Hop. Hop. I wonder if he notices. I sort of don’t know if he does. I hope she waits for him.
She moves higher up in the tree and I think, oh please, please, wait for him. Don’t move so far away that he can’t find you.
I wait. He flits. She sits. The breeze stirs and my coffee is cold and I’ve quite forgotten what it was that I was going to write in my journal because the drama that is unfolding before my eyes is keeping me just a bit spellbound. And I know it’s just a couple of birds-whose-name-I-don’t-know, but still. Sometimes when we notice what seems insignificant, we can start to see what’s really important.
He moves away from the tree. But not, unfortunately, to his mate. Instead he lands on the laundry line, mid-way between his tree and her tree. I figure he’s home free. She’s still there, waiting on one of the upper crab-apple branches. I think she might want to let out a bit of a song, tell him she’s there. But she doesn’t.
He jumps to another part of the laundry line, and I have no idea how this bird has even survived when clearly, clearly, he cannot follow directions.
He does eventually make his way to her and to the crab-apple and they hop branch to branch on that tree for a while and still I have no idea what kind of birds they are and no idea what they sound like, because they are still maddeningly silent.
When she flies off from the tree, in search of whatever it is that she is in search of – food, or freedom, or adventure, or just the delight of an early summer morning – I know that he will follow her, even if it takes him a minute to realize she’s moved on. Or maybe it just takes some time for him to get up his gumption and leave the place he’s gotten used to.
They’re just birds doing the dance that birds do in the springtime morning. But it still looks to me like the dance that we humans do too. Asked to fly off to a new adventure, we sit and flit from branch to branch in the tree we know, but the One who leads us is flying somewhere even better. From low lying bush to a mid-sized maple, to the highest branches of a crab-apple tree and then beyond. We can stay on our safe branch. In our safe tree. We can always stay.
But if we follow? If we dare to fly to Him, dare to follow Him where He’s leading us, we will find more than food, more than delight, more than adventure even.
We will find freedom. And maybe even ourselves.