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When the days became shorter and colder, our household made a commitment to feed the birds this winter, all winter.  We weren’t planning to go away. We always have binoculars on the windowsills and have enough pocket money for suet and seeds. Daily check-in, refilling, scattering, restocking, out in the rain, snow and storm, it’s joyful wok.  And what rewards!

Is there anything more beautiful than a Northern Flicker? How remarkable is the little dance that fox sparrows do, scratch, step forward, scratch step back. You want to see a song sparrow sit still flick flick tail just for once? Cold and hungry, they do, for a few seconds.  And the surprises!  Have you ever gazed at the back of a downy woodpecker hanging on the window side of a suet feeder? Notice a  Mondrian display of white black rectangles with a bright red circle.

Like Lenten practices, bird feeding is a commitment. Once you’re in it, it’s too late to quit but never too soon to start.  Did I mention the rodent control, the debris sweeping, the wind-blown lost feeders? Good thing it’s too cold for the bears to help themselves; they like to crunch the hanging feeders.

 In there for the long haul? In this bleary, grey, socially restricted winter, Easter celebrations feel a long way off.  Like committing to feed birds till Spring, it’s too late to cease the commitments to prayer, fasting and confident hope for the coming of the reign of peace and justice. We’ve come so far now,  and though it’s possible and forgivable to have a relapse for a day or two, Lent attention just has a compelling forward movement of its own.

The birdfeeders will come down just when the nestlings appear, bears not yet, but before the fledglings are too young to eat the newly sown seeds in the raised vegetable beds.

As for peace and justice to be established, it’s already here, though not yet fully grown. How do we know that? We know it because that same accomplishing Spirit is the courage that keeps us faithfully committed to practices that feed us as well as feed the birds. The One who will establish it in the long haul is in it now with us as we commit to repair and restoration of the earth and the systems that have so injured it.

From present moment to present moment; that’s a definition of eternity because in eternity there is no time.  No past, no future only the everlasting present moment by moment. When you gaze on birds, charmed and captivated by their loveliness and squabbles, you are in the present moment. When a time of quietude in Lent takes you away from your daily, sometimes dreary, tasks and  preoccupations, you are in the present moment. Probably the birds are always in it.

There is a flock of small darting shapes on the ground below a feeder when the dawn light appears.  What a scurry.  But suddenly, whoosh; they all vanish.  Two seconds later, a Sharp- shinned hawk settles on the nearby branch; she’s in it for the long haul too but hopefully no haul.

Hannah Main-van der Kamp, bird watcher and writer, lives in Powell River and worships at St David and St Paul.  Eyes on hawks, she plants her seed peas with an eye on birds.


Photo: Downy woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) on the feeder with suet, hung in the backyard for the winter

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