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Last evening, it happened again outside my study window. Breezes parted the dense foliage of the summer snowflake viburnum shrub and a glimmer of red shot through—what looked like almond-shaped red feathers on the top of the cardinal’s head; around him, a twiggy nest. He may have been there through the night.

And this morning, his mate was in full view making her way up through the branches toward the nest. There, she remained, hidden. Like last year, she and her mate selected a protected site for their brood and their later frantic feeding.

Preparing for fledgling life continues.

Outside my study window, eye level with my computer, winter’s fierce breath had stripped the bush of leaves obscuring the nest, long abandoned by its parents. Only last spring did the brownish-orange flicker of the cardinal’s wing alert me to her presence as she sat upon the nest, occasionally changing position of her wings; beneath her, her eggs. In spare moments I watched, thrilling when her mate fed her a glistening worm dappled by the sun. Nine days passed.

More high drama evolved with the birth of two chicks, their yellow mouths grimacing for food; insects, the first few days, then regurgitated seeds, fed by both parents. With this nutrition, the chicks quickly feathered out and stretched their wings into each other.

However, loss crumpled me the morning I discovered the empty nest. According to my information, the family had another three days of feeding before moving on. And cardinals never return to old nests; new nests for new life.

This experience mirrors my present one: the emptiness of my spirit, ill suited for my eighty-five-year-old body. Bereft of dream recall, of significant images, I move into each twenty-four hours seeking Higher Power’s guidance and support. Yet composing this blog evidences Another’s supplying the words.

I am not alone, but must wait before abandoning my nest. It’s not up to me.

Pre-dawn raindrops glisten the leaves of the viburnum shrub outside my study window as the sky lightens and clothes the backyard with color. Another morning tiptoes with expectations for more cardinal feedings: their chicks, newly winged and feathered, beaks ravenous for more mashed seeds. Last evening, the chicks flitted around the nest like little princesses at their first ball. Such was their beginnings as fledglings.

Hours pass. No flickers of red/brown wings zoom toward the nest. No brown tail hugs its side. No breezes disturb the branches of the viburnum. All is strangely quiet, unlike other mornings the past ten days, alive with feedings, zinging back and forth. A sickening sense grips me: the cardinal family is gone. It was their time.

I am both impoverished and enriched. No longer will I squeal in delight with beak-to-beak feedings. No longer will I marvel at their alighting and takeoff, branches trembling with movement. No longer will I study their symmetrical wings, preening in the sun.

But I’m also enriched. My psyche will forever carry the imprint of the cardinals’beauty, their chirrup, their instinctual caring. They knew to abandon the nest for the continued rearing of their chicks, its usefulness completed.

Other lessons gleaned from these winged creatures also enhance my practice of CPA’s Twelve Steps: accepting life on life’s terms, willingness, teachability, letting go, trusting in the continued feedings, from wherever they come.

And Jesus of Nazareth loved birds: Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Mt 6:26)

Whole-hearted surrender must follow…


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