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I still remember last spring’s epiphany. It was bone silent, mysterious. Outside my opened window, night’s remnants slicked the fresh-leaved redbud tree with Van- Gogh-like brush strokes.

A solitary chirp nudged the stillness. It was beginning. More chirps swelled the darkness, intermingled by piercing trills; then warbles; then whistles; then pipes; then chucks; then full-throated songs colored the tracings of light in the sky. The chorus became unbearable until it subsided into isolated sighs. Then, stillness returned like a brooding mother upon her clutch.

With the stillness came the imprint of having been touched, deeply; in its wake, an impetus to prayer, in any expression: contemplation, dance, words, or painting—Whatever it took to honor the experience and share it with others before being lost in busyness: anathema to the spiritual.

In other centuries, birds were revered for their supernatural powers as co-creators and messengers of the gods. The Raven was one of these; it was venerated by natives along the Pacific Northwest for bringing light to humans, lost in impenetrable darkness. Closer to our time, the Brothers Grimm’s discovery of two folk tales, “The Raven,” and “The Seven Ravens,” nuanced the folklorists’ imaginative handling of this image as it evolved through time.

The seasonal presence of birds, especially at dawn, speaks of a Divine order at work, now as well as in the past. We have only to be still and listen and allow their color-sounds to swell us with hope.

 

 

Plank! Plank! Plankkk! Plunkkk!

I still remembered how it was, the tension in my shoulders softening into pastel squiggles on holiday.

Again, I heard them, only more distinct. Plonk! Plonkk! Plink! My heart quickened. Down the wide steps, I flew, passing the Linnaeus house, skirting raised flowerbeds and withered grasses—still wintering, then pausing before the bronze sculpture of fish reflected in the pool. I was alone, my breath strewn about by winds with hiccoughs.

 

 

Plankkk! Plunk! Plink! They’re getting closer. Ahead of me, the weathered gazebo invited respite, but not that day. I’d come for the performance, and I was never disappointed.

Ahead of me, the granitoid walk turned the corner and I, with it.

To my right was the granddaddy of wind chimes. I stopped, then focused upon this towering array of handcrafted bronze chimes, each design unique. To reassure me of its presence, I gentled my fingers over a lower chime, hooded and cold, an ivy traced around its circumference, then struck the clapper hung from its chain: Plink! Plink! Vibrations strangely fired my inner core, then left me within soothing colors. Then, relaxed upon the bench, I let the winds compose and play the morning’s offering. The hoped-for communion always happened.

 

 

Thus prepared, I walked the perimeter of the Missouri Botanical Garden and felt its wiggle-room of life impinging my senses. There would be spring.

Frequent excursions into such vistas helped formulate my Creator God, nurturing me from season to season, as well. I’ve been wintering for some time…

 

Within the dense viburnum shrub outside my study window, an orange-red flicker caught my attention until breezes hid it from view. I waited until the leaves again parted to reveal a female cardinal nesting her clutch. Beneath her long tail was the cone-shaped nest of leaves, stems, and twigs. She seemed content, her pointed feather crest bespeaking her authority as mother. For at least two weeks, her body warmth will facilitate the hatching.

This experience of nesting also recalled the Italian sonnet, “God’s Grandeur” composed by the mystic Gerard Manley Hopkins in 1877, the year of his ordination as a Jesuit. In the octet he discounts the evils of Liverpool’s Industrial Revolution dulling the sensitivities of the residents: “…all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil/and wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell…” Yet for the spiritually adept in the sestet, Hopkins images the Holy Ghost “…over the bent/World broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.”

In view of global disease and unrest challenging our way of life, these images afford critical protection and care, there being evil intent upon rocking our foundations and disseminating fear. No one knows the outcome of this upheaval, how it will look like or when it will occur. Within quiet cloisters of our hearts, we watch and wait and pray. In the religious history of the world, there has always been a remnant that has survived and told the story to those willing to listen. Perhaps this will be our experience.

However this crisis works out, we’re always sheltered from harm like fledglings warmed by nesting birds, both natural and supernatural. Such is our God-given faith.

 

 

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