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It’s catching … desperate need for discernment …

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…



A flash of red trembles the branch outside my study window. It is the cardinal, its orange-red beak clamped with greens intended for its mate, brooding over their nest that is secluded by shadowy leaves from an upper branch. Another shimmering of red lands the cardinal upon the side of the nest, inserting food into the opened beak of its mate, then flaps off, but not for long.

Again, the cardinal alights upon the nest, this time with a black seed in its beak. For five days, such feedings have heartened me, only to become more numerous after their chicks are born. For now, it’s about guarding their eggs from predators and waiting. Whispering breezes gentle this event.

I’m in good company as I also wait in my comfy home, its décor painstakingly assembled like the cardinals’ nest layered with twigs, leaves, grasses, and feathers. I, too, am in vital need of feeding lest I grow weary of my transition and lose heart. My hungers are deep. This morning, Eunice, the hospice chaplain, stopped by and listened, while my helper Tracy prepared a tasty lunch of baked bass and vegetables.

Paradoxically, as I am fed, a corresponding emptiness yawns in my psyche, stretching my purview into the unknown, fraught with the unimaginable. Like plucked violin strings, trust marshals my resolve toward deeper surrender of the inevitable. With this process comes loneliness: alone I was birthed into this existence and alone I will leave.

Like fledglings, I’m all mouth…


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