An offering for the Spiritual Journey group, comprised of faithful friends who gather on the first Thursday of each month. Today’s theme is “all things new.”
Spring arrives, clad in rich new vestments of green. Every day, more of the color ripples across the landscape. Here in the central part of North Carolina the Bradford pears have already exchanged their ethereal veil-clouds of wedding lace blossoms for something more matronly and verdant. A whirlwind ceremony, that five-minute flowering of pear.
The birds began preparing back in winter. Flashes of electric blue on my back deck; a brilliant bluebird, dropping by like a friendly neighbor. Darts of fiery red across the road while I’m driving; cardinals, making me stress over potentially ensnaring them in the grille (why DO they fly so low?). Today, a darling brown Carolina wren on my back deck—clearly doing Deacon of the Week rotation with the bluebird—singing its heart out, full-throated, unrestrained, magnificent. How can such a small bird have such a big voice? Bocelli can’t hold a candle to you, Little Wren. From the pines and budding hardwoods, bird choirs swell, as in the song “The King is Coming”:
Regal robes are now unfolding,
Heaven’s grandstand’s all in place,
Heaven’s choir now assembled,
Start to sing “Amazing Grace!”
All in earthly bird language, naturally… but no less celestial.
All but the finches, that is.
For several consecutive years a finch family has built a nest on my from door wreath and raised generations of little broods. I’d find a total of three baby-blue eggs in the nest, sometimes four, laid precisely between seven and eight o’clock every morning. My family has been treated to an insider’s view of the whole process, from nest-building to egg-laying to the hatching of tiny pink things so frail and helpless that a person might think they can’t possibly manage to stay alive; yet in no time they’re fledglings working on flying lessons. We’ve even had a batch of babies in the spring and another in summer; that makes for a long time of roping off my front-door bird sanctuary.
Then, with the advent of COVID-19 last March, a curious thing occurred. As the human world reeled, and became strapped in the strange straitjacket of pandemic, as businesses shut down, as hospitals and mortuaries overflowed, spring came anyway. Nature, in fact, outdid herself with resplendent finery. The finches came to build their nest as always and this little act of constancy lifted my flagging spirits: At least there will be baby birds to watch while we are all under stay-at-home orders.
But there were no eggs last spring. The nest remained empty all season. The finches… they vanished. No warning, just—poof!—gone. I didn’t see when, how, or why.
After a while, bereft, I quit looking for them.
I didn’t take the wreath down until late fall.
I saved the little unused nest.
I didn’t have the heart to throw away such a labor of love (you can say instinct all you want but the perfect craftsmanship of nests amazes me).
With the return of March, I waited for the finches to join the rest of the avian throng having revival beyond my windows. Every day I looked.
Then, day before yesterday…on the top of the wreath, one lone strand of grass, lying in a telltale curve…could it be, could it be…?
“THEY’RE BACK! THEY’RE BACK! COME SEE!”
My family humored me with only a slight rolling of eyes…my granddaughter, at least, seemed interested. She made my son hold her up high for a better, bird’s-eye view.
I marveled at the greenness of the nest. Is it just me, or is this how they always look? This green, this fresh? I do not think so. No, they have never been so green before.
Almost complete. Look at that leafy lining, so carefully placed.
By Easter—dare I hope?—we might have an egg.
A tiny, age-old symbol of rebirth and resurrection.
I marvel at this fresh greenery, this new grass, this preparation for new life, the hope that’s in it. If not for the birds, then for me. Especially after the year that’s passed, marked by so much bleakness and loss, down to the former little nest that contained no life.
I recall the promise of Christ: one day there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. Behold, I am making all things new (Revelation 21:4-5, ESV).
Every spring hints at it. My personal winged messengers, harbingers of blessed assurance.
A little foretaste of glory divine.
Hymns of the heart. I step outside, away from the constraints of the house, watching the two finches take flight, zigzagging skyward, sunlight gleaming on their sandy backs, calling, calling, calling, how sweet the sound.
I come to the sanctuary in the cool of the day to behold
these moments of Earth’s remembering, an altar call where I
respond, walking the greening aisle just as I am
to a fanfare of wingbeats and music-making.
Holy holy holy, I surrender all
in wordless doxology on the returning. Let all things
their Creator bless, with ancient morningsong, yet ever new.
Update, Thursday evening… first egg!
Holy Week blessings to all.
with thanks to Karen Eastlund for hosting today’s Spiritual Journey
and also shared with the writing community on SOS – Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog, in response to the open invitation to write around the many meanings of “spring.”