The Healing Rhythm of Spring

Thunk! A downy woodpecker this time.

The birdfeeder is right outside the kitchen window where I sit at the pine table my husband Jim made. I love watching the wildlife outside this window. This season of the year brings its own excitement.

Thunk! Chickadee this time.

A suet cake hangs over the feeder and birds have to land either on the cage it is in or on top of the feeder. The juveniles have a proclivity for overshooting the runway and ending up clinging momentarily to the screen on the window. While I don’t want them to hurt themselves, it seems no more harmful for them to hit the window (not full on flight, just bad braking) than it does a human baby to fall when learning to walk. If young birds take a while to master this flying thing then there’s hope for me one day mastering some of the lessons I’m learning.

This morning I watched a chipmunk race up and down the crepe myrtle next to the feeder. They bring me such joy as they scamper back and forth collecting seeds the birds seem to toss out to them. Rabbits appear less frequently, but usually hop into view when I need to pause a moment and say “Thanks!”

This spring especially I’m finding comfort in these cyclic rituals. The azaleas and rhododendron outside the window bloomed in profusion. Before them I watched the camellias slowly bud and open their dainty pink blooms—and picked them in February and March to brighten the table. We only had one clutch of bluebirds nesting in our bluebird house this year, but now that they’ve fledged we get to watch the adolescent bluebird gangs run off other birds until they’ve eaten their fill of suet.

I love watching spring unfold every year. The cyclic compact of return, of the normalcy declared by each one being and doing what it was created to be and do brings me hope. We’ve needed something that feels normal and hopeful.

My mother fell and hit her head in February and is still recovering. Jim spent the past year with a dear friend and colleague as he was dying of cancer and is still grieving a friend he saw nearly every day for 17 years. My denominational body is committing slow suicide and leaving many people hurt and fearful. Small liberal arts schools (Jim teaches English) are having a hard time staying afloat. Even ignoring the instability created by leaders who seem only to care about wealthy people getting wealthier, I have heard myriad stories of personal heartbreak, betrayal, illness, and anxiety—stories reminding me we’re just not in control of our lives, regardless how hard we try.

Through all this, the gentle rhythms of spring have sustained me daily. On our morning walks Jim and I watched a Cooper’s hawk nest for three months. Our vigilance was amply rewarded. We saw the fluffy heads of two babies and then three babies appear. One day, when we didn’t think there could possibly be room enough in the nest for them, one was sitting just a short hop down the limb. The next day all three were in branches close to the nest. For a week we watched them “fly-hop” to different branches in that and nearby trees until one day we couldn’t see any. To our great surprise, this morning we saw one on the bank of the small pond near the nest, and as we watched, all three flew in and out of view.

And bless Jim. He has given me gifts of hope and sustenance for the future. He dug up old ratty bushes and planted me more azaleas, a sasanqua (fall-blooming camellia), and another gardenia—the beginning scent of summer in my yard. He also planted four rows of tuberoses that will bring delightful scents into October if I’m lucky. This week we planted peonies for next spring, an experiment for us.

Listen for the rhythm of life returning, of Love being poured out upon us if we will but open our eyes and ears to perceive it. That’s God’s promise to us: when something dies in our lives—and if we’re honest, things die in large and small ways all the time—something is also reborn. In its own timing, yes. But Life continues. Birds and flowers may not be your thing, but there is always something new that can bring us joy if we will only let it.

Whoa! That bluebird missed the window, but also the top of the feeder. It does not take them long to learn. May we be speedy learners as we seek and receive God’s daily signs of promise!