Birds

I’m jealous of the birds. Reflecting on my recent readings of Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World, I have been working to be more conscious, aware of my surroundings, awake to what is happening with me and around me on a spiritual level. I’ve been watching for altars in my world that remind me of a higher purpose or focus.

So the birds came into focus this morning. Birds clustered on the wires, as it is cold now, and clustering themselves into groups to stay warm. A bird wouldfly up and move to another group on another wire, and the birds already on the wire would move to accommodate the new arrival. No one was fighting. All of them were just working to stay warm until the sun was up more so they could begin looking around for food.

And I thought about how the warmth of birds together on wires could be an image of people grouping together for survival too. We are a family, we humans. We are genetically linked to each other through so many generations – mathematically, we are likely 16th cousins at least and mostly closer (we are all the descendants of the survivors of so many wars, famines, immigration, floods, diseases and catastrophies) and we cluster together.

Lately, due to what I’ve been watching with the elections, we have been clustering in groups around party affiliation, race and gender, our needs/wantsfor the future and the illusions of personalities, words and actions. And I think about how the birds don’t know any of that, but just cluster with each other until it is warm enough to hunt for food. It’s simple that way for them and I think about how we humans complicate so much. I’m jealous of the birds.

The birds have no “baggage” to worry about – self-contained little bodies that they take everywhere. Yes, they have nest homes to take care of but on this morning, none of them were in those nests. They preferred to be with each other, on a high wire in the cold wind. Chattering away, they were doing what birds do – surviving.

Which led my mind to “this is an altar in my world, a place where trust and survival meet, where waiting for the sun to come up and warm the space keeps us together” and I looked around at the cars surrounding me at this stop light. These birds were the conscious ones. The humans around me weren’t even looking at or acknowledging one another but checking text messages, tuning the radio or staring straight ahead. I was jealous of the birds in that moment and the direct connection of their lives.

I think about my family, our family tree, and the people who loved each other, resulting in me being born. And I wish sometimes that we were more like the birds, gathering each morning to talk, to chat, to share before we took off for the day. We can’t even talk directly about the election and what it means to us without someone getting upset (“don’t talk about religion or politics” I’ve been told so many times!). I long for that probing discourse that permits us the honor and space of saying the deep reasons for why we voted the way we did and why we like a certain candidate or the platform items. I long to understand why the white males around my world are feeling threatened by so much and don’t even care that I have felt threatened my whole life by a society that doesn’t value “female”, let alone a society that sets up white v. black, European culture v. the rest of the world, and more. Or even how my deeply felt beliefs have been wanting expression in the broader world without being told to “get over it” or “move on” when I’ve never even said anything of my beliefs. Not. Ever. Asked.

So the birds were an altar for me this morning, reflecting a simple, direct aliveness that isn’t complicated by politics or religion or personalities or money or status. Just simply beingness ….. just manifesting what’s TRUE … not all of this human complication that we’re seeing. Sigh ….. I am jealous of the birds.

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