When we came for a viewing of the house we live in now, my husband and I were like a pair of young love-birds looking for a place to nest, though we wouldn’t have said it in as many words. After guiding us through the house from bottom to top, the homeowner announced with joy that she had one more thing to show us.
Bustling through the front room she led us back out to the wide, smiling porch and pulled down a hanging basket. Peering down between the flowering vines we saw a small bird’s nest with eggs. We nodded our heads as she told us about the birds, a pair of sparrows who nested there every year and we listened too to the mother bird chirping her concern from the nearby red-bud tree.
It seemed an auspicious sign, an omen of sorts. We bought the house in a flurry of excitement and spent the next nine years growing into it, filling it with one after another of these beautiful, bright-eyed birds.
* * *The other day as I parked at the curb in front of that same porch, freshly painted white, it seemed as though our house was surrounded by birds. There were really only a handful, but they flew so in the sunlit sky that their motion conveyed a crowd and I wondered at their gathering here. Looking up I saw a Cardinal alight on the old rusted T.V. antennae and there he sat for a moment like a sign, a bright bit of fire sent from heaven.
This morning as I paused at the back door looking at the maple tree unfolding its first tender green leaves, I saw the birds gathering again. It was as though they’d called a meeting on our small lot and they tussled about to find their seats before the proceedings began, hopping from the maple to the golden-ing forsythia and fence, then back again to the tree.
As I stood marveling at their presence, the cardinal came swooping through the yard like a flaming arrow shot through the air.
* * *
We're trying to decide whether and when to leave this home that’s nested us for almost nine years now. As we discern, I find myself looking everywhere for the small and flitting signs of God’s presence and direction. Is it foolish that the arrival of these birds is enough to give me pause as we vacillate between anxiety and hope?
It’s possible, I guess, that these birds are telling us to stay. But watching them I’m reminded of the passage in James and the Giant Peach where a mass of over five-hundred sea gulls lifts the peach through the air on strands of spiders’ silk and I picture these birds here doing the same; gathering, lifting, calling us out to a new place, telling us gently and joyfully that it’s time to go.
* * *Waiting in my spiritual director’s lovely meeting space I notice the same flocking, winging crowd as the trees and bushes at her house are also filled with birds. I mention how the birds are so robust this year and she says she’s noticed it too.
Then as we are praying in silence I hear God say, “I will be with you wherever you go.”Now, sitting at my computer as the birds continue to toss their songs into the air and the trees open their pink-blossomed hands, I wonder if this is what the birds know, if this is why they sing, this song of assurance, “I will be with you wherever you go.”