It seems quiet moments are hard to come by lately. However, the ruckus resides mainly in my own head. I am often alone during the day, but my whirling thoughts remain my constant companion pulling me this way and that with the boundless energy of a toddler. Each morning I attempt to settle this youngster down with quiet, meditation, and prayer journaling. Often my meditation is more like a shopping trip with a toddler than a quiet retreat. I get lost browsing and then suddenly I realize my mind wandered off to the shoe department! I pull it back in by following my breath, a mantra, or just listening to the sounds around me. On one recent morning, it was the soundscape that rescued me from the long and winding road of my thoughts.
I sat on the freshly cleaned porch of our little mountain house. I relished being far away from the upheaval and turmoil of our “city house” where most of our belongings are boxed up in preparation for our upcoming move. The porch was freshly cleaned the day before. The pollen, dead insects, and the nut remnants that our winter tenants left behind were swept away. It was once again a pleasant spot to begin my day. It wasn’t long before the birds’ morning conversation captured my attention. At first it was a wild cacophony with crows dominating the discussion. Yet, there was one insistent song that rose above the chatter and suddenly it was all I heard. The notes of the song were high, then low, with a pattern that varied in between. I soon began to put words to the melody and heard, “Sweet-syrup” and then, “Sweet, sweet, syrup.”
The song lulled and comforted me for a bit, but then I found myself wandering with my toddler brain and began thinking of my friend, Joe. Joe is an avid birder and often answers my questions about the birds I have seen at our feeder. He always has an interesting fact or tidbit to add to his answer. I sat there wishing for his expertise, but resolved to look for the bird in the trees and perhaps report its sighting to him later. Of course, the thick grove of trees and my screened venue made any definitive sighting improbable. I slumped back in my chair, chiding myself for not studying up on our local birds or taking a class. I sat there feeling only lack and inadequacy.
The bird called again bringing me back to its song, “Sweet-syrup-sweet-sweet-syrup.” As I listened, I finally heard what I was supposed to hear. It wasn’t the name of the bird, its habitat, or nesting quirks, but its song. The song was telling me to drink in the moment and find presence here. I needed to only taste the “sweet-sweet syrup” that was being offered. It was a call to be present. As Pema Chodron suggests, I stopped “looking for a more suitable place to be.” Suddenly, my feelings of lack and self deprecation fell away. Joy and then gratitude began to fill the empty spaces left behind. I marveled at how often God speaks in whispers and reminds me again and again to find Him in stillness. ~c.h.