Our own various philosophies and faith traditions provide sustenance during these troubled times. But in the deep recesses of our hearts and minds we tremble with the awareness that nature’s justice will not sleep forever. So, in this moment of awaiting and acting with compassion, we find solace, comfort and hopefully good health in disciplines and mindfulness. Morning contemplative prayer, an edifying TV series or two, pickleball, long walks and zoom reunions with loved ones keep us engaged during this time of disequilibrium.
Indeed, quarantine, or as we like to say, sequester (as in being isolated on a jury learning facts of a case), can bring reminders of comforting and empowering resources. This seems especially true when pandemic limits one to house and garden, and the attentive next-door friendly neighbors of both the two-legged and feathered kind.
This 2020 spring/early summer caused us, as Jesus reminds in Luke’s Gospel, to “consider how the lilies grow.” We did just that with more attentiveness than at any time in the last 43 years in our Capitol Hill home and garden. And since we did not travel to our far-flung children and grandkids as usual this year, we also noticed anew that “the birds of the air have their nests” where to “lay their heads” and birth their young.
We were captivated by the annual return of our house wrens. They soothed our spirits with their lovely songs and their focused care for their surroundings, nests and progeny. Things seemed alright with the less polluted world in our little patch of creation with a sweet season of clean air; even as tragedy, and death reigned, and systemic abuse was revealed in the streets and government. The evil of inequality in our institutional systems stands in stark relief against the present gentleness of the natural order.
Courtland Malloy wrote in a recent Washington Post, “House wrens are among the best singers. They are small, brown and fearless. When a fat, red-orange-headed woodpecker poked its beak into the wren house [in his garden], the female waiting to enter dropped her twig and attacked.” Mr. Malloy points out indirectly the prevailing social “survival of the fittest” and the gentler natural selection of our miniature conservancies.
In our small sanctuary six fragile but resilient wren fledglings fell into the garden flower bed from their maternity house and scampered for two days all over the patio and onto my feet like hopping toads. Each hour they managed to alight a bit higher onto plants from where to glide in their maiden flights. We were relieved as we observed the continuous protection and feeding by the parents and Audubon’s counsel “don’t touch to assist as there is 70% survival among the newly fledged wrens,” no matter how at risk they seem. That in contrast to only 30% of other bird species.
Over the last six years in which we have noticed the arrival of these seasonal visitors it has not been our privilege to have the time or the presence to witness this gift of the created order. Several times we saw them arrive but then promptly “took off” for our own summer sojourns to various continents. When we returned, we found only withered flowers and empty nests and the vague awareness of the missed seasonal migration dance and concert.
Today as I look out our kitchen window to the garden, I notice three more wren houses in our thriving crape myrtle tree are being occupied by a new round of busy prospective feathered couples. To affirm our wonderment and caring, maybe the bird song has spread that there are open-hearted house renters who need more encouragement. Maybe these are emissaries to affirm that the created order is still intact and able to encourage hearts and spirits. As our Palestinian friends are wont to say in such transformative, peace-inducing moments, Il hum dil Allah!