On what grounds did I fast from the daily bread of birdsong and starlight?


Sixty-hour weeks were normal, hovering closer to eighty during the holidays. Since my job involved visiting parishioners in hospitals and nursing homes on top of a heavy administrative load, the to-do list was never done. More often, I simply abandoned it when I felt my mind begin to coast like a car out of gas. Walking outside of whatever building I had been in, I was often surprised by how warm the night was, or how cold.

I was so immersed in indoor human dramas that I regularly lost track of the seasons. When a fresh breeze lifted the hairs on my neck, I had to stop and think, Does that wind signal the end of spring or the beginning of autumn? What month is this? What year, for that matter? In the ICU, nurses wrote details like these on blackboards to help their dazed patients hang on to reality. Most days I could name the president of the United States, but my daily contact with creation had shrunk to the distance between my front door and the driveway. The rest of my life took place inside: inside the car, inside the church, inside my own head.

On the nights when Ed and I walked, I sometimes talked with my eyes fixed on the moving pavement for more than a mile before an owl’s cry or a chorus of cicadas brought me, literally, to my senses. Only then did I smell the honeysuckle that had been there all along or notice the ghostly blossoms on the magnolia trees that deepened the shadows on more than one front lawn. The effect was immediate, like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. All these earthly goods were medicine for what ailed me, evidence that the same God who had breathed the world into being was still breathing. There was so much life springing up all around me that the runoff alone was enough to revive me. When it did, I could not imagine why I had stayed away so long. Why did I seal myself off from all this freshness? On what grounds did I fast from the daily bread of birdsong and starlight?

~ Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church. A Memoir of Faith.

Image Source: RNS


  1. Wow – beautiful and so resonant..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “…the daily bread of birdsong and starlight.” Wow.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This post makes me think of clergy from my past who battled their own demons. Mainly sobriety. It’s no wonder given the task of trying to ease everyone else’s burdens. My hope is that they they too were able to revive the freshness of life all around them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hits very close to home, especially after just having spent a week living in a hospital with my mother. I would escape from time to time to a small courtyard and simply gaze at the few plants sprinkled about in their artificial setting, but the breeze and the green and the birdsong lifted me. Hospital energy is sticky and grungy. I would not be cut out for the author’s noble journey.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Brings back thoughts of a pastor who functioned as the spiritual presence at a local hospice. I have so much respect and compassion for her as she went through her days with a smile for everyone. I wonder if she smiled to/for herself when alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. a deep awakening….

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What an amazing and different set of realities for her days…what strikes me is all of the *inside*…the hospital, her patients, her mind….

    Liked by 1 person

  8. WOW…
    I moved to Chicago in 2003,
    It wasn’t until 2009 that I noticed my first Robin song. It took me days to identify the bird singing me awake before dawn every night all summer long.
    6 years?
    Where was I all this time?
    And countless other things!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Ouch. Yes.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wow. No fasting from those goodies here.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. christinesat says:

    That exactly is it. The moment, that we realize that we can’t remember the last time, when we’ve heard the birds singing. When did it rain? Yesterday? The day before? Last week? When have I talked to our neighbour the last time? What did I had for lunch the day before yesterday? It’s like realizing that you’re sitting in a boat in the middle of the sea. No land in sight, no compass on board. And you don’t know, how you’ve got there. That’s the worst.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Reblogged this on On the Homefront and commented:
    this is the inspiration behind my newspaper column this week….


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