Sunday Morning

Last year, as often happens, my mood waned with the autumn light. At work, I stared blankly at my computer, inexplicably on the verge of tears. At home, I counted the minutes until I could sleep. I still woke early, intending to read and write, but instead lay on the couch, idly thumbing at my phone. I felt numb to the world. My psychiatrist adjusted my medication and suggested I invest in a light-therapy lamp. “Winter is coming,” he said without a hint of irony…

The darkness threw me over the edge. Over the next few days, as I began a free fall into despair, I was surprised to find a quiet comfort in the birds flitting about my friend’s window. Suddenly, I grew envious of his yard, a seeming prerequisite for a feeder. Then it occurred to me: I am not the first apartment dweller with this predicament. I opened Amazon, where I’d been browsing for light-therapy lamps, and discovered feeders that could be attached to our apartment windows with suction cups. “I bought myself a Christmas present,” I told my wife when I arrived at my in-laws’ house.

When we returned to Brooklyn, a house-shaped plexiglass feeder and four pounds of Deluxe Treat birdseed were waiting…Three days later, my wife texted me a picture of a blue jay. More soon appeared. So did sparrows, nuthatches, cardinals, mourning doves and a single red-bellied woodpecker. Within two weeks, I was ordering 20-pound bags of birdseed, Eastern Regional Blend, and filling the feeder’s trough daily.

Initially, it was the sheer novelty that caught my attention. My phone couldn’t compete with a woodpecker eating two feet away. Then I started to actually notice the birds, the peculiar rituals and particular charms of each species. I saw the nuthatches creeping down the window frame vertically, like awkward thieves, and dashing in for single sunflower seeds. The fat, insatiable mourning doves gorging themselves on white millet. The cardinals loitering shyly in the pear tree, waiting for them to finish.

The novelty has faded over time. But the beauty of the birds continues to draw my attention. In the tableau of blues gridded across the jay’s wing and tail, I see patterns of a Mondrian. More than once I have begun to scare away greedy doves only to stop short at the gleam of iridescent plumage. In these moments, and in the daily routine of filling the feeder with seed, I forgot my anxieties.

That something as simple as bird-watching could release me from the confines of my mind came as a surprise. When I began to struggle with depression, at an evangelical college, the faithful proffered a verse from the Gospel of Matthew: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” This provided exactly zero comfort. I wasn’t sure I still believed in a benevolent father. And besides, I’d seen enough dead birds in my cat’s maw to question their value in his eyes.

If the birds still don’t fill me with any divine reassurance, they provide something far more valuable: a respite, a chance to turn my attention away from myself to the grace and beauty of the world. I don’t know if God is feeding them, but I am.

~ David Michael, from “Letter of Recommendation: Bird Feeders” (NY Times, July 9, 2019)

Comments

  1. it’s good to remember the things in this world that are bigger than us, even though they are smaller than us, and can have such a huge effect on us.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A simple pleasure, but an enjoyable one, particularly in winter.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A chance to turn our attention away from ourselves…a welcome respite in this navel-gazing world we now inhabit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In the woods no more than an hour, I am struck anew by invisibility and its improvisational choreography, as a necessary condition of life. I am reminded of the grace of reticence, the power of discretion, and the possibility of being utterly private and autonomous yet deeply aware of and receptive to the world. If I am enchanted by staying out of sight, it is because such behavior seems so rare in our own species. In recent years, we have been more preoccupied than ever by the question of how to stay in view.

      ~ Akiko Busch, How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency (Penguin Press, February 12, 2019)

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Relax... says:

    Lovely. Like a dove returning with an olive branch or like finally seeing backyard wings on 9/11, we sometimes need the presence of birds in order to know that life is, and shall be.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love this. I have the same exact feeder. Same thing happened, it took the birds months to show up. The squirrels showed up first.

    I called our landlord few weeks ago, chirpy me, stupid me, to tell him he has a mourning dove pair building a nest on one of his windows. He lives upstairs. After a long day, get home, walking closer to the building, he’s standing there with a broom destroying the nest. I haven’t talked to him in weeks.
    I was sitting at the dinning table for hours translating documents for the united states soccer federation. As boring as it can be. And it wasn’t me, my ears picked up on the flying pattern of the father bringing sticks and straw for the female to build their nest. Watched them for days.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Having looked after our grand-dog the past week and a few more days coming, he gets us outside and away from media and books and into the yard to listen to the birds. I watch his interest in the simplest of things – a red squirrel hoping along the back fence, a barn swallow swooping down to tick him off … and it’s a good re-set button to be out and in it. I loved the idea of the bird feeder on a window ~ clever!

    PS those light boxes work, I have one and use it every morning – it’s called the Verilux Happy Light. 🙂

    MJ

    Liked by 1 person

  7. How wonderful he found something to take himself out of himself!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Christie says:

    God sent those birds as messengers of hope..peace and renewal…/// being exposed to nature helps balance a person…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A beautiful story and example again of how nature can heal us! 🍀💚🍀🍁🍀 And how western medicine can get it so wrong! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  10. nice one to explore about

    Like

  11. Another reason to read Live and Learn.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. We put a birdfeeder on our front deck and I can see it from my sofa inside. The parade of birds feeding (especially in the winter) is fascinating. I often interrupt whatever I’m watching/writing to just sit and watch their social world. It IS a wonderful world to get involved in.

    Liked by 1 person

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