But all who take refuge in you will be glad; they will sing out their joy for ever. You will shelter them, so that those who love your Name may exult in you. -- Psalm 5:13-14
We had our first stay-on-the-ground snow last night, just enough to dust the property, and today our bird feeders were a flurry of activity as chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers came to stock up on our offerings of suet and oil seeds. (In the interest of full disclosure, the lovely photo to your right is not of our suet feeder, although it could be; thanks to the anonymous Flickr patron who took this picture.)
One of my responsibilities in this household is care and feeding of the birds -- something I've done since I was little. Both sides of my family, in fact, have always fed and housed backyard songbirds. Fellow Traveler is a city kid who admits to having little knowledge of or experience with birds; but she enjoys their presence too, and helps as needed with this task.
Over the past couple of years our once rather strangely quiet backyard has become a local meeting spot for familiar suburban species -- chickadees and titmice; sparrows; assorted woodpeckers; goldfinches; nuthatches; a skittish pair of cardinals. Every so often we're visited by something a bit more dramatic, like the local flock of turkeys. The birds enjoy our proffered foods, and also the assortment of shrubs around our house that provide them with an extra bit of shelter from weather and predators. (Mollie the cat, who spends more of the daytime time indoors than out, will catch birds if an opportunity arises but much prefers furred to feathered quarry.)
Providing our winged neighbors hospitality and temporary respite from the vicissitudes of life in the wild is for us, as the saying goes, a duty and a delight, particularly when we see evidence of rapprochement with our little friends. I notice that when I venture outside and come near the feeder, a chickadee will often appear out of nowhere, hop onto a branch very near to me and cock an inquiring eye in my direction: Dee-dee-dee? "What's up? Got anything new to eat?" When one of our normally shy cardinals starts fluttering and chirping directly in front of the living-room window, it's a very good indication that our seed feeder is empty.
Sometimes in the Church we get nervous when laypeople seem to think of the Church primarily as a place of refuge from the vicissitudes of life; they want to sing "Safe in the Arms of Jesus," and we immediately want to correct them with "They Cast Their Nets." But life is hard; and we need one another; and it's a good thing when we can provide a space for peace and restoration for one another.