The Empty Feeder

When the bird feeders are full – one with niger seed, the other with sunflower – there is a great and glorious crowd of finches, nuthatches, titmice and chickadees. And, if I also put seeds in the planter, we see cardinals, juncos, and jays. Oh, and the Carolina Wren (I think). And, squirrels.  

 This appears to be the height of the feeder season; with a continuous cover of snow in Kerhonkson, need seems great. The incoming-and-outgoing air traffic never slows. The survival instinct is strong.

 Amidst all this fervent activity, I recall that when I first put the feeders out each December, I always wonder:

How long will it be until they are found?

When will I see the first bird, the scout for his troop, who comes, eats, and then tells the rest?

 And, sometimes, when my diligence wanes, or time or weather prohibit the task, the feeders stay empty. I wonder at the birds that still come, seemingly out of habit, with the hope of nourishment.

 In my own journey, I have sometimes been the scout, bringing back good news of some variety. “Yes, we can change – look, I did! Here’s how it happened…”

Or, I have been the one holding back, waiting to hear news from the field, and asking others “What was it like? Do you think I’d like it? Can I go with you next time?”

 And, I have most certainly been the one who returns when the feeder is empty…sometimes out of hope, believing that it gets re-filled. But, just as often, out of habit, I have returned to a feeder I know is empty, and that doesn’t nourish.

The birds learn that it is unrewarding to return, again and again, to the empty feeder. They change their behavior. And, I, too, have learned what nourishes me and what is merely a quick fix, or a hollow promise. But, I sometimes go to the empty feeder because I know the way, there and back. It’s safer than some newer, untried options. And, because I forget that insanity is repeating the same action and expecting different results.

 So, if I may amend a time-honored prayer:

 God, grant me the wisdom to discern what truly nourishes me, and the willingness to choose it.

About Soul Intention

"Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with...desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality." from The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser. Paraphrasing what Gerald May has said, in his book Will and Spirit, spirituality is our experience and interpretation of our relationship with the Sacred. The intent of this blog is to explore for myself, and to invite others to explore with me, just what is it we do with our desire? What is our spirituality? Mine has been shaped by many things...in my formative years, by the Roman Catholic church. In the last decade, by the 12 steps. Most recently, by the Episcopal Church. And, always, always, by the sense that Nature helped to reveal the Great Mystery, of which we are all a part. So, my spirituality includes concrete practices, like the Steps, as well as probing more philosophical matters. I was certified, in January 2011, as a Spiritual Director by the Haden Institute. During those 21 months of study, which included a broad range of topics from Celtic Spirituality, to the Christian Mystics, to Jungian Depth psychology, I was given the space and time to ponder my own spiritual journey, hear about others' paths, and benefit from participation in an intentional community. My hope is that this blog can engender a similar conversation. Peace, Paul
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2 Responses to The Empty Feeder

  1. carrington brown says:

    wonderful expression of your journey! i recognize that May book….

  2. Elbert Rogers says:

    Paul,
    “The Empty Feeder” certainly gave me “food for thought.” Thanks.
    Elbert

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