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.