I seem to have come across the theme of bird watching lately: a teenager developing an app to encourage other youth to become bird watchers, an article about murrelets, a story of a hidden plover’s nest. I’m probably more of a “bird listener” than a “bird watcher.” One of my favourite times of the day is the early dawn-chorus mornings in spring and summer. I tune into the squeaky chatter of eagles on their fishing runs over the ocean, and often cringe slightly at the harsh squawking of herons, wondering why such a sound is produced by such a graceful bird. Bird sounds often cause me to pause in the middle of what I’m doing and listen quietly.
Recently, in the daily readings from Catholic theologian Richard Rohr, I read a reflection connecting bird-watching with the themes of waiting and patience. I wanted to share some of that reflection with you because it prompted my own inner reflection on what it means to wait patiently.
Rohr’s reflection began…
On a bird watching trip in Baja, Mexico, theologian Douglas Christie reflected on the need for patience and letting go of control so that we can see in a new way:
“What is being asked of us in this moment is patient attention; a willingness to slow down, listen, and look; a willingness to let go of our expectations, to accept the possibility that our efforts may not bear any fruit—or at least not in the way we have been hoping that they will…”
Douglas Christie goes on to say:
“The French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil (1909–1943) once noted: “We do not obtain the most precious gifts by going in search of them but by waiting for them.” This idea comes back to me in this moment with new force and meaning…Why is it so difficult for me to wait for things to unfold, to reveal themselves?
“The idea that what we most deeply desire must ultimately reveal itself to us is not easy to accept. It suggests a relinquishment of control that most of us, if we are being honest, find difficult to practice. There is too much risk, too much vulnerability. Yet the willingness to relinquish control and open ourselves to the mysterious unknown is at the heart of every great spiritual tradition. In the Gospel tradition, it is described as becoming again like a child, or being born anew: learning to see with fresh eyes.”
I may not take up bird watching any time soon, but this summer I would like to practice letting go of control and practice patient waiting…for unexpected gifts, for insight, for discernment, for learning to see with new sight.
(Douglas E. Christie, “Wasting Time Conscientiously,” Oneing 10, no. 1, Unveiled (Spring 2022): 76.)