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An important message from a bird

While looking out my office window the other day a Cardinal landed very gracefully on my window sill. Dressed in its flaming red feathers with its black mask around its face it just sat there staring at me. I waited for it to say something.

Most birds bob their heads around in a kind of jerky way looking up and down and around. But this one kept its head very still and just looked right at me. It seemed very intent as though it was bringing me a message. I couldn’t help thinking: what a majestic creature. I said hello and it flew away.

Only the male Cardinal is covered in brilliant red. The female wears a very fashionable tan and gray and they are beautiful, too.

Cardinals are considered songbirds because they love to sing. They are very social, too, and are often found in groups of other birds different from their own species. I guess that striking color gives them a sense of presence. Like one of those people who always seems to fit in any crowd.

I suppose it would be nice to have a new BMW Z4 Roadster pull up outside my window with my name on it. But instead, I received something more realistic and more profound; a Cardinal’s brief visit. And honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed that momentary burst of color and grandeur.

I suddenly thought of the times I hurry through the day with my head buried in distractions and I wondered how often I simply miss these happy evidences of life’s endless attractions? Have you seen a Cardinal lately? It is gorgeous. How sterile life would be without such things.

The Cardinal’s visit was truly a serendipitous moment.

Ser-en-dip-i-tous: [ser-uhn-dip-i-tuhs]
1. come upon or found by accident; fortuitous

It seems to me the universe is often speaking to us, sending us little messages, waving colorful flags at us like parking attendant guys trying to get us to pull into their space.

I think it is forever creating coincidences and serendipitous moments in order to get our attention. We miss so much if we stay too busy to be aware of all the small miracles parading about us each day.

If I had kept at my computer and not taken a moment to relax, to look out the window, the Cardinal would have come and gone without me ever knowing it. I wonder what I miss when I’m not taking time to pause now and then to look around; what tiny surprises, what momentary astonishments have passed me by?

There is a fierce wild beauty in nature that can escape us if we’re not attentive. I think God must have had all of this in mind when everything was put together. There needed to be some balance to all of the ugliness we human creatures carelessly inflict on our delicate world, and, too often on one another.

Poet and novelist Wendell Berry has in one of his books this wise reflection:

“When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

That, I think, just may have been my message from the Cardinal. He was saying; Don’t forget to be on the lookout for me and other small wonders waiting to bring you a moment of inner calm, comfort, solidarity with nature, and a lingering presence of something unsurpassable.

© 2012 Timothy Moody

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