Feathers were flying all about our patio a few days ago – an oddity, to be sure. And the mystery, sadly, did not end well.
Tracing the trail of the downy residue, it didn’t take long for me to discover the source: a bird’s nest – once perched among the joists of our deck – now laying bottoms-up on the concrete pad nearby.
Underneath it, I discovered an even more disheartening scene: three dead chicks, now featherless, forlorn.
It surprised me to notice the emotions that stirred almost instantaneously – a sadness, a deep sense of waste washed over me, despite the fact that I had almost no vested interest in the chicks.
Sure, I’d seen the nest before, but had never noticed any small things stirring in it. And now, in death, the chicks had almost nothing to offer me – not even the satisfaction of knowing what species had inhabited our under-deck space.
So given all that, why the sense of loss?
Perhaps it had something to do with the seeming pointlessness of the killing. The three chicks died, but they’d not been eaten…so their short and insubstantial lives had not contributed all that much to the circle of life. And what kind of critter, I wondered, wrecked nests and plucked fledglings just for sport?
There was more than enough ugliness in the scene – ugliness enough to scar the simple beauty of springtime renewal otherwise bursting out all around me. I had to therefore somehow hold both realities in my heart at once – the splendor and the spitefulness.
It is not a task I relish. But the more I think about it, the more it seems like an “Easter” sort of task to me – well-suited to a feast like the Ascension, when we mark the resurrected Christ’s bodily departure from earth. I see some of my own sense of loss in the reaction of the disciples…as they turn their wondering eyes toward the sky: “Why can’t the beauty remain?”
The counsel we receive from Jesus, though, is to learn to be content with the mystery:
“It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.”
Along with the mystery, Jesus offers an intriguing promise to cling to, as well:
“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
This is a promise of life, surely, in a natural world too often scarred by seemingly pointless death and destruction. And so perhaps this is the season to lean into Jesus’ promise, praying “Come, Holy Spirit…come!”
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.