By Laurel Pattenden
This summer I was able to vacation and visit family, for a short time, on beautiful Salt Spring Island in B.C. Wonderful company, wonderful adventures, wonderful food and wonderful landscapes.
If you have never been to Salt Spring Island, it is an island that shows off the beauty of creation. Tall firs and cedars cover the sides of the roads and rising up with the mountains. Abundant green ferns and mosses provide a richness of ground cover that on every trail you expect to see small fairy folk and gnomes working away on their daily chores.
My attention on this trip seemed to be captured by the birds. It is so silent and remote, where I stayed, it was impossible to miss the cawing of the crows. However, what I found more striking, than the cawing, was the shadows of the crows in flight projected on the tall fir trees surrounding the home where I stayed. (Remember doing shadow hand puppets on the wall as kids.) These “crow shadows” flew by, hundreds of feet up on the trees. Weaving in and out. entertaining and mesmerizing me as I sat on the porch. Silence and shadows.
On my arrival and departure, I was able to stay in Victoria for a few nights. Now, while in Victoria it was not the sighting of the seagulls that caught my attention. It was their cry and squawking in the late evening as the city gets quiet. The sound would penetrate the walls and windows of the apartment. It was as if their cry was a monastic call to become silent and rest.
I was hoping to see some ravens on Salt Spring Island, and I may very well had seen some without knowing it as I am not a “birder”. However, I did see a small bronze statue of one in Victoria. The words accompanying the statue said that the raven is a songbird. In fact, the largest songbird. I was also hoping to hear the owls at dusk on Salt Spring Island. Unfortunately, grandma had priorities as this was our usual Disney movie time (plus junk food that goes with the movie!) and did not hear any owls.
There was lots of other wildlife, more unique to the rain forest coast, to see and admire but it was the crows and the seagulls that got me to pause. Interestingly, I can see both birds where I live in Ontario. Perhaps it was the “pause” I got on vacation to be observant of their presence.
God commands us to rest. To remember to take sabbath time but we usually don’t. Jesus gifted us with peace, but we refuse to unwrap that gift. As a result, our hearts have grown dull, our ears do not hear, and our eyes have become shut. We prefer the “daily grind” that does exactly that. Grinds away at us. Dulls our hearts, plugs our ears and shuts our eyes. If not, why did I not marvel at the crows and seagulls in my own backyard?
Perhaps bird “spotting” and their songs is our monastic call to prayer. Both a morning prayer and an evening prayer call to open our eyes, sharpen our hearing and cast off our dullness of heart. Birds. See. Hear. Pause. Pray.
Repeat as often as the heart needs.
Laurel is retired and likes to spend her time in her art studio.
(Illustration: Laurel Pattenden. MANY FEATHERS. Ink and markers, 2021 - detail)