My grandmother was a naturalist. Her life was spent in Saskatchewan. She was well acquainted with those prairies—the flora and fauna. We, her family, found binder upon binder full of pressed flowers and leaves after she was gone. If she was with you in the car, she would occasionally ask you to stop so she could determine a flower on the side of the road that she had glimpsed. It was second nature for her to pause in the midst of a conversation to identify a bird by sight or by its call. She would then educate you at length about its characteristics.
I want to emulate this knowledge. I know it will take a lifetime to accumulate what she knew. She could not convey all this, but what she did pass on to me (and many in our family) is a love for nature. What a gift! I especially share her love for wild birds and have several of her well-marked bird books. I eagerly spend time and effort in order to catch a glimpse of one or another of these beautiful creatures.
Two birds of which I am particularly fond are hummingbirds and herons. My family teases me about my “hummingbird voice.” It is an octave above my normal voice. Whenever one comes to one of my feeders, I am thrilled! I spend a great deal of effort coaxing these to our yard—creating the nectar, cleaning the feeders and putting fresh nectar in several times a week. Yet it is a small sacrifice for the joy of having these minute creatures chase each other outside my windows! They will often pause and hover in front of the window as they return my gaze. I wonder at their curiosity that matches mine.
On the other end of the size spectrum are the Blue Herons. I, of course, am not able to coax them to my yard, but see them most often when kayaking. I look forward to these sightings. They are especially prevalent on the Cumberland River. I have yet to be disappointed when we paddle there. They wait on the trees at the bank of the river and fly when we approach. We get to see them spread their wings and majestically rise with broad, strong strokes. Sometimes they will fly a few yards ahead of us and other times will cross in front of us and circle back behind. On one three-mile paddle recently, one of these beauties was our companion the entire time. It must have found us interesting. When we approached, it slowly rose and went down the river a short way. It waited until we came close and then repeated this pattern. Over and over we played this sideways leapfrog until we neared our launching point. It seemed to sense our company was at an end so crossed the river and slowly sailed back the way we had come. What a treat!
This God we serve is quite the artist. I don’t know why God graces us with these amazing creatures—from the tiny hummingbird to the majestic herons—but I am grateful. They are examples of the imagination and creativity of our maker. They speak to God’s generosity. Why create the splendor of this world if not for our pleasure? The stark contrast of the colors and patterns. The variance in all creatures. The hummingbird and heron are of the same species and yet so different! Do we have eyes to see this wonder that surrounds us?
One of the reasons for this gift from God is to serve as something of a balance to the darkness of the world. The hate and suffering that surrounds us can be consuming. It seems to be our natural tendency to focus on things of this nature. As we should! We serve as God’s love in this hurting world and we need to be a balm in the midst of the pain. Yet, that is not where the eyes of our hearts need be caught. While serving as an instrument of the Kingdom, we keep our eyes on the beauty that is as present as the pain.
We all have within us this inclination toward the beauty of the world. I am grateful to my grandmother for her pleasure in the natural world. It has served as a model for me. My part is to be intentional about maintaining a stance of gratitude as I breath in these continual delights while making myself useful in this world.
Grace and peace to you,