|Ivory Billed Woodpeckers by James Audubon|
While in Sitka this past weekend my friend Fr. Andy, the Catholic pastor there mentioned that he thought bird watching was a particularly good pastime for priests and deacons. Some of his reasons were obvious, others less so.
- Bird watching gets you out of the house and outdoors, walking around.
- Its an education in paying close attention.
- It involves silently looking and listening.
- Its a contemplative, even prayerful activity.
- Watching birds involves actual and not virtual reality.
- And its got just enough competition built into to keep most guys interested (eg. the sacred "life list".)
I'm just a civilian when it comes to birdwatching (although I'm thinking that after our conversation it may be time to get my binoculars and start watching). I wonder too if watching birds might be a kind of pedagogy in the transcendence and mystical presence of God.
Transcendent, because like God, wild birds are entirely other - they exist in an reality that may intersect with ours, but which we are unable to participate in except by analogy or imitation.
Mystical, because like God, these creatures are beings entirely outside of our control. Birds appear and disappear as they please. They can't be summoned up at will or controlled by us. Rather, their presence is pure gift, pure grace.