I just recently returned from a vacation in London, England. My spouse, a faculty member at UNC, was teaching there, which made it possible for our fortunate family to pass two weeks in a city I enjoy deeply. Museums, the British Library, local pubs, Westminster Abbey: we enjoyed them all.

There’s one thing I missed in London that I have been relishing since my return: the company of birds. There are birds in London, of course, but in the spot where we stayed, the only ones I ever saw and heard were pigeons. And oh my, did I ever hear them: cooing, squabbling, squabbling some more, and finally gently fluffing their feathers and tucking their beaks into a restful pose for the few hours of nightly dark in midsummer England. I admired the scrappy, hardy pigeons eking out a living on the grimy rooftops visible from my kitchen window, but I missed the birds I had left behind.

Now I’m home, and a variety of songs wakes me in the morning: woodpeckers’ laughter, chickadees’ insistent, social calls, towhees’ eponymous notes, catbirds’ plaintive wails, finches’ trills. All these species, and more, live in my backyard, where I cultivate a variety of plants, stock feeders, and offer water to keep our avian neighbors coming back.

In the morning, as I read the news and pray on the back porch, I hear the birds calling to each other. I see them flit back and forth from plant to water dish, to the ground to catch some unfortunate worm or insect. I observe some grabbing chunks of suet to offer their nestlings, and watch others coaxing fledglings to trust that the air will catch their wings, hold them up, and help them get to where they need to go.

I watch and hear the birds, in all their marvelous variety, un-self-consciously being who God created them to be. And I ask God for the grace simply to be who I am created and called to be, to offer my gifts to God’s world in the hope that these gifts might give a glimpse of beauty and a moment of delight to another of God’s beloved creatures.

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