This morning, at some unbelievably early hour I was awakened by birdsong. Left to my own devices I would have curled up and gone back to sleep, but I couldn’t. Not only was the birdsong so loud, but it had an altogether other-worldly rhythm that, in some strange and positive way ‘enticingly disturbed’ my sleep.
Listening to it for some time, I slowly rolled out of bed, grabbed the dressing gown and ambled downstairs. As I approached the backdoor the birdsong grew louder. Opening the door and being ‘hit’ by early Capel Curig morning cold air, I stepped onto the lawn – no shoes, so it was a ‘very awakening’ experience.
‘Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches.’ Psalm 104:12, The Book
The birdsong, at least those nearby ‘dawn choristers’, stopped abruptly. I had been spied.
I waited a little longer.
They waited even more.
As I sat on a garden chair, slowly, and one by one birds started to sing again. And, before long, a number of them were in full flow, and I was enveloped in a complex melody of pure, unadulterated birdsong that ebbed and flowed. And, it was wonderful.
I’ve often written about our separation from nature, and that’s true in one sense. Humanity, oftentimes acts as though it has a second planet in reserve,. But, in this sense, as I sat on that garden chair, that separation is only we think and so act out, but it is that, only. We think we’re separate, and so we miss out because, actually, we’re not separate…we just think we are.
I do believe that if we slow down, and stop sometimes; if we ‘hear’ the invitation of all that is around us, we will know that we are part of all that is. As I heard the birdsong this morning I could only but listen in awe. Not as a passive bystander, but as someone now included in this avian symphony of nature.
As I sat there, I remembered some words of the late Gerald G May, a fellow cancer sufferer (though he, sadly, succumbed, and I survived by the grace of That Which Is Larger Than Us). In the wilderness, whilst at the beginning of his ailments, at dusk he found himself surrounded by cicadas in the bushes. Unseen, but not unheard.
‘I notice that the drone [of the cicadas] is not a steady sound at all. It reveals an underlying rhythm, and the rhythm also is a composite, an intricate summation of cadences. One cicada’s rhythm joins that of another to generate a third conjoint beat, so that two insects create at least three rhythms…
Sensing the rhythms within the drone, I begin to beat the drum with them. I try to pick out a cadence and follow it, but it feels too complex; I cannot tell one pulsation from another for more than a few moments. Then, in the way I have learned to receive gifts, I quit trying. Relaxing, I just beat the drum, allowing my own rhythm to emerge and find its place in the overall sound. Then a wonder: I sense a change in the cicada song, a subtle shift that seems to be a response to my joining them…as if each insect in its buzzing has adjusted itself a tiny bit to create a space for me, for my sound.
I am lost now, lost into the firelight’s flickering on the tree leaves, warmth mingling with cool night star sparkles, all into the cicada song; I have been shown the way into the joining. I have been guided in a harmony path, to a oneness within which I am, once again, freshly and absolutely alive’. Gerald G May ‘Wisdom Of The Wilderness’.
Could it be that in our perceived separation from nature, we’re missing the point? Could it be that in believing we’re some ‘distance’ from nature that we’re really the ones separating ourselves from all that is holy? Could it not be the case that we are part of nature, we are not separated, and not at some ‘distance’ from it, but included! We’re there…but we just don’t know that we’re there!
‘We need a powerful new story that we are a part of nature and not separate from it. We need a story that properly situates humans in the world — neither above it by virtue of our superior intellect, nor dwarfed by the universe into cosmic insignificance. We are equal partners with all that exists, co-creators with trees and galaxies and the microorganisms in our own gut, in a materially and spiritually evolving universe. This was the breath-taking vision of the late Father Thomas Berry.’
I have to confess that I sat there at 4am this morning, with the ambient temperature somewhat lower than I would have liked (especially for the way I dressed), I didn’t care. I didn’t want extraneous or complaining thoughts to come between me and this embrace by nature. It was a time just to enjoy it, revel in it, marvel at it, and gaze at the marvel that is nature.
And, nature gazed back.
‘The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.’ Meister Eckhart
As I write this I’m toying with the idea of setting the alarm clock for 4am for tomorrow, to ensure that I put myself in the way of another nature-encounter.