Birds and Me: Is There a Difference?
Updated: Mar 15, 2021
Much of the U.S. is in record-setting cold and snow as I write this blog post. Birds who migrated to my area of Texas for winter are now coping with several inches of snow on the ground. It’s been a hard winter for birds, starting with a mass die-off of migrating birds in October. An early snowstorm did them in, but researchers found the cause of death to be long-term starvation due to declines in insect populations, which left the migrating birds unable to withstand the snowstorm. The hard winter for birds comes amidst a decades-long decline in bird populations.
I feed the birds, mostly because I love the bit of wild they bring to my window. I also hope in a small way, I may mitigate some of the harm done to them by the land use changes that make my home and food possible. In that spirit, I ventured into the cold, wind, and snow this morning to stock the feeders and clear the ground for foraging birds.
Warmly back in my house, I drank coffee and watched the birds feeding, feeling a bit smug about my good deed, when suddenly I realized a Cooper’s Hawk was flying straight at my face. The feeding birds scattered, but the hawk’s approach drove one directly into the window in front of me. It fell to the ground. The oncoming hawk banked away from the window and in one swift move, grabbed the bird and flew to a tree for breakfast.
Extreme weather means all creatures are doing what they need to do to survive; people, too. My spouse and I substitute for Meals on Wheels drivers. Meal deliveries were canceled today and tomorrow because of the weather. There’s a wide range of need among the people who receive those meals. Some will be fine, but I wonder about others and what they'll do to survive. Some of the houses I’ve seen are barely weather resistant on normal days. It seems those who have less are always the ones who suffer most when days are not normal.
Extreme weather also reminds those who have more that there are limits to the protection wealth and technology can provide. The water line to my kitchen sink is frozen this morning. The electrical distribution system started rolling blackouts last night. Several of my friends are without power, and therefore without heat and the means to cook. I anticipate my power will be out for a period today or tonight.
When the weather isn’t extreme, my house is sufficient for me to not notice the effects of the on-going water crisis, habitat loss, and climate change. Under “normal” conditions, it’s easy to forget that like the birds, we ultimately are at the mercy of the environment in which we live. The hawk driving the bird into the window for breakfast has no choice. If it wants to survive, it must kill other birds to eat. Unlike the birds, we can make choices to live in ways that contribute to the pain of others or to the well-being of others.
Today, everyone who has electricity where I live is being asked to use less for the well-being of all. If enough of us heed the call, the rolling blackouts will stop, and nobody will be without the means to stay warm and cook their food. It seems like lowering my thermostat a few degrees wouldn't matter, but it does. I’m reminded of the words of Unitarian minister Edward Everett Hale.
“I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can.”
Sometimes, I fail to act for the well-being of others because it means I must give of my own comfort and perceived security. Other times, I fail to act because it seems like anything I do is too small to matter. I give up because there is no way I can solve the large environmental problems confronting the world today. As Rev. Dr. Robert Saler illustrates in a commentary on the scripture readings for an upcoming Sunday, thinking I have to solve the problem is a form of works righteousness.
This Wednesday, February 17th, Christians will enter the season of Lent. It’s a time of confession, repentance, and healing, as we express our desire to be in right relationship with God and God’s people and creatures. It's a good time to reflect on the way we're living on this planet. Here are some environmental-themed resources to consider for your Lenten journey.
Carbon Fast – Free download of a calendar with daily devotions and actions focused on our use of the planet’s resources.
For the Beauty of the Earth: A Lenten Devotional – Five-minute daily devotions written by Rev. Dr. Leah Schade and based on the hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth.” Each devotion ends with a recommended spiritual practice for the day.
Drawing Closer to Creator & Creation: An Indigenous Journey through Lent – Free download when you sign-up for the newsletter of the Eloheh Indigenous Center for Earth Justice. In the devotional, Rev. Dr. Randy Woodley offers daily writings and reflection questions that provide a thoughtful journey to the cross, rooted in God’s shalom for all creation.
More ideas for Lent are available from Lutherans Restoring Creation. Or, you may join me in attempting to fast from all single-use items during Lent, except toilet paper! That one is just too far a reach for me 😊.