Backyard Birds


I’ve spent a good bit of time traveling in the last few months. I had speaking engagements around the U.S. as well as in Denmark, Norway and Lithuania in February and March. If not for the volcano in Iceland, I would have had events in London, Brussels and Rotterdam in April. I just returned from a 10-day interfaith trip to the Balkans, where we met with people in Macedonia and Croatia who are involved in peace-building and reconciliation projects between the various ethnic groups there. I am scheduled for events in Turkey next month, Tajikistan in September and Poland in October.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I feel blessed that I get to travel and meet people from different perspectives and worlds. And I believe in the work I and others do in support of peaceful coexistence between people of all faiths and no faith.

Sometimes, however, I wonder about it all. The travel, the running around, giving talks, doing all the stuff…….It sometimes seems frenetic and I’m not sure how much of a difference it all makes.

This week, I’ve worked from home mostly – writing, shoveling email, preparing for upcoming speaking events. I find myself distracted and being drawn to my back yard, which borders a small lake and where we have a tidy vegetable garden, a purple martin house full of nesting pairs, bird baths and bird feeders. In addition to the “tenanted” purple martins, all sorts of birds have come to the feeders and baths this week: hummingbirds, jays, red-winged blackbirds, house finches, white-winged doves, mourning doves, Asian ring-necked doves, cowbirds, grackles and even a pair of Mexican mottled ducks.

Dolly, the rat terrier and I, sit watching them for long stretches at a time. As we do, the debates and issues from recent speaking events fade in importance. The images of bullet-scarred buildings in Vukovar, Croatia that I saw not 2 weeks ago recede a bit. The thorny quagmires of current religio-political conflicts seem not quite so urgent.

Of course, all these things are still real and important and demand attention. But, at least for this week, I’m spending most of my time with the dog and the birds. There is a subtle stillness in their cacophany, and I feel deeply at home in it. Through it and them, I will be rested and ready for the next round of travel and work.

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