The poet Mary Oliver wrote, “There are things you can’t reach. But you can reach out to them, and all day long. The wind, the bird flying away. The idea of god. And it can keep you busy as anything else, and happier. I look; morning to night I am never done with looking. Looking I mean not just standing around, but standing around as though with your arms open.”
My neighbours Bill and Nel are the kind of people who reach out. They live along a pond in my neighbourhood and I’ve enjoyed sitting on their porch drinking tea and snacking too many of their delicious biscuits. They are exactly the people you wish could be your neighbours. They reach out, they notice, and they make room for others. During this pandemic, faced with all the restrictions, Bill and Nel have made room for visitors of another kind: birds. When I asked him, Bill said, “I always loved birds and see them as part of God’s great creation. I think He created them especially for us to enjoy, watch, and listen to their songs.”
With this great love for birds, Bill and his granddaughter Amelie, made bird houses together. He recalls that it is a difficult time for children, but together they found a way to care and make a home for the birds that visit the area. They made several colourful birdhouses and put them up in the tree by their home. They are noticing how many others are enjoying them, “especially little and younger kids like looking at them. I think little kids are more observant than grown-ups sometimes, as they point to things they like, as they stop their mothers and point to the birdhouses in the tree. People stop and take pictures, which is also a nice thing to see,” said Bill.
Bill’s attentiveness to his visiting birds extends to his neighbourhood. As passing neighbours stop to look at the birdhouses, Bill is enjoying engaging with them. Bill reflects, “I am glad that we have some young families living around the pond. I see some young girls pushing their little strollers with their dolls inside or riding their bikes with their dolls on the back or front, while having big conversations. I see a tiny guy driving his electric car all around the pond. I see kids having great fun on their trampolines. I see boys fishing in the pond and catching a nice ”Jack“ and releasing it again. I see faithful dog walkers each and every day, rain or shine and get to know their dogs. I am blessed with great neighbours who clear the snow on my driveway and sidewalks.”
For Bill the visiting birds and passing neighbours gives him hope and renews his faith. “God cares very much for me and my neighbours,” said Bill. “I read in one of the psalms that God looks after the little birds, that, “even the the sparrow has found a home and the swallow a nest for herself.” To me that means to me that God will provide for us each and every day. In these difficult Covid times we can be assured that God will look after us. When I walk around the pond and observe all the laughter and joy that children bring to this neighbourhood and the people interacting with each other I can see God’s work all around us.”
Those birdhouses along our neighbourhood path reveal the heart of love that so many in our community share. They tell a story of grandparents, a grand-daughter, birds, and neighbours who all share an abiding hope that we will get through hard times, that we are cared for, and that we can find trust in each other. Birdhouses are a beautiful picture of the hope we share together, and the hope that spring will come to warm us again.