Many parts of the country are snow-covered during this wintery season of the year. It is especially rewarding to walk in the outdoors in winter. Life is more difficult for all the creatures that remain active and their characteristics are more easily seen. Everything has a purpose and seems to “be on a mission”. There is no waste of time in the natural world. The mode is to survive, but the effort seems to suggest that most every creature thrives on surviving.
In a few weeks, the presents we struggled to find for friends and family will have been enjoyed and the “new” will begin to fade. I recall my grandmother’s great example of living with the basics…never wanting or asking for things, and always giving of her gifts of sewing and cooking. She didn’t miss what she didn’t have and once told me that everything we acquire has a “string attached to it”.
One of my favorite examples of simplicity and unselfishness is the tiny chickadee. I have watched them for many years and whether it be the Carolina Chickadee in the Smoky Mountains or the more abundant Black-Capped Chickadee across the country or the seldom seen Boreal Chickadee of the North Woods, every chickadee exhibits this same unique behavior.
When a chickadee discovers a source of food, he never immediately dives in and partakes… nor does he begin to store that food away from other birds and animals. He seems to recognize that the newfound source is vital to all so he will light on a perch near that source of life and begin to announce to the world that he has found what all must have and suggest that all must hear and respond to his invitation.
Birds from near and far begin to respond to the joyful “deedeedee” of this messenger of good news. Some seem to celebrate with the chickadee as they come to partake in a lean time of their lives.
Other birds have been beaten down in the storms and are weak and need the encouragement of what is essential to sustain them. So the tiny chickadee persists in his tireless efforts to announce that he has found what will satisfy every creature’s hunger if only they will join him in the midst of a cold and weary world.
What a great message from a simple, unselfish creature that seems to be so common and without a great purpose!
A few years ago I was staying in the Yosemite Valley when a front moved in and through the night a cold rain turned to ice that glazed and accumulated on the sheer granite walls above the valley. Later in the night the sleet turned to snow and several inches coated every tree and cliff surrounding my cabin.
I woke up well before daylight and walked to the open meadows to be in place for first light in such a quiet and peaceful setting. It was very dark and nothing seemed to be moving as the first beams of light struck the upper reaches of peaks with well-known names like El Capitan and Half Dome. In a matter of seconds the warmth of the light caused massive sheets of ice to release from the granite walls and they carried panes of ice along with mounds of snow crashing on lower cliffs and eventually to the valley floor. The first sounds were deafening as I tried to frame a photograph of this amazing phenomenon.
As I focused on a few pine trees on a ledge, the panels of ice fell at first horizontally, then vertically, and the result in my eyes was the coming of Light into a dark and unsuspecting world. Many had heard the sound but few had seen the Light.
At this amazing time of the year, there has been so much noise that we may have been so distracted by the sounds that we missed the Light, but it shines in a dark and lonely world and to those who are beaten up in the storm or weakened from the journey, I would like to be a “chickadee” today to announce that the Light is with us to change darkness into hope and hope into eternity.
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” JN 8:12