West Virginia Morning: Riches

“We are told to consider the birds,” my friend says to me this morning, after I’ve confessed guilt feelings for staring out the window at the spring doings of my bird community for a prolonged time. “I don’t necessarily think it’s a waste of time.”

Sometimes God’s messengers wear skin and they bear such tidings as to douse a parched soul.

I’ve been reading John Burroughs’ Wake Robin (this version is free on Kindle). It’s a collection of his essays about birds and it has me captured. His delight for our little wingeds is so evident in his writing. What I’ve been doing is reading his description of a bird’s song and personality, then going to my birding app and listening to his descriptions take sound. It makes for slow reading but it unfetters my heart so. I can get caught up in learning about the ornithological world. Thus, guilt. But sweetness too.

There has been a bluebird pair checking out my box for a couple weeks now. Last week I saw the male dive at a red-bellied woodpecker who was clinging to the side of the box. I think that sharp-beaked intruder may have scared Mr. and Mrs. Blue away from nesting there, for when I peeked in the door this morning there was no evidence of nest-building. But I still hold out hope. Every time I pass the bay window in the kitchen I must pause to study the box and its surrounding habitat. One must be patient to catch a glimpse of nest building. Bluebirds are shy and furtive birds. I’ve stopped filling the feeders near that area so the neighborhood does not appear too noisy. I so want them to build their home inside that little shelter. Bluebirds haven’t nested in that box for over ten years. Not since the first two seasons I put it out. The house sparrows have always been more aggressive, no matter how many of their nests I pitched out.

Everywhere I look the birds are frolicking, caught up in the magic of spring. A robin couple has built their nest in one of our maple trees out back. I watched them carry dried grass and leaves to and fro for days, it seemed. But they seem all settled in now. I caught them in the act just yesterday as I walked Bonnie around the house. We came upon them unawares and they startled apart, taking flight like two nervous teenagers.

I am behind on my spring chores. Just this morning I trimmed back my crepe myrtles, meticulously making my way through each woody branch. I was dismayed to see new growth already and worried my tardiness will stunt the bush’s beauty. But nature is so forgiving. My lilac bush is filling out with heavy blossoms. And last season I neglected to prune it after its glory faded. Still, this season: beauty. The back yard is filled with its heady scent. This world dressed in spring holds so many fascinations.

Yesterday, I read this:

If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.” ~Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Yes. So many discoveries waiting to be seen. This thought fills me to overflow. I may not be poet enough to call forth the riches in my life, but my eyes will notice. My heart will be glad. There is no poverty here.


  1. Lynn D. Morrissey says

    Laura, as always so exquisite!! I’ve been away on Iona, and have not been starved for beauty, but for words *about* beauty–like yours. Your words never disappoint. Thank you! I have loved being home (though admittedly, I didn’t want to leave the island at first), and have been enchanted with birdsong since returning. I took another retreat to our cabin in the Midwest (an hour from St. Louis, where I live) to process the longer island retreat. Each morning, I awoke in the loft to the songs of birds. It’s like sleeping in a treehouse. I particularly love hummingbirds (the first one I’d ever seen at our cabin, I nearly killed with a super stream of Raid. I was sitting on the deck and the largest wasp I had ever seen took a nosedive at me. And then, mercifully, I realized it was not a wasp at all. Oh, so that’s what a hummingbird looks like! Now I bask in their rainbow hues and blurred winging.) Thank you for that rich Rilke quote, one of my favorites. It echoes the sentiments of Robert Louis Stevenson (my mother’s favorite quote): “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.” And I’m thinking that your post echoes Kingly satisfaction at the beauty of His creation! And may I wish you a happy Easter as we celebrate the King and our ultimate winging heavenward (thanks to his death, burial, and resurrection).
    Love you,

    • says

      Lynn, I’m glad to know you are safely home and still reaping the blessings of your island time! Yes, to return in the spring with the birds in full song is a gift. I love the Stevenson quote! So perfect. I pray your Easter was sweet, my friend.

  2. says

    Oh my! I love watching birds too. I still remember 3rd grade and the teacher helping us make a book of birds and bird facts. Each page had a picture of a specific bird species we drew, and below were three sentences we had to use our best cursive to write.

    We have several bird boxes along our back yard fence, but put three new ones up a month ago. We had a woodpecker working for awhile enlarging the hole of one of the blue bird boxes to use as his own. But the bluebirds eventually chased him away.

    Spring is such a fun time of the year. Thanks for sharing your backyard finds and observations.

  3. says

    Thank you for the book recommendation, Laura, it sounds like a delightful read! Also, my friend Gail Dixon has been capturing amazing shots of her bluebird pair – you can find her on IG. gailadixon EnJOY~!

    • says

      Thank you for sharing Gail’s IG, June! I’m so enjoying her pictures! My bluebirds are not nesting in my box, but must be somewhere nearby because they are still frequenting my backyard. I love seeing their blue busyness!

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