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Sparking Joy



If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy,make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.Philippians 2:1-2


In the past two years living in Maine, I’ve added three birds to my life list. It would be hard for them to be more diverse.


The first was a Gray Flycatcher. Like all of these lifers, he was far out of his normal range where he was snagging tiny insects off the rocks at low tide in Biddeford. Despite being within feet of him, identification would have been much trickier had he not been previously identified and was the only flycatcher in the vicinity, likely for miles given that it was December.


The second was nothing short of spectacular. The Stellar’s Sea-Eagle who has decided to make the northeast coast of North America his new home is literally the only one ever to wander from the northern Pacific coast. And he is huge and striking in appearance. I’ve seen him not once, but twice, both times with a crowd of birders who rightfully oo-ed and ah-ed.


The third required a secret handshake and patience. OK, not quite a secret handshake but information about the Broad-tailed Hummingbird had to be requested and one had to agree not to disclose the location. This protected the homeowners and the bird from excessive disturbance. There were three of us staked out staring at the heated feeder when I heard the bird flying in. We got good looks, but she was only slightly different from our usual hummingbirds.


Each of these birds brought joy by being odd. The unique beauty of the Sea-Eagle is something appreciated by nearly everyone. The partiulcarity of the nondescript Kingbird could only be appreciated with knowledge and experience. Still, each of these birds were enjoyed simply because they existed in a particular place and time. The fact that Maine in December was the place and time meant that in order to be considered special, two out of the three likely did not survive. They were no less able to spark joy in other times and places, but sadly less likely.


A lesson for all of us is to notice the splendid web of connectedness all around us which is not possible except for the diversity of individuals, both human and other-than-human, particularly those who don’t necessarily stand out.


Prayer: Holy Encourager, may our hearts and minds be one in complete joy. Amen.

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