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Time to Move!

You changed my mourning into dancing. You took off my funeral clothes and dressed me up in joy so that my whole being might sing praises to you and never stop.~ Psalm 30:11-12

What signs of migration have you seen lately? There are the obvious arrivals like swallows, hummingbirds, and orioles. None of those (aside from a really tough oriole now and again) spend the winter anywhere near New England, so their arrivals are sure signs of spring. But what of the traditional “first robin”? Robins are most definitely migratory, it’s even in their scientific name, turdus migratorius. But surely that robin your friend saw in January wasn’t a migrant, right? Correct, with little effort, one could find a robin any day of the year, even in the winter. But the robin you see in December is very unlikely to be the same bird you see in July. The reason is that these migrants have gotten clever enough to move only as far as necessary. That means that the winter birds you see are simply northerners enjoying the “balmy” south. Many duck species have a similar strategy. They will stick to a pond until there is not enough open water left amid the ice and then just hop over to the closest unfrozen water. A good number of them progress slowly east to the coast where the salt water never freezes solid.

Some species take advantage of us to find shelter for the winter. If “house” appears in their name, that is your first clue that the bird is non-migratory. House Sparrows quite literally take up housekeeping in the eaves and openings of our homes. House Finches like us well enough to live nearby, but for the most part prefer the hanging plants and wreaths we place outside, though a handy eave with some sort of roof can make for a lovely nesting spot. House Wrens are an exception, they don’t mind human activity, but they still have an aversion to the cold. Their cousin, the Carolina Wren, on the other hand, has acquired a taste for suet and found that winters up north are actually more survivable than previous generations had thought.

Even non-migratory birds move in the spring. It may be just from the yard where there was a feeder all winter to neighbor’s house where there is lovely hole in the siding, but it is a pattern shift at minimum. The shifting patterns of our lives are less predictable and regimented, and often not seasonal. Still, we experience life in cycles, sometimes responding to things beyond our control and sometimes creating change through our intentions. We might learn a thing or two from the movement of our feathered siblings. Bird migration doesn’t happen through conscious thought, if it weren’t hard-wired, it wouldn’t work. If birds had to consult maps and make itineraries, not many would survive. Perhaps our best laid plans are best laid aside as well. When Psalm 30 speaks of changing mourning into dancing, getting dressed up in joy and singing, perhaps it is a reminder that the same God who gave birds their lovely courtship displays also designed us for beautiful movement. Life is journey, and if you think you’ve arrived, then you can rest assured that you’re lost.

Prayer: Holy Mover and Shaker, tune up our hearts to play the songs that we need to sing and reminds us to move, dancing like no one is watching. Amen.


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