What Are You Waiting For?
Make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing!~ Romans 13:11-12 (The Message)
Big Day birding requires a rather unique form of observation. Your attention must be laser-focused, but if you are too intent on the predetermined target a few things are likely to happen. For one, every sound or movement will serve as proof that you have found the target species. This leads to an internal debate, sometimes talking yourself into or out of an identification. The next all too common error is missing the common because your focus was too narrow. I’ve learned over time to make sure that I get an early Chickadee or Crow or Cowbird so I’m not wondering at the end of the day how I missed them. Trust me, I’ve missed the obvious more than a few times. And like any time of extended concentration, there is always the battle with the monkey mind wandering after every shiny object or the intrusion of every random thought intent on winning the battle for attention.
The trick to achieving the form of observation desired is to loosen your focus. It is the sort of thing that is difficult to describe but you know it when you’ve done it. Did you ever achieve the 3D effect of those Magic Eye pictures? If so, then you have an idea of what I’m suggesting. There is a goal that requires focused attention but your stare has to be a bit distant. I’ve spent countless hours standing in the dark just listening. When the owl or marsh bird chooses to be audible then I could recognize its presence. That doesn’t mean that it was present before I heard it, I just didn’t know it. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have been present in that particular location if I didn’t anticipate the bird’s presence. Thus the paradox of relaxed intentional waiting.
Since the season of Advent is beginning, the obvious question is “what are you waiting for?” We “wait” for the birth of the Christ because we already know the Nativity story. We don’t wait for the literal birth of a child, yet we wait. Just like the owl is in the dark woods before I hear it, so, too, the sacred surrounds and fills us long before we recognize its presence. So (spoiler alert) Christ is born in us today (and every day). What are you waiting for?
Prayer: Sacred Singer, give us a tune. We’re listening. Amen.