In the springtime, as a part of my usual backyard and deck preparations, I get the bird feeder cleaned up after a long winter.
The birds are always excited to see it clean and filled with their favorite little seeds as they sing in the branches over my backyard. They love springtime as well. We usually do not get any wildly exciting birds at our feeder, no one too colorful, but it is still a delight to see them, gathering, singing in the trees and knowing they feel cared for and at home.
As the birds are showing their appreciation, the squirrels, of course, are gearing up as well. I have tried many different ways to try to keep the squirrels from eating all the bird food, but I am also captivated by their amazing gymnastic talent and the raw cleverness they use to get some food.
This summer, our parish is hosting Alex Leschisin, a seminarian for the diocese, who studied civil engineering before entering the seminary; because of his background, I gave him the task of making my bird feeder more squirrel-proof.
Before he got to work on his mission, I spent a bit of time admiring the squirrels (plural) as they gathered in the trees and on the fence, working out in their little squirrel minds how they were going to eat; their tenacity is amazing.
One hung by its back legs off of a tree branch, stretching to reach the top of the feeder, and having achieved its goal, dropped onto the top of the feeder where it perched happily, and reaching down, gorged itself on sunflower seeds.
Another, being less acrobatic, managed to climb a pole thinner than my little finger, which until then I had considered an impossible task, and yet, there it was, hanging from the top hook and eating with happy abandon.
The birds seemed to be just biding their time, waiting for their chance to move in as soon as a squirrel lost its grip, or was scared off by an excited dog tearing out of the back door of the rectory.
It did not take Alex long to figure out a system to attach a barrier up the pole, and to trim a few branches to keep the squirrels away. Well, not really away, they still fill the trees and the fence, and they are, even as I write, trying to figure out a way to circumvent our new security system.
In the meantime, I will sit on the deck and watch in amazement at their antics, and to be inspired again by the fierce tenacity of life.
Life strives; it struggles and fights to overcome the obstacles in its way. Life is found in the oven-hot cracks of Death Valley and in the frozen ice of the Arctic; life is found in the stratosphere and growing around volcano vents miles under the ocean’s surface.
In our own yards, concrete covers the ground and yet a seed finds a small crack, sets its roots and soon, in the most inhospitable place, a plant is stretching to the sun. Before you pull it, or blast it with a weed killer, it might be nice to pause and acknowledge the wonder before you.
Because of our unique position as self-aware and sentient beings, we can sometimes feel separated from the life around us, and because of this, we may think our life is not as tenacious. Yet, our desire to endure, our ability to strive even in the most inhospitable situations is still a wonder, and the strength of our lives is fierce.
It is a reminder of the beautiful words we are invited to speak each Lord’s Day: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life…” All creation is given life by the Holy Spirit, but not just life itself, but life in all its tenacity, courage and strength.
We are blessed among all creatures given life because we can have an awareness of Who gives us this life, and Who gives us the ability to not just endure, but to thrive, even in the struggles life itself presents. The ability to adapt and to grow is given to all expressions of life, but we are given the great gift of being able to choose as well.
We are given the ability to choose to love and to live our lives with love and compassion. We will find in this the fullest flowering of tenacity, courage and strength.
Life strives, and so do we.