Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ornaments of hope: How silence gives way to symphony

photo credit

"What is birdsong but 'truth in rehearsal'?" 
 ~ Terry Tempest Williams

I'm running through the streets of my neighborhood, silent, listening. My ears, eyes and nose are big sponges ready to sop up the soundtrack, sights and scent of life - this intersection of human, creature and natures' songs - going on around me.

In silence I hear 
the scuffle of my running shoes on sidewalk. 
The jangle of zippers tossed around on my backpack.
My gentle labor of breath.
The muffled roar of tires across paved streets, tiny ocean waves in the city.
"Trrrrrrrree cheepcheepcheep!" of birds I cannot see.
Wind whispers through neighbors' trees.
Trills and cheeps and caws of birdsongs overlapping in the skies.
Childrens' laughter and daddy running after bicycles.

I stop beneath a canopy of blossoms so white and fluffy I reach out to cup them in my hands, sheltered from the misty rain. They tip forward and baptize me with rain trickles down my wrists.

I want to stand still here, for a long, long time.

* * * * *

I am mesmerized by birds. By the melodies and songs they sing. They speak a language I cannot understand with my intellect, but somehow, resonates deep within my cells, beyond the confines of language. Something ancient, something shared in our living, breathing existence, speaks to me.

We inhabit parallel worlds that overlap on rare occasions.

I want - no, I hunger - to enter into their world. I yearn to know their songs. For now, I must tenuously content myself with listening from the ground below their perches.

* * * * *

I sense to know the songs of birds, in some way, is to open a door not only to another world, but also to a deeper inhabiting of the Creator's heart. They seem a link between this world and heaven.

I imagine them singing of truth: "The eternal exists! Our Creator is good! There is something greater than this life!" 

And I know, too, that their songs herald danger at times. The beautiful songs sometimes sing of things terrifying, and this is courage.  In this, the words of Frederick Buechner resound: "This is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid."

In their melodies, they communicate with each other as a species, but it is also worship to my ears. And worship is truth. I'm reminded of Christ's words, "For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth." And I wonder, do these birds know this better than us?

They are not God, of course, but in them I see traces of Divine. Their 'otherness' reminds me of God's holiness; that wherever I tread, I am standing on holy ground. God has passed through this place; indeed, God is here.

* * * * *

I'm off the streets now, tucked away in the library writing. I can still hear their songs, unsilenced, indoors.

What the songbirds teach me is that there is no such thing as empty silence. That the irony of it all is this: when we are finally silent, it is only then we can hear the songs that are continually being sung in the world around us. Only through silence can we enter in.

 * * * * *

This is my unofficial blog series for Lent, "Ornaments of hope," where I want to learn to sing like the birds and hang these songs as 'ornaments' on the trees.  I don't know how often I will write, but I'm committed to writing out this forty day journey in some way.  And you? I know you're on your own journey, and I'd love to hear about that. But if you resonate with any of this, I hope to see you around here this Lenten season. Singing with the birds and hanging our ornaments of hope as we journey from darkness to light. Maybe we'll even form a choir.

Ornament 1
Ornament 2

Ornament 3
Ornament 4 


  1. An absolute yes to silence, solitude, stillness. Ah, to soak in it, to let our striving cease, to invite the Holy Spirit invite us to something deeper, more substantial.

    Thank you for this reflection, Amber ... I hope your Sabbath has been peaceful and refreshing ...

    1. It starts here, doesn't it, Linda - with saying 'yes' to silence, solitude, stillness? To let our striving cease, as you say, and accept the invitation to something deeper, more substantial. I don't know why it can be so hard to say yes, sometimes, when I know it's always worth the cost of whatever else I'm saying 'no' to. But oh, it's so peaceful and refreshing. I hope you are being refreshed in your own moments this week.

  2. Ahhhh, I relate to this soul connection with the songs of birds and the silence that is not empty, as you so beautifully say. Thank you. I'm so glad you're writing these ornaments of hope. They truly are.