I grew up around water. My mom enrolled me in one of those infant swimming classes before I could walk. Every summer we visited cousins on Lake Martin. And we moved there ourselves when I was in 9th grade. It’s where I learned to ski, fish and knock on strangers’ doors at midnight when our boat broke down.
I love the beach. I love the bay. I love the Caribbean. I love wading and hiking down creeks and streams. One of my favorite family vacations was canoe camping the Everglades.
Our first year in Pensacola we lived in a 600 sf crackerbox apartment, but it was on Escambia Bay. Our living room had kayaks and fishing poles standing in the corners. Most Saturday mornings Leigh Ann and I watched the sunrise over our coffee. Most Friday afternoons we took the kids and a cooler to the beach and stayed until dark.
One of our great friends, Randy, lets us crash at his man cave on Bayou Davenport – a concrete block garage turned studio apartment with a bathroom, a well stocked humidor, and a boat dock – only the essentials.
There’s a common sound to all of the aforementioned places that many don’t notice but always causes me to stop and look. It’s a high pitched shrill, often accompanied by the Doppler shift of fast movement. It’s the call of the Kingfisher.
Every time I hear it, I feel at home. My blood pressure lowers. My breathing slows. They’re just little birds. But for me they’re so much more.
My mom’s mother was a bird lady. She had a big den that she called her Florida room (it was in Opelika) with two walls full of windows. Outside she had countless feeders hung just so she could watch the birds. She would always send pictures (printed and mailed, the analog way) of nests they built in her ferns. She had one of those bird identification books on the coffee table that she didn’t need. She didn’t even need to see them for that matter. She knew their songs.
So somehow, by osmosis, that got transferred to me. I love birds. We have a bird feeder outside my kitchen and a hummingbird feeder hanging outside my living room. Whenever I go hiking I keep an eye out for Bard Owls and Red-tailed Hawks. One time I saw a hawk turn sideways like a fighter jet and pick a squirrel off a telephone pole. When we took our kids to St. John, we rented a villa up on Bordeaux Mountain and there was a family of Kestrels in a nest over the hillside. Every time we’re at Randy’s we feed the local Great Blue Heron shrimp. We named him Randy.
One of my favorite Twitter accounts regularly posts pictures of birds comparing them to the Holy Spirit. And I understand why. Birds are comforting and mysterious. They can fly for God’s sake. And I always find my favorite ones in the same places I find God. Also, Jesus compared the way God takes care of birds to how he takes care of us.
So don’t worry friends. Go find some woods or water. Slow down and listen for the birds.