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Sheer Availability


Rose breasted grosbeaks were stars at the feeder in late April. I was charmed by their special presence since they were just passing through on their migration route. True to what I had learned males arrive first, followed a few days later by females. Checking my journal, I noticed that they arrive at the same time every year, give or take a few days. It seems a small thing, but having a source of food waiting for them on their journey pleased me.


I was also delighted in early May when I heard that hummingbirds were spotted in our area. I quickly prepared the feeder and hung it in the yard. In a few hours they were back, two hummingbirds enjoying the nectar, hopefully throughout the summer months. That feeder didn’t have to wait long to become useful and once more intimately involved in the lives of these migrators! 


A few days earlier I had prepared the bird bath for the season, and it wasn’t long until Smokey, the backyard opossum, took advantage of it after foraging under the bird feeder for dinner. I’ve also seen squirrels, wasps, snails, and of course birds, drinking the available water.


Simply providing sources of food and water speak to me of the importance of the spiritual practice of waiting in silent readiness, of being an awake and welcoming presence to whatever manifests in my little corner of our rare and precious planet, even climate change.


In her book A Fire Runs Through All Things: Zen Koans for Facing the Climate Crisis, Susan Murphy writes, “At every point, reality is exactly as awake as we are. When we’re dead to the world, reality is exactly as dead to us. We can’t fall out of its aliveness, but we can spend a lifetime with our backs turned toward it.”


Murphy’s book about facing the climate crisis is a “response to the acute alarm in human hearts that are dismayed by the world’s relative failure to mount a sane response. It sets out to find how we can face this distress with a strong charge of equanimity and a skillful response.” She invites readers to be available to whatever happens, aligned with our suffering Earth. She encourages a quiet and receptive mind because “The inability to quiet the mind mutes the Earth”. 


What can we really do as we face our ecological crises? We can wait in readiness, willing to be awake to whatever needs to be done. We can become like a bird feeder, a bird bath, and a native flower, a presence of sheer availability. 

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