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My goodness the birds go through their feeder seed quick these days!

This winter is the first that I have kept my bird feeders full—or at least made an effort. I call them my birds, but I know I possess those birds about as much as I own the sun. Still, as long as they come to my back corner garden and eat from my feeders, I like to claim them as my own.

The thing I’ve learned about feeding birds in wintertime is that their feeders need tending more often than the rest of the year—much more often. I no sooner pour black sunflower seed or finch food into my several feeders and within days—not weeks as in summertime—they need refilling. There is rarely a time when I spy out the window over my kitchen sink, that I do not see at least one—usually several—birds dining. Sometimes there are so many—especially in the case of my finches—that they are dripping off their wire mesh feeder.

The other thing I’ve noticed while feeding birds in wintertime is their wasteful eating habits. I know they fling seed around in the summertime—I know because I’ve seen them do it, and I’m pulling up sprouted sunflower plants from my garden soil several times a season. Strangely this never bothered me before. But the first time this winter that I looked out my window and saw the birds dropping seeds carelessly upon the ground, I confess, my ire went up. I almost tapped on the window to get their attention and give them a scolding.

No, really…I did.

Then I had to shake my head and laugh at my thoroughly scowlish behavior. I also had to stop what I was doing and go find one of my favorite Wendell Berry poems, one so perfect for this particular moment. It is from his collection entitled Window Poems (p. 88-9). I won’t recount the entire poem to you, just the part that is so fitting here:

                        7.

…They snatch

what they can carry and fly

into the trees. They flirt out

with tail or beak and waste

more sometimes then they eat.

And the man, knowing

the price of seed, wishes

they would take more care.

But they understand only

what is free, and he

can give only as they

will take. Thus they have

enlightened him. He buys

the seed, to make it free.

And isn’t this the way the Father is with us: knowing our absolute limitations in understanding and unselfishly loving us only as we can receive? Willing to lavish us wastefully with His love, spending the life of his own Son even, to make such love free.

And all this He does, though we be but dust…

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—                                         

–Psalm 103:13-17

Maybe all that bird seed hasn’t been wasted after all.

Copyright 2015 by Shari Dragovich

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