• Alaric Mark Lewis

On hope, despair, and a bird named Burt


A few days ago, a bird nest with two small chicks fell onto the patio. One bird was injured in the fall and I sadly haven't seen him today (I presume that he is hiding in the leaves that I told myself I was going to clear away two weeks ago) but the other is fairly sprightly, and, in the sight of his parents (who are always nearby watching him and bringing him food) manages to jump higher and higher each day. Before anyone asks, I have no idea what kind of birds they are. I have a friend in Spain who is an expert birder, so I've thought about asking him, but my description would be "adorable and tiny" which I suppose wouldn't give him much to go on. 

The patio is my dog Linus' domain, of course, and he is most vexed that he is no longer allowed to go out there. I take him out for walks, of course, but the freedom of running around and barking on the patio without his lead has been taken away from him. He has, I guess, become a kind of mascot for all the other people who can't metaphorically run around and bark freely in this period. (Or literally - I would judge no one who feels the need to run around and actually bark in this period.)

I have taken to working in the kitchen so that, with Linus (who plops himself in front of the door and looks out winsomely) I can follow the progress of the bird I've named Burt. And - not to put thoughts into Linus' head (he has his own Twitter and Facebook accounts to record his own pensées) - but I think he is probably sitting there wondering when he'll be able to do what he loves doing, whilst I am just overjoyed when Burt manages to jump a little higher towards his goal of getting beyond the walls that must seem insurmountable. 

I think both of these responses are appropriate metaphors for where we may find ourselves. Some days we may not be able to focus on anything other than the rather tragic state of our world and our individual suffering, and some days we may be able to get a little message of bouncing joy that helps temper the tragedy. I wish there were some sort of magic key that we could use to turn the lock of the door of despair and open into a garden of joy, but, sadly, life doesn't work that way.

And I wish I had all the answers but - I think we all know by now - I'm not that kind of priest. I just have to keep hoping; like exercising when I really don't feel like it, I just have to do it. I don't ignore the suffering - I do whatever is within my power to alleviate it - but I just have to keep hoping that God will be with us all as we try and figure it - figure him - out.

So I know Burt's going to make it - I just know it. I also know that after he does I will most certainly find the body of his little brother who didn't make it resting in the leaves that I told myself I was going to clear away two weeks ago, and that will cause me probably more sadness than one could rationally expect. 

But Burt's going to make it. And when he does, I'm going to throw that door open and Linus and I will both rush out onto the patio, barking madly, being wondrously aware - if only for a moment - of a God who is with us as we try and figure it - figure him - out.

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