Housework cried out for my attention yesterday morning, and then I drove off to officiate at a wedding in Rhode Island in the afternoon, so I had no time to get outdoors. Fortunately the wedding was at a conference center out in the middle of the woods. It was a two and a half mile drive from the highway along increasingly narrow and winding roads. I kept the car windows down, and listened:
…teakettleteakettleteakettle, that’s a Carolina Wren…
…a little piece of a song, Baltimore Oriole…
…chipchipchipchipchip, Chipping Sparrow….
Then I arrived at the conference center. The wedding was to be outdoors, overlooking a small pond. We did the rehearsal. The wedding got delayed for an hour. It looked like there might be a thundershower at any moment so I didn’t dare go for a walk. I stood on the porch and watched the edge of the pond:
…tiny bird, black with a flash of red: American Restart….
…slightly larger bird on a twig, every few seconds flies out to snag insects: Eastern Kingbird…
…something small and brown, without binoculars there’s no telling….
For those minutes, I was totally focused on birds.
It didn’t rain. At last the wedding started. When you officiate at weddings, you’re presiding over twenty minutes that are very important minutes to at least two people, so I become very focused on the ceremony. And at this wedding, there was another Unitarian Universalist minister in attendance, someone whom I respect and who has very high standards, which increased the intensity of my focus even more. Yet I couldn’t quite turn off my earlier focus on birds. During the prayer I heard a buzzy pee-a-wee pee-a-wee, and I thought: Eastern Wood Peewee. It wasn’t a distraction, I was just doubly focused.
In the middle of the vows, off in the distance, some flute-like notes; was that a Wood Thrush? (the song of a Wood Thrush is one of those few sounds that truly thrill me to my marrow). “Please repeat after me….” It was a Wood Thrush. A little thrill passed down my spine, and the superstitious side of me thought: This must be a good omen; this marriage is going to be blessed. No focus on my part, no professional critique by another minister, no amount of preparation, will ever equal the importance of the glorious song of one small drab brown bird.