Knowing Birds by Snow

Written and Voiced by Duo Dickinson, architect of Christ Church Cathedral’s 2021 award-winning renovations. You can follow him on his blog, Saved by Design.

“Water, is taught by thirst.

Land — by the Oceans passed.

Transport — by throe —

Peace — by its battles told —

Love, by Memorial Mold —

Birds, by the Snow.”

Emily Dickinson, Poem 175

“The Little Ice Age” was a three-century dip in temperatures in the North Atlantic, probably caused by the sun’s changes, the same changes that made the Big Ice Ages. But that little ice age was part of Emily Dickinson’s youth. Boston Harbor froze. Growing season was short. Everything adapted to more snow, more cold.

Especially the birds, who ate the berries and bugs that the warmth gives us. So many went away to warmer places during those winter months. And Emily could not garden. Instead, she wrote by her window and noticed the birds who were there, in the snow that overwhelmed life for months.

Like the birds, no one knew that they were living through The Little Ice Age, or that it would abate in the next generations and would change again in global weather changes. They saw the snow. They had to abide.

Abiding is harder than striving. Acceptance is not the human default. We shovel the snow that birds walk on. We travel, even though standing still is easier. And it is hard, very hard for me, to simply know that I am loved.

Psychologists can deduce the traumas that preclude intimacy, the fears that propel dissociation – even the therapies that should undo ourselves into accepting ourselves. Sure. When it is the world we have and what we need is the dawn to see, we can turn on a lightbulb.

But the world we are given is often unfathomable. There is no justice. We, like the birds are often trapped in the snow. And yet, the gifts of God are with us in the cold—including the love that made us. In the lingering winter during Lent, even in the 21st century, the absence of the spring can allow us to hear it.

We cannot control and command happiness or justice or even warm air in winter. We are the birds in The Little Ice Age. But, unlike the birds, we can listen.


Translated Text – Texto Traducido – Tèks Tradui

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