The November 2017 issue of the Reader’s Digest carries an article entitled, ‘The thought that really counts’. The opening sentence is, ‘People often say a big part of the festive season is gift-giving, rather than receiving. Then there’s that adage that it’s the thought that counts. Both noble sentiments. The following paragraph is headed, ‘Get them what they actually want’.
Last week I enjoyed part of last year’s Christmas gift from my son; he had offered me visits to RSPB Minsmere throughout the year to see the different seasons. Every time we arrive our appreciative opening conversation goes like this, “I’ve waited for this” and the reply, “You can always hear the silence”. It’s not that I don’t appreciate other family gifts, but this is what he and I both enjoy, and we discuss this gift each year.
Many years ago, his Dad and I went on an introduction to birdwatching course at the reserve. Our warden didn’t take us into the hides; we walked round the reserve slowly and he pointed out the birds by listening for their calls and movements in the trees and shrubs. The hides came at the very end, almost as a bonus to our slow walk through the reserve. Last week David and I did our autumn visit to the reserve and, as normal, we parted company, he to visit the hides whilst I did a slow walk. I chose to walk through the forest nearest to the information centre. It was fairly dark as there was still a lot of foliage on the trees, with pockets of dappled shade where the sun was shining.
I was rewarded for my slow walk with many stops by seeing chaffinches, blue tits, coal tits, 3 robins and a greenfinch. I spied a tree creeper, a rare sighting, wending its way up a large spreading oak. A tall centre branch rising up to the canopy above had no bark on it, so the tree creeper was clearly visible. A middle-aged couple with all the birdwatching gear were walking towards me peering at their map of the reserve and I decided to try and point out the tree creeper to them. Unfortunately, they couldn’t see the tree creeper that was so obvious to me and the bird gradually disappeared further up where it wasn’t so visible. I knew exactly what I was looking for, but they didn’t. It is important to know what we are looking for in life or we will be in danger of missing out. You can have all the gear to see things clearly but the one essential thing for clarity of vision is to be still.
As I came to a junction, I had three choices – turn left to the Scrapes, carry straight on towards the Bitten hide or turn back. The hide and the sluice gates are popular viewing sites on the reserve. I thought of how life is full of so many decisions, some large and some small, and how important it is that we are still enough to get those choices right.
It had been a very still day, yet the trees of the forest were on the brink of change. There was no wind to cause the leaves to fall even though it was time for the trees to drop their foliage. Life is not static. We pass through the changing seasons, each with its own beauty and challenge. The walk had taken me three quarters of an hour and, for me, it had been a refreshing breathing space, a gathering up of thoughts, getting things in perspective and appreciating the stillness and beauty of my surroundings. David joined me as I got to the end and we had our usual end conversation of “I needed that” and “That did me good”. There is so much that presses in to clutter our thinking and disturb our emotions, causing us to be restless and removing our peace. As we are surrounded by the trappings of Christmas we could make it our goal to focus upon the gift of peace that the Christ child can bring us all - whatever our situation.