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Edge of the Miraculous

The ornithologist Drew Lanham is lyrical in the languages of science, humans, and birds. His celebrated books include The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature and a collection of poetry and meditations called Sparrow Envy: Field Guide to Birds and Lesser Beasts. Drew Lanham’s way of seeing and hearing and noticing the present and the history that birds traverse — through our backyards and beyond — is a revelatory way to be present to the world and to life in our time.

Great Blue Heron on the Ipswich River, MA

Drew Lanham: “If teaching is preaching, I’ve become a warmer, gentler pastor, more like the clergy at my mother’s church. Maybe it’s appropriate that these years have given me new spiritual release, too. I’ve settled into a comfortable place with the idea of nature and god being the same thing. Evolution, gravity, change, and the dynamic transformation of field into forest move me. A warbler migrating over hundreds of miles of land and ocean to sing in the same tree, once again, is as miraculous to me as any dividing sea. Doing good things for and revering nature are just acts. There is righteousness in conserving things, staving off extinction, and simply admiring the song of a bird. In my moments of confession in front of strangers, talking about my love of something much greater than any one of us, I become a freer me. Each time, I’m reborn." ( from interview with Krista Tippett, )

Here's a link to Drew Lanham's reading from his book 'The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature'

Drew Lanham invites us to look and listen deeply. In doing so, with intention and practice we can immerse ourselves in a world that is more expansive than we would otherwise imagine. It is a place of beauty and wonder, accessibility and complexity, intimacy and mystery. A place of meeting.

Some years ago I kayaked on the Yamhill River. This river is a slow moving, heavily irrigated, often overlooked river that winds through the farmland of Yamhill County, Oregon. One memorable day I paddled with a friend who was an avid birdwatcher. He taught me how to look and listen, inviting me to look and listen into the foliage in 3' increments. With each increment, first 3' then 6 ' then 9' I discovered layers of plant, bird and mammal life. With intention, I was teaching my eyes, ears and brain to be open to a new way of being.

Pow Wow River, NH

With practice I was able to see (and hear) more deeply as my eyes and ears adjusted, moving from the shoreline and into the forest and up into the canopy. Imagine.

In the spirit of Drew Lanham, I invite you to look beyond the surface. Imagine what happens as we look beyond the familiar, as we allow ourselves to look for the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary. What new worlds await you? As the ornithologist says 'it is all miraculous'.

With you on the journey ~ Kent Harrop

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