Thursday, April 28, 2011


As though expecting something greater yet,
From high up in the Hemlock trees they sing,
At first a few lone voices start their set,
Then others enter in the chorusing.
Around the world the sunrise ever runs,
To scatter shadowlands with dawning light,
The turning globe receives the morning sun's
Rejuvenating rays with sheer delight.
The birds at least, they somehow seem to know,
That Christ was risen from the dead at dawn,
Their chorus every morn it seems to show,
That everything that breathes is truly drawn;
To lift our voice in praise and adoration;
Our purpose so to practice resurrection.*

By David Robinson, written on Easter, April 24, 2011

*"practice resurrection" is a phrase from Wendell Berry's "Manifesto of a Mad Farmer"
The title "Dawn Chorus" is from Gordon Hempton's Emmy winning sound documentary of birds singing at dawn all over the world, titled, "Vanishing Dawn Chorus".

Monday, April 18, 2011


After  the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. ...Suddently Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him.   ~Matthew 28:1,9 

A new day beckons hearts awake to sing,
As jeweled dew drops freshen every blade,
A flash of flicker-flight on morning wing,
Through Hemlock boughs renews the forest glade.
Eternity arises with the dawn,
In misty shrouded forests by the sea,
The sword fern camouflage the sleeping fawn,
Beneath the soaring Cedar canopy.
Awake my soul, your morning anthem raise,
To join the Varied Thrush in Matin’s cry,
Leap up my soul, your Recreator praise,
In silent wonder seek him eye to eye.
The darkness fades, behold the new day breaks,
As all creation in Christ’s light awakes.

Monday, April 11, 2011


 Awakened by the dawn,
Perched in a Sitka spruce,
Two corvids allopreen.
The crescent moon is gone,
The pair now on the loose,
On wing above the green.
In search of morning food,
They hunt the high tide line,
Beachcombing on the winds.
A race along the dunes,
Then off to town to find,
Their cousins and some friends.
Arriving at God's house,
Upon a shore pine branch,
They look inside the place.
We're keeping prayerful vows,
Our thirsty souls to quench,
Before the throne of grace.
~by David Robinson

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storerooms or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? ~Luke 12:24-26

"Be not forgetful of prayer. Every time you pray, if your prayer is sincere, there will be new feeling and new meaning in it, which will give you new courage....Brothers and sisters, have no fear of men's sin. Love a man even in his sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things." ~Father Zossima, from "The Brothers Karamazov", by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Ravens and crows are communal creatures. They communicate in complex social patterns of speech, live in intentional social structures, and they submit their lives to the corvid pecking order. Ornithologists have studied crows at play, at work, at community gatherings. They’ve discovered them storing food for the winter, playing together and posting sentries to guard their camp. They have attempted to decipher their language and understand their communal way of life. Some odd bird-brain facts. A domestic chicken brain accounts for one tenth of a percent (0.1%) of its body weight. The American Crow’s brain is two and a half percent (2.5%) of its body weight compared with the human brain weighing in at one and a half percent (1.5%) of our body weight.(1) Every time I meet a crow I think to myself, “there must be something remarkable going on inside that head”.
A minister friend told me an odd crow story he witnessed at a wedding in Santa Barbara, California. The bride and groom wanted to share communion on their wedding day. So my minister friend provided a dinner roll as a communion loaf, along with a chalice of wine. During the outdoor ceremony, a crow flew down from a neighboring tree, landed on the edge of the chalice, nearly tipping it over, and with one quick motion, the large bird pecked at the loaf of bread and flew off with it to a branch above the heads of the wedding guests. Then the crow sat for the next few minutes, in full view of the humans below, enjoying its own form of corvid communion while the minister hustled off to obtain another loaf.
I love talking with crows and ravens when I meet them in the village or in the forest. On a hike a few winters back with friends in the Olympic National Park, a raven followed us for several miles, high in the treetops overhead, keeping us company and tracking our progress with deep throaty “Krawwk” calls that echoed through the forest.
I had an odd encounter with a crow a few years ago, while spending the weekend at a retreat center on the north coast of Oregon. Sitting on a park bench overlooking the Pacific Ocean at sunset, I was meditating on a sentence from the Bible when a crow flew up, perched on a nearby telephone pole and started its brash calls. Caw! Caw! Caw! I continued my quiet reflection on the story. Caw! Caw! Caw! I was thinking, “Hey bird, knock it off! I’m trying to enjoy some quiet time down here.” The crow kept up his calls: Caw! Caw! Caw! “Quit already. Can’t you see, I’m trying to enjoy the quiet here!” Caw! Caw! Caw! My eyes returned to the sentence I was pondering. Caw! Caw! Caw! It was only then that I discovered the crow’s secret hidden in the sentence. There they were: three verbs tucked away in that sentence I had been reading and rereading. Go! Close! Pray! When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:6).
Go! Close! Pray! An “Aha” ray of spiritual light penetrated into that 1.5% of my body weight also known as my brain. At that exact moment, the crow flew off. I watched its flight across the dunes, offering a prayer of thanks to God for sending that bird to point out a basic pattern for wise living. Go! Close! Pray!
Go! Getting away from distractions requires some forethought. I’ve found it difficult to engage in soul work of meditation in the middle of the muddle. Better to remove our bodies, even just a few steps from the thoroughfare than to be perpetually frustrated at the many irritating interruptions.
Close! Just because you’ve gotten away to a corner chair in a back room doesn’t mean all the distractions cease. What happens is an actual intensification of interior distractions. Quietly closing the door on these takes some soul work as well. I’ve found it helpful to place into my awareness a simple focusing tool, like a candle, some meditative music or a paragraph of sacred writing. Then my eyes, my ears and my mind have something simple to focus upon. Giving in to distractions is not bad. It’s normal. But why not try to settle in to enjoy a few minutes of quiet without them for once.
Pray! Going and closing are merely prep work for the grand event. Enjoy an encounter of intimacy with God. Dwell together. I love the visual way Psalm 23 teaches us to pray. Lie down to rest in a verdant meadow. Sit down next to a cool mountain stream and quench your thirst. Walk together along a path, experiencing guidance, comfort and protection along the way. Feast on a grand banquet, letting your cup be filled to overflowing with good wine. Dwell together with goodness and loving-kindness every day of our life. That’s what I’d call the good life.
Jesus tells us to "consider the ravens" (Luke 12:24), to learn from these amazing birds how to live, including how to live before God. It doesn’t take bird brains to figure out what prayer is all about.  A few years ago, we offered left over communion bread to the ravens while out on a weekend prayer retreat. We had heard ravens that weekend up in the conifers. I don’t know if crows and ravens are prayerful birds.One thing I do know. Whenever I’m out in nature, they will always be invited to my table to enjoy a grand feast in the forest.
(1) See Bernd Heinrich, Mind of the Raven, (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999), 326-331.