Signs of rest

I happened to look out the front windows earlier this week at just the right time and into Terry’s rose garden. There is plenty to see out there with the flowing bird bath and flowers and the nearby flowering crab tree. But what caught my eye was a cobweb. The morning light was just right to clearly illuminate the web, complete with dew drops, which spanned the space from a bird house to the flag pole.

bird house cobweb up close

Photo by Gretchen Lord Anderson

The intricacies of the web were interesting enough, but there was something about it that troubled me. Just a couple weeks ago, that web wouldn’t have been there. The garden was just too busy.

You see, the birdhouse to which it was connected at one end has turned out to be a rather prime piece of real estate. We purchased it at a craft show in a nearby community a year ago and hung it up, but it was too late in the summer to attract any tenants. This year, however, was another story.

The house has a rather large entrance hole so I expected a pretty big bird to take up residence. What surprised me was that a wren family decided to make it their home. Mr. and Mrs. Wren went to work early in the spring, busily moving in twigs and fluff to make a comfortable nest. And they put in just enough stuffing to keep larger birds out. They made the hole suit their purposes.

They didn’t seem very bothered by other activity near the rather low hanging house. They were just busy. Then Mrs. Wren layed her eggs. After that, she and the Mr. would take turns sitting on the front porch or on the tiny mailbox or even on the chimney of their house, keeping an eye out for intruders. If any of the human variety would approach, Mrs. Wren would take up a perch in the flowering crab, scolding from behind a leaf until the interlopers were gone. Still, she didn’t seem deeply affected as a human presence usually meant fresh water in the birdbath at the foot of the house or seed in the feeder next door.


Photo by Gretchen Lord Anderson

And then, there was a brood! I’m not sure how many babies emerged from the house, but there were times I thought she and Mr. Wren had invited all of their extended family in the for weekend. Wren after wren gathered to take a look at the digs and, no doubt, to ooh and ah over the babies. It has been quite a show and they have been great neighbors.

But a couple of weeks ago, things changed. Life changed. The babies left the nest and Mr. and Mrs. Wren must have looked around the rather sizeable home and decided it was time to downsize. There was one last weekend when the place was a flurry of wren activity as all of the relatives showed up. I expected to look out at some point and see them moving the couch and TV out the hole. But, alas, I saw all of the birds and then there were none.

Mr. and Mrs. Wren had moved on. They left evidence of their previous occupancy but that will all be cleaned out so that if they decide to come back next spring, the place will be all ready for them.

It’s been pretty quiet in the Wren neighborhood. So quiet that an intricately woven cobweb was stretched from their front porch to the flag pole.

I thought it interesting that these empty nesters didn’t spend a lot of time bemoaning their empty home. They obviously had plans in place to move on. Certainly they would have been welcome to stay, but their lives had changed and tiny birds like that probably have a longer flight time to climates for which they have an affinity during the winter. I will picture them singing away somewhere in the south, resting up for the necessary nest building in the spring and yet another brood and family on the way.

Our lives change sometimes dramatically too. Folks who have been blessed with children watch them head off for lives of their own and have to make decisions about whether to stay in their own residence or move on. Some of us have to make important decisions in conjunction with health issues or aging. Do we stay put? Do we follow the kids? Do we search out alternatives so that we can live as independently as possible for as long as possible? The Wren family never expressed any fear about the changes in their lives. They just moved on. And the cobweb moved in.

Throughout my adult life I have been aghast when the light has been just right to expose a humongous cobweb in some glaringly evident corner of the house – there for all to see and for how long I have no idea. But I’ve jumped up as quickly as possible to clear it out for fear that someone would know just how bad a housekeeper I am.

Photo by Gretchen Lord Anderson

Look closely for the cobweb right in the middle of the picture with the evergreen tree behind it. Photo by Gretchen Lord Anderson

Still, as I reflected on the cobweb extending from the Wrens’ previous home, I realized that there is beauty in the quiet that seemed to permit the cobweb to exist at all. While the scene had been a hubbub of activity not so long ago, the last of our summer days, while still plenty hot and humid, are quieter throughout the neighborhood. Kids are off to school. There’s less traffic up and down our street. It’s definitely more restful.

I’m not sure what a wren’s life is like in the “off-season” when they turn into snow birds. I wonder if they ever rest.

But all of us experience an “off-season” sometimes and when we do, taking time to rest and reflect is important for our well-being. While we should daily listen for God’s directions for our lives, it is often in the midst of great change, great challenges, even crises that we want to maintain our own control rather than being settled for a bit to listen for the quiet voice of God.

God speaks from the cobweb as surely as God sings from the bird house. Life and its cycles are all good. God is good. It was in the silence, not the wind, the earthquake, or the fire that Elijah heard the voice of God. It was in the sheer silence. Let us resist the urge to shut out all voices and thoughts but our own, regardless of our youth or our maturity. Let us listen for God’s still, small voice in the midst of change. And celebrate the peace and quiet that comes with it.


He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. – 1 Kings 19:11-12

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