WHAT DO I FEED?
By AMY BOONE
About 15 years ago at Bible Study Fellowship I overheard a woman telling someone about a bird sanctuary on the outskirts of town. My ears perked up because I really love birds… well, I hate grackles, but that’s another story. I asked her what she was talking about. She told me that an older woman kept a little house out in the country that was open to the public for bird watching. I seriously couldn’t imagine what she meant.
Not too long later, I had some time to venture out and check it out for myself. I headed south out of town, turned at an old cemetery down a little country road, then again onto a dirt road. Lo and behold, there it was. Turns out, it wasn’t really a house. It was a small building that was just one big room. Three of the walls were glass for bird viewing from the inside. There were industrial tables and chairs that reminded me of a church fellowship hall. On a small table near the door was a display with bird identifying books and some copied pages of how to identify specific birds in this area. In one corner was a refrigerator with sodas and water, a sink, a microwave, and a counter with various snacks set out. An old coffee can sat on the counter with a hand-written note asking visitors to help themselves to the snacks and drinks and to leave money for the
snacks in the can. I stood in the middle of the room not fully believing I was in a real place. Through the windows, I saw bird feeders everywhere. I headed outside to look around. There was a tank about half full on the south side of the building. Outdoor chairs in various levels of disrepair had been purposefully placed on each of the three glass sides of the building. I then noticed that the property also had all sorts of bird houses as well. And birds were everywhere! The birds scattered when I headed outside, but when I sat quietly in an outdoor chair for a while, they slowly returned. After sitting quietly for a while, I headed home.
Over the next few years, I drove out to Cedar Gap Farms many times. Some days I would meditate. Sometimes I would pray. Other days I would read. A couple of times, Mrs. Hutto, the owner, would show up and we would visit. She would tell me about providing food and shelter for the birds. I felt a bit like Lucy from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because I wanted to share with others about this local Narnia, but felt hesitant because it really did sound too good to be true.
Mrs. Hutto told me that she knew of church groups, individuals, and groups of friends who would come visit Cedar Gap. When I tried to compliment her and tell her how amazing it was that she did all this for free, she would dismiss my praise and then wistfully say how much she loved the birds.
My visits to the bird house became more purposeful for a time. My family was facing some hard times and my time out there became a place for clarity, renewal, rest, and listening. Two specific times out there became two of the most pivotal and important moments for my faith. They’re quite long and involved, but I love to tell them, so please ask me anytime.
One summer day I realized I hadn’t been there in a very long time. I’d gotten busier and circumstances had changed… as tends to happen in life. I planned to head out there that evening. When I arrived, the gate that had always been open was closed and locked. There was a sign on the gate saying to call the Huttos if someone wanted to visit. There was a number on the sign, but I remembered Mrs. Hutto had given me her number previously. I called. No answer. My heart sank. I turned around and headed home. I called the next day just to check in. Mrs. Hutto answered and told me she’d had trouble with people coming out and building little campfires. It had been so hot and dry and she was afraid of a grass fire destroying the property. She had reluctantly made the decision to put a lock on the gate and let people in who asked so she could tell them they could not have a campfire. I tried to go out there a couple more times, but each time I tried to call, I couldn’t reach her so I couldn’t get in. I sadly realized it was the end of an era.
Cedar Gap Farm is a real place even though it felt mystical and magical….holy. God’s
fingerprints were everywhere. God’s presence was palpable. When I desperately needed to know God was still on the move, I headed to Cedar Gap.
It’s probably been eight years since I’ve been there. Today was a hard day. My brain has been unkind today. Swirling thoughts of time past and what I should have done differently. I felt anger and grief over situations for which I have no control. In the midst of my heartache, I sensed a nudge… go to the bird house. I knew it would probably be locked up, but I had to go.
I turned the corner onto the property off the dirt road and sure enough, a locked gate greeted me. The sign was gone. It was desolate. I remembered I had Mrs. Hutto’s phone number. I hesitantly dialed the number. A man’s voice, weak and breathy with age, slowly said hello. I told him my name and that I used to come out to the bird house all the time, but hadn’t for years. I asked if people were still allowed to come in. With measured words spoken through labored breaths, he told me Mrs. Hutto had passed away. “Once she was gone, no one fed the birds anymore so there aren’t many birds now. Sorry. I hope you can find some birds to watch.” No one fed them, so they left. I turned off my car and sat in stillness. I wasn’t going to be able to get inside because what was once there was gone, but I WAS supposed to be there. Maybe it was like a Narnia for me. It was there when I needed it.
What isn’t fed goes away. Mrs. Hutto fed the birds because they brought her and others joy, peace, beauty, and hope. She kept feeding them and they kept showing up. I started thinking about what brings me joy, peace, beauty, and hope. Are those things what I “feed” with my time, money, energy, emotions? Or do I stop feeding some of the things that are life-giving for me and then they also slowly stop showing up? What should I be feeding in order for those things to be an expected constant in my life? This analogy took my breath away. I’m thankful tonight for the years of visiting Cedar Gap Farm with all of its wonder and beauty. And I’m thankful for reminder that what I feed is what will return with either its joy, hope, beauty, and peace or with its pain, disappointment, and anguish. May I feed wisely, intentionally, and carefully.
Amy Boone is a Teaching and Learning Specialist at ACU whose passion for teaching and learning come from her own unquenchable thirst for wisdom, knowledge, and insight.