Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
From Assisi Hill, Ananda Village
It is 5:00 a.m. and I am sitting on the forest floor of Assisi Hill in Ananda Village. This is the woodland to the east of the Expanding Light retreat. I have dressed in warm fleece and some thick socks (no shoes) and walked a few hundred feet from my little cottage into a forest where the Divine lives. I am sitting comfortably on oak leaves and pine needles under an exquisite canopy of ancient California oak, fir, and giant Madrone trees. An opalescent early light is coming through the trees, and I can see clearly beyond the forest edge to the pristine meadow which lies between the forest and the grounds of the Expanding Light Retreat.
I have come to this holy place on Assisi Hill to meditate, pray, and listen to the bird song. At dawn the Divine is in glorious residence here in the woods. Here there is a rare purity with no other noise except birds singing. Their diaphanous voices would be better described as bird joy or sunrise symphony for bird orchestra. I breathe and close my eyes. I smile and feel my heart open. I sense that this is a prayer, that I am living a prayer….divine mother, heavenly father, may I be a channel of your divine light and love to all…..
I expand beyond a physical experience of listening to intuitively feeling into their pure joy song and activity. A robin just a few feet from me is digging amongst the oak leaves for some food. The melodic Red-winged black birds are at the edge of the meadow in the tall grasses. Their red patches show through the purple flowers of the early spring alliums, which will last only another week. Far beyond, the swallows are bursting out of their little mud homes under the Retreat Temple eaves and soaring in the skies with their new but robust young. ‘Joy, ever new joy’ must be what they are calling to one another, to the Divine, to me seated like a little elf in the woods.
Emily Dickinson shared a Truth that birds never stop singing their song of hope. Certainly this is true for the very wild and free birds of Assisi Hill. Although their song is the most dynamic at dawn, I can hear them all day and night long in their holy temple of the forest. Here there is no electricity or lights, no cars or the senseless din of TV, video, or cell phone. There is really nothing except the natural world in which they are safe to live purely. Another way I could say it is that God lives here.