Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

‘Ask the animals and they will teach you’

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published May 30, 2019

I don’t need an alarm clock because every morning a Carolina wren, perched in a tree outside my bedroom window, blares a series of high-pitched cheeps, as he spots the first light of dawn. Next the catbirds shriek, mockingbirds pour forth their medley of tunes and the neighbors’ chickens cackle.
I begin the day by feeding the most vocal beast in the menagerie, my cat, Fuzzy, who reminds me he’s hungry by gently nipping my legs. Then I put seeds in the window feeder, refresh the water in the hummingbird feeder, give peanuts to the chipmunk and clean out the birdbath.

Bluebirds soon show up to select morsels to carry to their babies, while a hummingbird hovers nearby, perhaps curious about this open-air restaurant. Nearby, finches, robins and cardinals sip a cool drink from the birdbath, which later will become a dunking pond for the robins.

Whenever I read about the peace that surpasses understanding, I picture myself sitting at the dining room table with the windows open, to better hear the creatures, while I sip a glass of iced tea and marvel at how, even in the middle of the city, God makes his presence known.

Author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who lived on a Florida farm, noted that “We cannot live without the earth or apart from it, and something is shrivelled in a man’s heart when he turns away from it and concerns himself only with the affairs of men.”

As for the affairs of men, they exist just a few blocks away on the increasingly congested highway that is usually crowded with fast-moving cars.

But tucked quietly away from the chaos and cacophony of traffic is Peavine Creek that curves through my heavily wooded neighborhood, making the area quite attractive to birds and beasts of different stripes, sizes and sounds.

On my early morning walk, I cherish the little gifts that come my way. Often, I glimpse shy rabbits nibbling on clover, butterflies dancing on flowers and curious dogs staring out the window at me.

Today, a large, winged shadow passed over me and headed for a nearby oak tree. I was quite amazed to look up and see a barred owl, which turned its head all the way around and gazed at me with big, mysterious eyes. It remained perfectly still, while I took a quick photo, then swooped away into the forest to some secret spot.

At night, when I climb into bed, I’m lulled to sleep by the serenade of tree frogs that live in the backyard. I haven’t actually seen them, but their little froggy sounds are quite comforting and herald the onset of summer.

And around 3 a.m., when I hear owls calling from the creek, I wonder if one of them is the friend I spotted earlier.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know what lyrics the frogs are singing and what concern the catbird is conveying? We’re surrounded by creatures that are constantly communicating with each other, yet their messages remain mysterious.
In the Book of Job, we read, “Ask the animals and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you, or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.”

And what lesson comes from these creatures? “The hand of the Lord has done this.”

Maybe all the clucking, tweeting, chirping, hooting and furtive flashes of color in the trees, maybe the shadows in the woods and the shy eyes peering through the undergrowth, beckon us to take a respite from the wearying world.

They remind us to retreat from the highways and byways of worry and work, and praise God for the wonders he has made. And thank him for the variety of songs, squeaks, snarls, honks and hoots that provide music and magic for our ordinary days.

This oil painting called “Communion” is by Lorraine’s late husband, Jef Murray, whose work may be seen at  Lorraine’s email address is .