paradiseTexas in the Summer

I clutched the dripping Gatorade bottle with one sweaty palm and unscrewed the cap with trembling fingers. They might call Texas a birder’s paradise, but it felt a little more…hotish, shall we say? For the past three hours, I had wandered the trails of Resaca de la Palma State Park—on a toasty 98˚ with 80 percent humidity July day.

Most people enjoy the World Birding Center parks in the fall or spring. The weather turns balmy and the birds perch 15 species to a tree (so they say), waiting patiently for lucky birders to walk by and spot them. Me, I only have time to visit paradise in July (I have yet to convince Pedro that he would find something interesting to do here during Spring vacation whilst I bird).

And so, I go birding in paradise whilst most sane people stick to their hotel rooms with the AC unit on high. I load up my backpack with cold water, salty snacks, and extra battery packs for my camera and wander around looking for birds to add to my life list. With camera and binoculars hanging from my neck, I look like an extra for the movie The Big Year (if you haven’t seen it yet—do).

I struggle to find a good shot of all the new birds I see—just to prove that I saw them. If the bird hangs around, I mess with the camera speed, aperture, and lighting—in the hope of getting a better shot that I could one day use for the blog or something else. Often times, I end up taking photos of butterflies instead (no worries, I can use those, too).

Conversations in Paradise

Bible study making you feel unsure and awkward? You're not alone!, a fellow birder wanders by and asks, “What have you seen?” –code for, “Anything new and unusual here?” I don’t normally bird in Texas, so I don’t know what others would consider new or unusual. It starts a conversation, though, and birders usually dive right in, chatting like old friends within minutes.

For the most part, the community helps each other out (although a few actively working on their Big Year might keep their sightings under wraps). I’ve picked up a whole new vocabulary just by listening in and then researching a bit at home. When someone talks about a bird’s ‘undertail coverts,’ I actually know what they mean.

Of course, I just keep my mouth shut when the really advanced birders start discussing primaries and secondaries and other fine points of bird identification. Occasionally someone will go off on a lengthy harangue about birdy matters. For example, that we should worry about the Common Crane becoming an invasive species. With one or two solitary sightings of this Asian visitor every couple of years, I don’t think we have to worry about overpopulation. But I keep my opinion to myself.

I’ve concluded that birding would be easier if birds had little signs by which they identified themselves. Lining up in the trees and staying still would make things even easier. Of course, that might take the fun out of birding and the thrill of discovering new birds to add to my life list.

Birding in Paradise

As I opened the door of my furnace car to drive to the next piece of paradise, I couldn’t help but think about how much easier birding will be in heaven. I won’t overheat in the hot sun and I won’t have to fumble with bird identification. The avian terminology won’t trip me up, and I’ll use my photographic memory instead of a heavy camera and binoculars. When birders contend about the finer points of identification, or brag a little too much about their life lists, Jesus will play referee and end the conversation with a smile and a gentle, “I’m so glad you enjoyed that bird! I had fun creating it!”

Something about birding reminds me of Christianity, too. Those who seek to know Christ wander all over the place, and no two of us will share the exact experience. We learn a few basic terminologies, grab a bird guide Bible, and start hunting for truth. The thrill of finding truth and comfort keeps me looking.

At times we understand with struggling. Other times we struggle without understanding. #BibleStudy Click To Tweet

At times, we understand without struggling. Other times, we struggle without understanding. Occasionally, the know-it-all opinionated ones want to suck our joy by insisting that only they know the right path to God. I can’t wait to get to heaven and listen to the conversations fly and have Jesus play referee and interrupt with a smile and a gentle, “I just wanted you to learn to love each other.”

But until that day, I’ll keep seeking (both birds and truth). Some days I’ll feel discouraged and wish I could get out of the heat. Other days I’ll see with clarity and wonder why it took me so long.

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  1. Oh yeah – birding with lined up birds and signs. I’m all about that. If I were to go birding with you, you would feel like an absolute pro guiding a blind person through the woods….cuz….yeah. However, I love your comparison. I also feel blind sometimes when looking through the Bible and that feeling of not-being-good-enough when others are pointing out “clear truth” when I slightly disagree? Been there. I pray for open eyes – for those in need of our love and for Christ in our lives!
    Carol recently posted…The Tricky Part of Psalm 91My Profile

  2. And we will rejoice with one another in heaven, because all of our seeking will have been fulfilled. The nit-picking arguments will be over, the temptation to self-exaltation will be swallowed up in the praise and exaltation of God. Thanks for turning my eyes in this direction this evening, Anita.
    Michele Morin recently posted…The Spiritual Practice of CuriosityMy Profile

  3. Dear Anita, I’m definitely not a bird person, but the parallels you drew to Christians are great. I like that you pointed out that, to a certain extent, you chose to be out watching in an extremely hot day. Sometimes our struggles are of our own choosing or making, aren’t they? Thanks for sharing a different kind of analogy for me.

  4. Interesting parallels. I love this: “At times, we understand without struggling. Other times, we struggle without understanding.” We’re all in a state of growth, none of us perfectly there until heaven. I’m so looking forward to the discussions there over the finer points without the heat of opinions and limited understanding. If we’ll have those types of discussions there – perhaps everything will be swallowed up, as the hymn says, “lost in wonder, love, and praise.”
    Barbara H. recently posted…The Holy Spirit’s ActivitiesMy Profile

  5. nice article Anita. we went birding in
    ohio this spring at Maggee Marsh . you should look into it. We even enjoyed the crowds of nerdy birders too.

  6. Oh Anita, you make me laugh, with birds identifying themselves and staying still for pictures 🙂 I smile more at the analogy you drew here of bird watching and paradise!

  7. I definitely see the analogy you are making between the birding community and Christianity. Being one who “grew up in the church,” I know there are others who often feel intimidated by their lack of knowledge, when in reality we’re just here to let God show us how to love each other. Thanks for sharing this, Anita!
    Lisa notes recently posted…What Are Middles For? To Live InMy Profile

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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