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We were outside. The late afternoon sun glittered off the melting snow. I shoveled snow and listened to my daughter’s giggles and requests to “do it again.” She and my husband were finally getting to use the new sled we purchased weeks ago.

And then I heard the birds. I looked up to my neighbor’s tree and noticed three of them perched near the top. It was discordant…birds in January?

“Isn’t that strange,” I asked my husband, “hearing those birds singing?”

“It’s uncommon,” he replied.

Certainly, our unseasonably warm weather has confused those dear birds and the lack of moisture is wreaking havoc all over the place. Climate change aside, it got me thinking.

This kind of incongruity happens in other seasons too, at least it has for me. Ever felt depressed in the midst of summer? That sluggish, anxious, deep sadness while everyone around you is hiking or going to the beach, wearing sleeveless tops and getting tanned. When this happens, it forces us to question ourselves and makes us wonder if there might be something wrong with us. It is the ache of longing to belong that brings those thoughts to me. Longing for connection, for home, for God. Perhaps even for something we cannot name. In Eternal Echoes, John O’Donohue writes

“The more attentive you are, and the longer you remain in the landscape, the more you will be embraced by its presence. Though you may be completely alone there, you know that you are not on your own. In our relentless quest for human contact, we have forgotten the solace and friendship of Nature.”

Perhaps this kind of incongruity is by design. As Celtic Christians, we do not fit with the dominant culture. We don’t always belong. We work hard to seek out opportunities for authentic connection. The song of those January birds revived those old feelings of longing within me. O’Donohue reminds us that life is all around us and belonging is not always found through people. I want to run from that longing with distraction or busyness or misplaced anger. Nature calls us to stay, to find solace in the birdsongs. Belonging is not an external destination, but a place within your heart.

Kelsey Hart is a friend and supporter of Celtic Way.

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