A little bird of encouragement

Kairos time is lived in the now, by attuning ourselves to what each hour, each situation brings

The sun was out next morning and after about 10 minutes of walking I started to wonder what on earth I was doing: I’d slept poorly, my knees were aching, the path was thick with mud and strewn with rocks. My body groaned that it wasn’t over yesterday’s push and pain. My mind flew off in a million different directions: the next coffee stop, the train I’d booked from Santiago, tonight’s albergue, my dirty socks, the pilgrim missing from last night’s dorm.
The mist rising from the rocks and wildflowers, and the fresh buds on the winter-bare trees failed to capture my attention. My mind was far from the mountain I was on.
A chirrup penetrated the mental cacophany. A welcome. An invitation to wake up. I stopped and looked up. A small bird on a branch was singing up the sun. My mind stilled. I listened to his aria. What else did I have to do? I was still on a 700 kilometre walk. I had no-one to meet, no-one to please, no deadline, no bookings, nothing that couldn’t wait a day, a week, or even a month. Re-energised and re-focused I continued on.
This little bird – I swear it was the same one each morning – met me early on the way each day, before I was into the rhythm of walking and when I was wondering how I would make it to my destination. He stilled my mind and sent me on my way with attention to my surroundings instead of my anxieties. I called him my bird of encouragement. He rarely failed me. Wherever I was he would appear on a branch, a fence or a wire to cheer me on and fly with me a way. He lifted my heart and restored my sense of wonder and profound gratitude for the blessing of a day free to walk in this beautiful country.
Monk David Steindl-Rast speaks of the experience of time in two different ways. In our day to day lives we live in chronos or clock time, structuring our days according to meetings, duty, work and home. Kairos time is lived “in the now, by attuning ourselves to what each hour, each situation brings,” he says. This is the sort of time that little bird called me to each morning. I left behind in Australia days full of 20 minute appointment slots, meetings, and deadlines. I entered days ordered by encounters, opportunities, and serendipity.

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