Thursday, February 28, 2008


This morning there were clouds and the sun was coming out for only a few moments at a time. But as I walked along I heard a sound I had not hear since last summer. It was the first skylark of the year. Instantly my heart swelled, as it always does, at the sound of that exuberant cascade of notes falling from somewhere in the early morning sky.

As I searched for the small, dark dot I knew would be up there somewhere, against the background of grey-white cumulus and small patches of blue, I found myself wondering: what must it feel like to flutter up and up and up like that, singing as you go?

Would you look down, delighted to find that as you gained height you could see more and more of the landscape beneath you? Would you look up, wondering how much higher you could go before your breath began to come less easily in the thinning air? Or would you just concentrate on singing?

And if you sang, would it be because of your passionate intention to make your voice heard, especially by certain others to whom it seemed especially important to convey your message? Or would it be because the song came bursting from the depths of your soul, out into the cool, morning air and there was nothing you could possibly do but give voice to it?

I believe that the reason many committed people – especially environmental activists and those who work for social justice – end up suffering from burnout, is that although they care deeply about issues, their caring grows out of indignation and anger rather than out of a sheer, full-hearted love of the Earth and everything in it. It is only when our passion is infused with spirituality and when our anguish is shot through with joy that we are able to fly high enough above the world’s problems to see the larger landscape. That’s when the goal-seeking, the understanding, the passion, the message and the joyous celebration of life on this lovely planet all merge together in one outpouring.

And that’s how we can keep coming back, season after season, down to the ground where the hard work happens and then up again into the sky. Not to escape from our groundedness into some imagined heaven but to see more clearly the heaven that is right here, all around us, and to which, with every atom of our being, we belong.

That’s the secret power that powers our wings and keeps us singing. Even on days when the sun is not shining.