For reasons unbeknownst to me, seagulls come every winter to live in the parking lot of the shopping center that is a mile from our house. I always wonder where they have come from, and why, being the shore birds they are, they choose to winter over in an asphalt parking lot, far from any beach or salt water.
Today I saw them for the first time this winter. It was a very windy morning and I had been watching the clouds race across the sky on my morning walk. One gull in particular seemed to be enjoying the high winds as he soared in the gusts overhead. I felt as though I could read his thoughts and that he was reminded of the winds at his seaside home. While his view of earth is much different now than where he normally lives, I could sense his joy in finding a moment of familiarity, an experience that reoriented him toward his usual surroundings.
I thought about my own life, and how at times I find myself in a place that is not familiar or comfortable. Life experiences can be unsettling. The holidays can take me out of the rhythm that most often nourishes and sustains me. Like the seagull, I may be in a season of change, a place that is different than what is home for me. In such situations, I need to be attentive for a strong wind, a wind of the Spirit that blows over me and allows me to soar in a moment of reorientation, of union with God.
My ability to recognize and appreciate such winds happens by the work I do while in my normal rhythms of life. Morning devotions, scripture study, centering prayer, worship, Eucharist and fixed hour prayer ground me and allow me to pay attention even when I am in places where those disciplines are more difficult to maintain. As such spiritual practices become hard-wired into me, I can find moments of “home” even when life’s seasons carry me far from my physical home, just as my friend the seagull found this morning.