Jane Kelly, Common Grace's Creation and Climate Justice Coordinator, reflects on her time at COP27.
It’s 6:23am. The sun isn’t yet up, but a cacophony of birdsong gently rouses me from my slumber, providing a delightfully non-digital notification that the day is indeed beginning.
I lie there, listening.
I’m no ornithologist, but I think I can hear Australian Magpies and Magpie Larks. There are Wattlebirds, Common Blackbirds and lots of (very) Noisy Minors.
I keep listening. Enjoying the sounds of creation. Wondering what this day may hold, and grateful that God’s mercies are new every morning.
Time passes, and finally I arise.
An hour later all is relatively quiet, except for the call of a pair of turtle doves, hardly distinguishable with the noisy late winter rains now falling more heavily upon the trees and upon the earth. As much as I prefer the warmth and brightness of a sunny day, I am learning to also love the rain: it supports the thriving of all that grows in my garden, including veggies, herbs, flowers (and yes – weeds too)!
A few years ago I lived a mere ten minute walk away, yet the call of creation was different there. More kookaburras, certainly. Seagulls, too. But also, more traffic (generally from as early as 5:00am, nearly sufficient to drown out the morning birdsong)! It’s quieter here, in Tara Drive on Bunarong land. I am grateful for the peace of it. And the bird life that this particular ecosystem sustains.
Just like scents can evoke powerful memories, I find the same with the songs of different birds. The Currawong reminds me of my very early childhood, and summer trips to Anglesea. The Willie Wagtail reminds me of more recent family getaways to Sandy Point, down toward Wilson’s Promontory. I remember noticing the different bird songs in Welwyn Garden City, north of London, when I visited there several years ago. Different again to the bird life of Huemoz, in the Swiss Alps (home to the L’Abri community), and different again to the jungles of Sarawak. If we listen closely, we can hear the melodic uniqueness of each place. We know we are somewhere different.
Global consumer culture tends to commodify and homogenise: powerful forces attempt to make things look and feel very much the same wherever it is that we are (brands like Starbucks and McDonalds, come to mind, or the same ‘look’ that teenagers all over the world now aspire to attain, thanks to social media ‘influencers’). Yet our places are beautifully unique. The ecology can be noticeably different, even a mere kilometre away.
If we will listen. If we choose to pay deep attention. If we pause and allow ourselves to be reminded that we are not alone, that we share time and space and habitat with other creatures. We may begin to care more, if we do, for “attention is the beginning of devotion” (Mary Oliver).
Why not take some time, tomorrow at dawn, to pay attention to the call of creation?
Would you like to learn more about the calls of different birds unique to where you live? A helpful resource is Birds in Backyards that offer sound recordings of 40 of Australia's most curious or distinctive bird calls in urban areas. You can explore this resource here as well as learn how you can take part in their citizen science survey.
This reflection was written by Claire Harvey as part of Common Grace's Season of Creation 2022 celebrations as we come together in a time of prayer, action, renewed commitment and advocacy for God’s beautiful creation, guided by this year's focus to ‘Listen to the Voice of Creation’. You can explore further Season of Creation 2022 resources here.
Claire Harvey and her two children attempt to ‘live lightly’ upon Bunarong land, in Melbourne’s South East. Claire serves on Frankston Council, is a part of The Village Church community in Mount Eliza, and contributes to climate advocacy through SECCCA (South East Councils Climate Change Alliance).