When I was young I talked to the night sky. I’d sit on a chaise lounge in the backyard or lie on the pool deck and stare at the stars—or what I could see of them from my suburban homestead.
I did most of the talking and never let the sky—my tangible depiction of God—speak to me. I begged God for a boyfriend, for a best friend, for guidance for my life, and for my faith to increase so I wouldn’t have to take anti-depressants anymore. Now I’m 31, still single, on more pills than I care to admit for several chronic conditions, and still pretty confused about life. But I did get that best friend I asked for.
I don’t know exactly when I stopped talking at the sky, but it was after I graduated from seminary. It was too painful to talk to God; it was ridiculous to cry to a silent sky. I floundered between belief and unbelief, between sanity and insanity; between wishing I was alive and wishing I was dead. I did not pray. I did not open my Bible. I did not attend church. I did not look at the sky.
Until one day, when hundreds of dots of white weaved in and out of the wind currents above the lake I was driving past. Up and down, back and forth, with ferocity all their own, this huge flock of snow geese chose to spend their winter in northeast Pennsylvania. Breathless with wonder, I pulled my vehicle to the side of the road as I along with other motorists stopped our lives for a moment to watch these birds dance in the cloudy gray sky. Hundreds of snow geese rested on the frigid lake, seemingly unaware of the spectacle their friends were causing. All of a sudden, these birds took flight and the two swarms spun around one another, often looking as those they would collide. Rain began to trickle out of the clouds, yet the birds, white life on dark gray continued their ballet above the earth.
My blond hair was whipping in the wind and it occurred to me that the harsh winds are what made this flight possible. Tender branches were ripped from trees, rotting brown leaves spun in mini tornadoes, and the sky was menacing. Yet the birds danced on, playfully, masterfully, gracefully.
After that day, I was excited for the first time in months. I cried happy tears and felt the darkness leave my countenance. As spring settled upon the land, I saw everything around me—the groundhogs investigating tender green shoots, squirrels chattering as they chased one another up and down tree trunks, and I noticed the hawks that patrolled the skies. Sometimes they swooped so close I could see their intense eyes and other times, I just saw a tiny outline just below the cirrus clouds.
I started to talk to the sky again and observed that it is silent, peaceful, and content, always in motion, beautiful, angry, scary, and melancholy. Really the sky reflected every human emotion I could name…and some that remain unnamed. Like L.L. Barkat, I learned that, “the sky, vast and changeable, sometimes beautiful, is not seen as trustworthy.” I did not trust the sky because I did not trust God. I did not look at the sky because I did not look to God. I did not talk to the sky because I did not talk to God.
But those snow geese on an ordinary, cold February day taught me that sometimes weather conditions, though they seem less than ideal, allow us to soar and dance and find joy because of those very circumstances. Sometimes it comes in the clouds, other times in the sun, or a partly cloudy sky, yet almost always a bird or two or sometimes hundreds will dance above the earth. And I think, sometimes, they just do it for fun.
Now I watch all birds, my heart full, and thank God for teaching me that the sky speaks back if only I stop talking long enough to listen.