Some of my earliest childhood memories that have stuck with me are of turning over rocks around the house in Pittsburgh to collect millipedes and potato bugs. I would gather them in a plastic container, watch them for a while, and then let them go. When I was 12 or 13 it was the birds in Phillip's Park (a neighborhood park just up the street from my childhood home) that captured my attention. Cardinals, blue jays, red-bellied woodpeckers, and others; and I will never forget the Carolina wren who made a home on the front porch of the house where I grew up. In the evening I would sit on the front porch and observe him as he came to his nighttime roost. He would perch on the railing first and let our some calls... "Cheer!...Cheer!...Cheer!" After a few minutes he'd hop up into the end of the rolled up sunshade blinds and tuck in for the night. At about that time in my life, a friend of my grandparents, a man by the name of Abe Sally, gave me my first pair of binoculars (Tasco 10x50) that would be good for birding. Using those binoculars I reveled in seeing turkey vultures and red-tailed hawks ride high on the winds! One day, I was watching over the bird feeders and noticed a speck way high up in the sky. Right away I knew it was a hawk. I trained my binoculars on it, and very quickly it got closer...closer...closer...and before I knew it a Cooper's hawk made dinner out of one of our resident house sparrows that it picked off right there at the feeder in our front yard!
My experience, as life progressed through middle school, high school, and eventually college, is that the more I came to know about the love of God in Jesus the more God set my heart ablaze with love for all that has life.
I understood that Jesus spoke of loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. I grew to understand every creature as a neighbor who is worthy of my respect and care because first and foremost, we are all loved by God our creator.
As I reflect upon my own story I have hope that this next generation will grow in their love for all that has life as more and more they are given opportunities to take in the beauty and wonder of birds and other wild things.
Here are some of the photos from my time with the Wellsboro Nature Club today: