“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
I don’t know about in your circles, but in my circles, after quoting Mary Oliver, the most-oft quoted “saint” among my Unitarian Universalist friends is a tie between Wendell Berry and Anne Lamott. My deep friends quote the former; my irreverent friends the latter.
Bird by bird, buddy. I have the need to say to myself. Yes, sometimes out loud. My husband is originally from England and they have this marvelous word to describe talking to yourself out loud: chuntering. So, yes, I sometimes chunter, “Bird by bird.”
If you find me moving too quickly, doing too much at once, or taking on more than I can or we as a congregation can chew, I invite you to say it to me: bird by bird, Reverend Karen. Bird by bird.
It means that when there is much to do, when the to do list stretches not inches, but feet-long, when you check off one item on that list and it turns out that there were three more hiding behind it and spring out at you, all you can do is take it one by one. Bird by bird, buddy.
There is much for us to do. Some of it will get done. Some of it won’t. Most of it will. Some of it won’t. Mistakes will be made (by me, if not by anyone else). And still we will hang in together.
I say this to you. I say it to all of us. Bird by bird, buddy.
I am blessed to be on the journey with you,