Feed Them All

One twilight last summer, a hungry black bear came into our yard at Dayspringfarm. She has been comin’ round the mountain now for several years.

Our bear loves sunflower seeds. Around our bird feeders she dances like a 100-pound goldfinch. She has smashed beyond use several of our hospitality locations for God’s birds. Dick Rustay has spent hours designing, rebuilding and praying for a “No Bears Allowed” bird feeder. So have I. There’s no way we can keep the bear from eating birdseed. (Might makes right).

Late one afternoon as the western sky, goldenrod toward blush, crawled behind the mountains toward the Lakota lands, I sat in the living room reading the important newspaper from Viva House, the Baltimore Catholic Worker House. I had just read our standard confession: “The only solution is love, and love comes with community.”  

Suddenly, out of the fading sky, a boom-crash streaked through the old farmhouse. I jumped, my lap disappearing, running to the side porch to see what I had heard. There, bent over, was our bear munching the sunflower seeds. My heart beat tight. I stood at the screen door and watched.

Billy Bob raced from the far side of the house, barking. The bear arose, hissed, and with stentorian blast blew Billy Bob away. Our sweet old dog, tail tucked between his legs, cried and cowered to the far side. He did not return until hours after my friend had departed.

I stood for 30 minutes and watched as the bear crunched the seeds in grinding teeth, occasionally hammering my Murphy-gifted bird feeder to paw at more supper. Braving with clock-clicks I opened the screen door and moved outside, my flashlight burning away the appearing dark as black sky overhead began to twinkle. She raised her head, sniffed the air fox-like, moved away and returned to the repast. My she, coming round the mountain, headlights leading, car clacking on gravel, drove. Bear bone fear, our she clambered up creekside into the woods: black light night. I have not seen her since our shared meal.

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 Old Floyd is a friend of mine. He lives in the shadowy uplands fromEllijay,Georgia, near our beloved Dayspringfarm. Floyd has worked for years at Ellijay Hardware. We have shopped there for 25 years now. Floyd showed me how to configure spigots for my rain barrels and how to let the earthward pull of water in a hose slake the thirst of our “Lauren Cogswell Blueberry Bushes,” all of whom journeyed to us in the back of a car from our sister community Jubilee Partners.

Old Floyd is also a friend of Murphy’s. He has helped Murphy with her seed purchases and taught her about the soil, shade and sun needed for her various flowers, herbs and her scraggly bushes.

We all need a little help from our friends, with the possible exception of the Libertarians. So I went to Old Floyd at the hardware store after my encounter with our bear. He took me to the bird feeders. He demonstrated the “squirrel proof” feeders, in which he did not believe. He told me about concrete footings, higher steel posts and cage-like wire covers to keep paws from pawing. “Maybe,” said he, “this will keep the bears from eating your seeds.” He did not seem to be a believer.

“Floyd, what do you do?”

“Well, I feed them all.”

“What?!?,” I exclaimed, raising the head of the woman mixing paint nearby.

“I feed them all.”

“You mean the squirrels, the bears and the birds, even crows?”

“Yep, I feed them all.”

“Thank you, Floyd.”

I departed the hardware store, but I did not leave. Old Floyd gave me a new vision and insight: new wine in new wineskins, for the old wineskin would burst apart with such a vision.

Back to Dayspring I drove “Little Girl Blue,” our pickup truck. Home again, I sped to the ruined bird feeder. I built a flat board plate and fastened it to the existing post. No bird feeder at all. I put a gracious plenty of sunflower seeds on the plate. I then and now put seeds around the feet and in the arms of our St. Francis statue, who stands 15 feet from the feeder. Sometimes a squirrel and sometimes a cardinal in regal robes sits on St. Francis’ head, chewing or pecking away. I now feed them all.

We have had an open table (feed them all) at the Open Door Community since our founding, which was 2,000 years ago when Jesus called Levi the rich tax collector. We have a Eucharistic theology which links all our Works of Mercy to the Welcome Table.

For instance, a couple of Sunday mornings past,Jason Ebingerand I sat with JP in the visiting room at Central State Prison. We shared vendor food and soft drinks. The unsaid words of institution echoed in our hearts from our worship the Sunday before and the anticipated Eucharist in a few hours. No one who comes through the Open Door is unhouseled, though many are unhoused.

The Holy Spirit in Old Floyd revealed to me the relationship between the Eucharist and squirrels, bears and birds. Feeding God’s creatures at Dayspringfarm is now an extension of our Eucharist and the Works of Mercy. Floyd also taught me about the mercy that is at the center of the heart of our God, whom we know as Creator and Redeemer.

“Yep, I feed them all.”

We believe and practice “The only solution is love, and love comes with community.” And love feeds them all.

Thank you, Old Floyd.

This reflection was also inspired by the article “Freedom” in the November-December Hospitality, by Anonymous, and I thank its author.  W

Eduard Loring is a Partner at the Open Door Community.