It's May of 2021 as I write this, and I can exhale as I say that within the last year I've discovered the reason, or at least part of the reason why, for the past ten or so years, I've been drawn to and driven to gussying up wooden birdhouses.
Materially, I love wood as a canvas. I like the way it soaks up glue and drinks up paint. And, yeah, I can bang on it, bolt it, drill it and nail it. But spiritually, I feel a connection to the scriptures that imply that, while we fret about how to meet our daily needs, the birds of the air, without worry, are provided for.
I don't know if this is predicated on the fact that the first legitimate thing I wanted to be when I grew up (from the age of 9) was an architect. I still love floor plans and still build mini LEGO houses. You can laugh at that. Heck, sometimes I do.
But something in me feels good when I let inspiration loose on these birdhouses. As I slap paper and ink and glue and paint, wood scraps and metal, scrap hardware and twigs on wood...ostensibly for the birds...it becomes a bit of a meditation, sometimes about the least of these. The rejected, the discarded, the disenfranchised. And most especially the young, the children, among them. As I place otherwise disregarded branches and natural elements -- from my yard, or the yard of a client -- and discarded objects, and bits of scrap and hardware, in uniquely fitting places on each birdhouse, I consider this. I consider my own children's struggles, and consider the plight of others.
I trust The Great Creator to make building materials for nest builders, homes for the birds of the air. And it's great that we get to help out with that, and in so many fun and colorful ways. But I have seen that it's up to us to help build that bit of provision, of heaven on earth, for our brothers and sisters, because for a whole host of reasons, mostly man made, not all of God's children have shelter.
I've made and sold many a birdhouse. They vary in size, finish and style. But there's a particualr style of birdhouse that I'll want to continue making for some time. It's The House That Stacks Built.
With its name and layering giving a nod to the old story rhyme, The House That Jack Built, it comes in a specific suite of garden-friendly colors that are fine alone, but go well together. Each has a circumspect monotone body and a star-speckled rainbow as its secret stash underneath. My personal goal is to have all six dangling in my own yard...where the meditation will continue.
The House That Stacks Built is the one work I make which supports Covenant House, a New York-based, internationally active non-profit. Why Covenant House?
Because Covenant House gives new hope unconditionally to homeless youth in the way of support services and housing. Because a number of their clients are runaways for all the reasons you can imagine. Because some of them are LGBTQIA homeless. Because others are victims of human trafficking. Because, yes, I am not unfamiliar with the struggles of youth or of shelter insecurity. Because all God's children need shelter. And though shelter is more than a roof and four walls, a safe roof and walls is a good place to start. I hope you feel the same.