When I was a child, Christmas morning would have been disappointing had it not included a new "Little Miss Christmas" coloring book in my stocking.
How I admiredand enviedLittle Miss Christmas. A pretty blond girl dressed in robes of red, trimmed in ermine and big silver stars, she led the perfect life. Her home was the forest, and the animals loved her. The birds, deer, rabbits, and chipmunks were her friends. Birds sat on her shoulders, while the other animals gathered around her. Always at her side, the animals were her constant companions.
Ah, what a life, I thought. I imagined myself living in the deep forest, among the trees, loving and being loved by the animals.
As you might imagine from the coloring book's title, the story was about more than living in the woods with the animals. Little Miss Christmas played an important role in helping Santa Claus. But I don't remember much about that part of the story; I was more interested in Little Miss Christmas's enviable life in her natural habitat.
My attraction to Little Miss Christmas was similar to my response to certain fairy tales about girls living in the woods, girls like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, who had giant trees for neighbors and animals for friends. The forest was the place for the wonder, mystery, and friendships with animals that I longed for.
Little Miss Christmas and the other female forest dwellers fueled my imaginative play. My dolls also lived in the woods, where they led exciting, interesting lives. They foraged for nuts and berries, slept in caves or piles of leaves, played with rabbits and chipmunks, and delighted in the singing of birds who perched on their shoulders. My dolls were happy. Unlike me, they lived in the best place, the most alive place, far away from the dullness of staid suburbia.
I don't think my longing to be part of the forest, at one with the birds and other animals, has ever left me. Wouldn't I love to be like Little Miss Christmas or Sleeping Beauty or Snow White? To stand in the sunshine of a forest glade, with a singing bird perched on my shoulder would be heaven.
Well, it turns out that a few real people, not just fictional characters like Little Miss Christmas, do have the gift of attracting birds as I would love to be able to do. I heard about one such person years ago, when I was on a cross-country bicycle trip. One day, with my group all gathered at our lunch stop, those who had gotten a later start in the morning than the rest of us eagerly told us about a man they had met, an older gentleman who had showed up at the town park campsite that morning after the rest of us had gone.
The "bird man' as my companions called him, held birdseed in each hand. Then one of my fellow bikers imitated the "bird man' by standing with head held back, arms outstretched, and calling in a high voice, "Seeds for birds. Seeds for birds. Here, Feefee. Here, Feefee. Seeds for birds."
Then, and all at once, my friends explained eagerly, birds from every direction swooped down onto the man and perched on his head, shoulders, and arms. One after the other, they darted to a hand to pluck out a seed. When his hands had been emptied, he refilled them from the bag of seed he had brought with him. The birds stayed, perching and eating. This gentleman was a virtual human bird feeder, a real life example of Little Miss Christmas's great gift.
One night recently, I thought of Little Miss Christmas and of her intimacy with the nature around her. It led me to realize that, of all the many varied and special landscapes on the planet, it is the forest that most calls to me. Now I am fortunate enough to live in the forest, the place where I feel most at home, most nourished, most at one with God.
And who knows, maybe one day I'll learn how to get birds to sit on my shoulders!