It is a saw whet owl, one of the smallest in North America. I can just make out its wide eyes in the periphery of my vision. It is too cute for words.
I have joined a good friend, who for twenty-two years has been leading a data-gathering project in the woods of Pennsylvania. He and a small army of volunteers have been netting, weighing, measuring, banding and releasing these owls in stations along the Appalachian Mountains in the state.
Thirty years ago, no one guessed that these diminutive owls migrated by the tens of thousands overhead in the dark nights of the fall. It took the curiosity of a few wildlife researchers to begin to unlock the mysteries of saw whets.
As I watch the volunteer team at work, I am thankful for the gift of curiosity. What we know about the incredible world around us was driven by that innate engine to understand. Einstein understood the significance of that engine:
“The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of the mystery every day. The important thing is not to stop questioning; never lose a holy curiosity.”
For those of us who know the Creator, curiosity is a holy thing indeed. For curiosity uncovers the intricacy of his thinking, the beauty of his order, and the vastness of his imagination. The marvelous structure of reality. It’s as if God has given us a great jigsaw puzzle to piece together. Each piece, studied, catalogued and added to the ever-growing picture, reveals more of his glory. And some of those pieces are, quite frankly, adorable.
After a few moments, the owl on my shoulder breaks the nocturnal silence with a flutter of wings and a chirp as she disappears into black branches overhead. I stare in vain to find her in the darkness, thankful for those who dedicate their lives to peering into the unexplained in order to find explanations. Those who transform mystery into marvel.
Those who don’t take unknown for an answer.
What a gift it is, Lord, that you made a world that could be known. And give us a curiosity to understand how your creation works -- to comprehend just a little of the mystery each day -- so that we may be lost in wonder and praise of you.