Last year we moved from urban Chicago to a remote setting in the Rocky Mountains. I find myself missing the characters in our old neighborhood: the can collector who called himself Tut Uncommon, the mental patient who sat in a coffee shop all day pretending to smoke an unlit cigarette, the man who roamed Clark Street with a plaintive sign that read, “I NEED A WIFE!”

In our new location, we see more animals than people. Elk graze on the hill behind our house, woodpeckers pound on the wood siding, and a red fox we’ve named Foster drops by every evening in search of handouts. The other day Foster sat outside the screen door and listened to an entire program of Garrison Keillor’s American Radio Company as I wallpapered my office. He cocked his head quizzically a few times during the bluegrass music, but all in all he seemed to enjoy the show.

Not long after the move I began a Bible reading plan, starting with Genesis, and soon discovered that the Bible takes on a different tone in new surroundings. I read the Creation account during snow season. Mountains gleamed in the morning sunlight, and every Ponderosa pine wore a mantle of pure, crystalline white. It was easy to imagine the joy of original creation, a time when, as God later recalled to Job (38:7), “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” (all quotations from NIV).

That same week, however, a loud thump interrupted my reading. A small bird, a pine siskin with a notched tail and yellow chevrons on each wing, had crashed into the window. It lay stomach-down on a clump of snow, gasping for breath, with bright red drops of blood spilling from its beak. For 20 minutes it lay there, its head nodding as if in drowsiness, until finally it made one last ...

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