Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Birds of the Air

At the lake this weekend we found a nest on the dock set up by a dutiful mother bird. The tangle of grass and sticks was built right on top of the receiver in a cabinet that holds the stereo system. With great care, my friends who own the lake house gently removed the nest and the four chicks inside and placed them in a cardboard box on the dock. We were told (by someone who rescues wild critters and nurses them to health) that the mother would come for them. Although we all doubted the ability or the probablity of a mother bird to swoop down and carry off her young ‘uns, we had hope that this might happen, and yet, on that first night, there was no sign of momma. 

Jason cradles one of the funny-looking chicks.
My friend Janet fed the chicks ground beef leftover from the hamburgers we grilled for dinner and we tried not to think about the fate of the babies. Already these little lives touched our lives and life of their mother and the environment in so many ways. Of course, I don’t know how these little creatures will affect us each of us, but they will and have and will continue to. (You're reading this blog, so you'll be affected too.) That’s just the way life works. 

When I say that we are all interconnected, I don’t mean in a woo-woo, supernatural, New Agey way. And I don't even mean that our fate on this planet is all bound together in a ecological manner, which I believe it is. When I say we are all interconnected, I believe it means that every life touches and influences every other life in some way great or subtle. And every great or subtle nudge moves me and you and that dude in a bow tie who's walking down 5th Avenue,* in some way and gently prompts us to look up or down or see things we haven’t seen before—or shut down and refuse to speak at all.

Nothing is wasted. Every action is essential. No life is insignificant.

Saturday passed, and there was no sign of the mother bird. Again, my dear friend poked hamburger into the gaping mouths of the hungry babies. Only two were still alive. I wondered if the effort was futile, but I loved my friend for trying. We were all saddened by the sound of the baby birds' cries. After she fed the chicks, they quieted down for the night, stomachs full. My friend worried that she did not have a dropper to give them water. Would they die of dehydration?  Fortunately, God—in the form of Nature—provided what we could not. Sunday arrived with thunder and rain showers. We watched movies inside my friend's snug house and played cards on the covered porch. The cardboard box that held the fledgelings grew damp, but at least the chicks' thirst was quenched. 

By mid-afternoon the clouds began to clear and the sun came out. The children ran outside to play and everyone followed. As my friend and I sat on the dock and talked, we heard a commotion coming from the box on the far edge of dock. I turned my head in time to see the shadow of a bird dip down into the box and then fly away. We cheered, "She's doing it! The mother is feeding them!" Sure enough the mother bird returned with her beak filled with wriggling dinner for her surviving children. Their fate was still not certain, but the babies were being cared for, this we knew—and it was a relief for many reasons.

In this world, we want to know that mommas will return to care for their young and that the weak will survive. We want to see signs of compassion in the natural order of life. If we do not see these signs in nature, what hope can we have for ourselves? I'm reminded again of that verse from Matthew 6 in the New Testament that I love so much. (Yes, I'm quoting the Bible. Get over it!)

"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? ... So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself." 

* Even from my Alabama home, I rest assured that there is almost always a dude in a bow tie walking down 5th Avenue at any given time. And if not, there'll be a bow tie-wearing dude coming along soon enough.

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