I’m big on birds, in the sense that I feed them and watch them from afar. Slightly uncomfortably around them, I am not the one to hold the seed-dipped stick and walk into the house at the zoo filled with thousands of parakeets. Still, I am intrigued by birds. Beyond the “still a miracle” flight business because I am not a physics person, the incredible colors and feeding habits amaze me. Watching as smaller birds flutter to the feeder then rush away as a blue jay or a wood pecker come to dine, it is clear they understand danger, power, maybe turn taking. I’m sure bird watchers could educate me greatly on these behaviors but the thing is, I don’t really want to learn. I am a contented watcher, happy in my unknowing, in my wondering and guessing. This is a place for me to just observe without losing any of the magic with science, with explanation, with knowledge. For a naturally inquisitive person, I don’t ask questions about birds. I don’t look up information. I fill the feeders, they come, I watch. We have an easy relationship, the birds and I.
This really gracious gentleman takes photos like Picasso painted pictures. He makes art with his camera. When I began my blog he agreed without meeting me, without knowing what kind of nonsense I might write, to share some of his art with me. John Chaille has been supporting this blog with glory, with light, with grace through all of the photos that are actually worth looking at, nature photos that accompany most pieces and provide the extra layer of meaning to my words. I am honored yes, but so deeply touched to be entrusted with his work. Which brings me back to birds. Last night I received a new batch of pictures, ones taken during a recent trip through Texas. Struck by one in particular, a majestic heron spreading its wings, I realized quite possibly the basis of my bird fascination.
I have never seen, not to say it hasn’t happened, but I have never seen a bird spread its wings and knock into another bird. How do they know how much room they need, how do the others know when to back away? When the urge to stretch and wave those magnificent wings, do they venture far enough away from the rest of the group so as not to hurt any others? How do they get it just right? I haven’t noticed other birds around leaving because one needed to stretch. They all have wings, surely they all desire that extension of muscles, that loosing of crimped tendons, that great royal flapping before tucking it all back in. Just a momentary lapse into madness maybe, a temporary jaunt into jazz, then back to searching for food, swimming with the group. Dear God, what if all relationships allowed this bit of crazy, this time of wild flapping, then the welcoming back into the fold as if everyone has that moment? What if grace met the spreading of wings and the eventual tucking?
The older I get, the more I understand that Red Hat Society thing, the ladies group that just doesn’t care anymore what people think. They are flapping their wings. I understand all the memes and the comics about just letting go. They are encouraging me to flap my wings which are itching to stretch out. But the key is to not hit any other birds when I expand, to create no damage. My show of glory cannot be anyone else’s downfall, I can’t knock anyone else over. How do birds know the intricacies of relationships, to manage their own wing span and that of those around them? One heron extending its wings does not diminish the beauty of the others roosting around? Each is glorious, the camera finds them all in turn. Understanding the necessary space for all to survive, the safety in being close, the desire to move to the edges, this is the incredible wonder of all relationships. The birds already have it figured out. No wonder the bible uses birds to teach us about worry:
25Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air: They do not sowor reap or gather into barns — and yet your HeavenlyFather feeds them. Are you not much more valuablethan they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifespan? Matthew 6:25-27
Who can add a single hour by tucking in his wings, playing it safe? Who can add a single hour, stretching out so much that others are hidden or knocked off balance? Birds intrigue me, they have it figured out, the delicate balance. I could learn much from them, instead I just watch and wonder.