Life, Birds and God

My mother-in-law gave me a model of a sloop a number of years ago. Printed on the sail was “You cannot control the wind, but you can trim the sails.”. It is a great present and a constant reminder to do your best and to adjust your life to events that are out of your control. There have been a great number of things that have been out of my control over the last several years, and I have done my best to trim my sails. Unfortunately, I recently lost my rudder.

There are a number of things you can do when rudderless. You can wait to see where the wind and tide take you; you can irrationally hope for rescue from someone, (maybe); you can wallow in the troughs of life and despair. You can also set your sails and manage. You may not sail away in the specific direction you want, or as quickly as you would like, but you can be self reliant, and make slow progress in a direction of your choosing or chance.

So here, on a beautiful Saturday in Maryland, with sounds of waves crashing off to my right, the birds singing their songs, and a cool breeze blowing through the campsite, I’m sailing without my rudder, making progress, and figuring how I’ll get to where I want to go and trying not to be concerned how. It’s progress, and I’m having fun. I’m at Assateague National Seashore with my brother Brian and Nieces, Shannon and Megan. They are still asleep, and I’m sitting on the picnic bench with the birds talking to me. There are lots of birds here, and they know that they own the place.

I was awoken at 5:00 by the birds this morning. I’m not sure what type of bird it was but it was certainly talking to God. The bird was having a full on oration. It wasn’t the chattering, guys on the construction site yelling at pretty girls going by, it wasn’t the hey what are you ‘doin here? call, or the I’ve got something you’re interested in catbirdcall. I listened carefully to my little friend. The chatters and cheeps didn’t seem to repeat. I thought “What the heck do you know about birdtalk? You just listen to the pretty songs, and don’t know the vocabulary.” So I listened harder. It didn’t repeat.

There is a tone in conversation. There is the brusqueness in an argument. There is the quiet cadence in a father explaining something to a child. There is the raucous tone in a laughter conversation between friends. There is the solemnity in prayer. Even if you don’t know the language, those tones in the conversation can give you some indication, Anger, love, conflict, laughter, competition, cajoaling; it’s all there even if you don’t understand a word. That bird wasn’t praying, it seemed to be explaining to God, in detail, how a part of the cosmos that He created worked, and the bird’s opinion of it. Suddenly, then, it was quiet. It was as if everyone said what they had to say at their allotted time, and were then silent. I hope to catch that conversation tomorrow morning, if it happens again.

Louise especially loved red winged blackbirds, as she lived near the Hackensack meadows. Her father would take her on trips in the car and off to the cemetery to wax the car, The meadows were always in view, and I’m sure that the red winged blackbirds were everywhere. She would love this site. We have two nesting pairs of birds in the campsite. The males are in their best plumage, and when they puff themselves up and look directly at you they are quite imposing. Those brilliant red patches look imposing. The birds chase off interlopers, fight with the male from the other nesting site. The picnic table seems to be the DMZ. It’s a great symphony played with not the usual instruments. You just need to take the time to listen and enjoy it. I think that there is the understanding that we all have our part to play in the symphony that life is. The birds embrace it, we should too.