Have you ever thought of what the world would be like without birds? Sure, there’d be fewer poop marks on your windshield (or shoulder), but there’d also probably be more bugs in your garden. There’d be fewer sounds and songs during the day – no cheeps, chirps, or clicks as the birds say goodnight to the day and tuck their heads under their wings. Wouldn’t we miss the flashes of color flitting and soaring from place to place?
We would also miss the coo of the doves and the squawks of blackbirds and ravens. Even the tiny, jewel-like hummingbird has a surprisingly loud chirp, almost sounding like a click. Of course, some birds are natural mimics, like parrots. I read an article the other day about a zoo that had to remove their parrots from public view because the birds had picked up some less than polite language from viewers who thought it funny to hear the birds use “fowl” language. Still, all in all, it would be a much duller, quieter world without birds in it.
It’s now spring (in many places, anyway). Birds of all sorts are making nests of grass, twigs, lint from people’s dryers, string, stray threads of knitting yarn, spider webs, and odd building materials. Following the nest making, males proclaim how secure, spacious, and splendiferous the nests are that they have built themselves in the hope of attracting females. The females lay eggs, hatch them, and then begin the seemingly never-ending job of feeding voracious young born with wide mouths and perpetually empty stomachs. It’s fun to watch the parents feed their young, and it reminds us of our own experiences with hungry offspring.
Our neighborhood has birds of various types – hummers, several varieties of doves, pigeons, a raptor or two on occasion, some songbirds, crows, and some rather pestilential mockingbirds. One, in particular, has chosen my neighbor’s lemon tree again this year. It must be at least the third year because it seems to remember my outdoor cats, both relatively placid and showing interest only in a warm/cool place to sleep and a full bowl of kibble every morning. The mockingbird, however, seems to see anything within a fifty-foot radius of the lemon tree as its property, and by-god, it is going to protect it from all comers – even human beings! It dive-bombs cats, cars, big trucks, bystanders, and even me when I go out. Never mind that I can’t even see the tree in question, much less the nest with the chicks; I present a danger and must be repelled at any cost. Like my cats, I quickly retire to safety and hope the squawk will die down.
The neighborhood mockingbird is persistent. It has a job to do, and it will do it to the very best of its ability, even if it is dangerous or even foolhardy.
I have no idea how the thought came into my mind, but I connected the persistence of the mockingbird with the Holy Spirit. It would probably be blasphemous, if not false, to say that the Spirit squawks, but she is definitely persistent. Her job is to guide the willing and the unwilling in the ways they should go, and if it takes a peck or two or even a close call with claws and wings, then that is what happens.
I have been taught about and experienced the Spirit moving in my life and those of others. Usually, she comes quietly, like the fog that comes on little cat feet, as Carl Sandburg described it. I have known cats to stomp rather loudly occasionally, but I’ve also been surprised to turn around only to see a cat who wasn’t there last time I looked and whom I did not hear when they approached. They never seem to do it just for the heck of it, but I can’t always be sure. Most of the time, the cat has a purpose. So does the Spirit – only using different techniques, unlike the mockingbird who has only one.
Maybe I should try to be as conscious of the Spirit as I am the annoying bird. Whether the Spirit is trying to move me away from something or toward something else, I need to pay attention. It’s as simple–and as complicated—as that.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.