FROM CHARLIE SHOOK...
My wife, Lois, and I have always been people watchers. In our more recent, retirement years, we have become bird watchers. In that regard, Florida is a great place to live; Florida with its blue herons, its white egrets, and its roseate spoonbills, not to mention its white-breasted osprey.
The Bible offers limited space for birds to nest, but the few references offer inspiration for the bird-watching spirit. Isaiah uses the eagle in a message of hope for the worn and the weary. “They shall mount up with wings like eagles!” If Jesus had favorite birds, they would seem to be the sparrow and the dove. The love of God for the least and lowest, said Jesus, is evident in this, that God notices the fall of a tiny sparrow. The love of God for his only Son is evident in this, the descent of a dove from heaven, when Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan.
Returning to avian life in the modern world, I believed for a time that the osprey is the most religious of birds. Year in and year out, a particular family of this species nested at the foot of a large cross. That cross, in turn, adorned the steeple of an island church, whose name must now be sadly withheld, because of its disregard for the plight of birds.
Recent island history reads like this. The high nest became an attraction for passing motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike. Lois and I never drove by without looking up, not at the cross but the osprey nest. Any sign of new life was like an osprey Easter! The appearance of a head, whether a nurturing parent or a newly-born nestling had us laughing and clapping our hands. The irony was not lost on this old minister. The cross had taken second place to a bird’s nest, a large, remarkable bundle of twigs and straw, and I was on the side of the birds!
Then, everything changed. Some say it was a storm, a near-hurricane, an act of God that brought the nest down. Maybe so, but in the aftermath, metal pieces like silent arrows were installed in strategic places on that roof. The glistening metal did nothing to enhance the building’s beauty. But it did turn away one of the congregation’s most remarkable families, whether the people knew it or not. The osprey did not return. They were not seen again in that place.
On a lighter note, our interest inspired us to mount a bird feeder on a large tree in our front yard, We wanted more birds to watch, and voila more and more of them came. We began to enjoy regular visits from a red-headed woodpecker, a male and female cardinal, at least one very aggressive blue jay, and lots of doves and sparrows, (Jesus would have liked that,) Ironically, it was a few neighborhood squirrels who gained the most weight over time, and not their fine-feathered friends. That was okay with us. In the service of their gluttony, squirrels can perform acrobatics that defy both gravity and human understanding. Often, we have needed no other form of entertainment, just the squirrels.
Let me close on a sober note. At age 94, one cannot help thinking about death and dying. On a regular basis, the body sends us signals, sometimes urgent, that it is weary, that it can’t go on forever. Those thoughts do not seem morbid to me. They seem healthy, and I find that I am not afraid. One reason is my prayer life, and, within that, my meditative companionship with birds.
God Bless. Charlie.
"Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your heavenly Father feeds them. " (Matthew 6:26a, TLB)