The Author

Birds of a Feather

Over the years, I have noticed that our church steeple has been a resting place for birds on their journeys. Usually, one lone sentinel will stand upon one of the arms of the cross for awhile before flying on. Sparrows, pigeons, even a turkey vulture or two have made it a rest stop. The majority, though, have been those aggravating blue-black birds known as grackles or jackdaws.

These characters are the ones that make messes on the sidewalks or preen at their reflections in the mirrored windows or doors. Never quiet, they are either hissing or squawking at something or someone. It is my opinion that these birds aren’t on their way to anywhere since they always seem to be around.

This morning was one of those occasions. I walked out of the education building to be greeted by a chorus of squawks too shrill and loud to be ignored. I looked up to see the usual leader of the flock on the cross and, this time, four or five others perched precariously on the steeple base. All of them were setting off a racket of alarm.

It took only a moment to recognize the source of their discomfort. A hawk was circling their place of rest, waiting for the moment to strike. Then, with a speed and skill that was both fearsome and admirable, he would dive toward his target. One at a time, he antagonized the grackles. One a time, they flew away in desperation until, finally, all of them were gone. I looked for the hawk, expecting it to return to claim his throne. He never did. It seemed that the hawk didn’t want to be there; it simply didn’t want anyone else there either.

I’ve always been fascinated by hawks – their speed, skill, beauty, fierceness. I’ve always imagined that if I were a bird, the hawk is the kind of bird I’d like to be. The birds that have held the least fascination for me have been those grackles, but the experience of this morning has given me some pause. I may want to be like the hawk, but I am often more like those others – sometimes aggravating, shrill, often making a mess. You have to give it to those grackles, though. When they were in need of rest and protection, they showed up at church and clung to the cross. If I’m like them in other ways, I want to resemble them in those ways, too.

Blessings, Sam