A friend called today. Said he’s going to have to start calling me “Pastor Audubon” what with all my online bird photos. I’m not what you’d call a birder but I suppose that might be in my future.
I’m fascinated by the variety of birds that visit my backyard. Nuthatches, titmouses, finches (gold, purple and house), cardinals, wrens, sparrows, hummingbirds, mourning doves, towhees, thrashers, jays and chickadees. They entertain my heart for hours on end; watching them through the kitchen window and in my backyard perch, I’m all agog. Go ahead. Call me an old guy. I’m happily wriggling into that skin and it suits me fine.
Quite recently a baby house finch was practicing its newly found airborn technique near my observation spot when it quickly tuckered out and did this:
Soon after posting this photo on a social media site, another friend commented, “you’re just like St. Francis!” I admit, I had to google it, though I had an inkling what she was referring to. Seems Francis was practicing his preaching chops out in the woods one day when suddenly the fields about were positively aflutter with every bird in the vicinity. Francis took note and commanded the birds to hear the word of God for them – and they listened with rapt attention!
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow waxed poetic about the whole affair with his “Sermon of St. Francis”.
Up soared the lark into the air,
A shaft of song, a wingéd prayer,
As if a soul released from pain
Were flying back to heaven again.
St. Francis heard: it was to him
An emblem of the Seraphim;
The upward motion of the fire,
The light, the heat, the heart’s desire.
Around Assisi’s convent gate
The birds, God’s poor who cannot wait,
From moor and mere and darksome wood
Come flocking for their dole of food.
“O brother birds,” St. Francis said,
“Ye come to me and ask for bread,
But not with bread alone to-day
Shall ye be fed and sent away.
“Ye shall be fed, ye happy birds,
With manna of celestial words;
Not mine, though mine they seem to be,
Not mine, though they be spoken through me.
“Oh, doubly are ye bound to praise
The great Creator in your lays;
He giveth you your plumes of down,
Your crimson hoods, your cloaks of brown.
“He giveth you your wings to fly
And breathe a purer air on high,
And careth for you everywhere,
Who for yourselves so little care!”
With flutter of swift wings and songs
Together rose the feathered throngs,
And singing scattered far apart;
Deep peace was in St. Francis’ heart.
He knew not if the brotherhood
His homily had understood;
He only knew that to one ear
The meaning of his words was clear.
For you true birders, if I’ve misidentified any of these lovelies, feel free to set me straight. I still can’t get them to talk to me.