Reuben came in rambling at a full-tilt high pitch, “MOM-I-FOUND-A-BABY-BIRD-ON-THE-SIDEWALK…(takes breath and goes on in like manner).” He must reason that unusual circumstances call for unusual speech rapidity and volume. I was expecting one of those shriveled, prune-like baby birds that I’d see slowly drying out on sidewalks in my childhood, always evoking tears and a sense of injustice at this cruel heartless world where such things could happen. I never understood how adults would just shrug and mutter something about “letting Mother nature take her course” or “that happens”. I was, on the other hand, quite at the mercy of my boundless mercy.
There was the time I brought in a bat with a broken wing. Even I could admit that it was an ugly creature, but my benevolence was unwavering. My parents, who had suffered the admittance of broken-winged birds in shoeboxes and a baby mouse who’d been attacked by another mouse, drew the line at the bat. I remember the reasons, disease, nothing to be done anyways. I remember carrying the bat back outside and gently placing him on the boughs of a small pine tree, cradled above the predators below, to die in dignity and peace. I wept for him and for the stray kitten at a gas station. It was my first exposure to the helplessness one feels in the face of another’s suffering. I was not immune, I wanted to respond. A commercial about children starving in an African country compelled me at a young age to call the toll free number and volunteer that surely my parents would pay to help those poor swollen-bellied children. Mom did donate, and then had a long talk with me about spending other people’s money without asking them. Oh.
So as Reuben sped ahead on the sidewalk, I wondered how much of me was still that tender-hearted little girl and how much of me had steeled-up after the things I’ve seen in this world; the things I learned actually happened every day to people, over in Africa and down the block.
There sat the baby bird, most of the adult feathers were in, but with some downy fluff here and there. Knowing that the neighborhood cats roamed all about, we needed to get the bird to a better location. I scouted the nearby trees for where the nest was, but couldn’t find anything. Gently I scooped the frightened bird up into my hands, cupping it and to my surprise, it shut it’s eyes and nestled in. I placed it into a vacated robin’s nest in our nectarine tree and had the boys go dig some worms.
As I placed each wriggling worm into the bird’s gaping, peeping mouth I realized how very much of the wide-hearted girl still existed within my world-weary, suffering-battered adult heart. How much I yearn to see God’s shalom blooming everywhere, right in the middle of tragedies and hurts and embittered souls. Right in this borrowed nest with this hungry bird. Right in my own wounds.
When I become passionate about something, it’s as though I start whirling into a vortex, trying to pull all my loved ones into my excitement and delight. So when my fellow urban-farmer Andrea expressed interest in seeing inside my hives, I was near beside myself to get her up close and personal with my dear bees. I should have been a bit wiser though. The skies were overcast and the cardinal rule is to only check the ladies when the sun is high, otherwise they get cranky and there’s too many of them at home. Well, sure enough. We were fine going through the honey supers, no ominous irritated buzzing, but once we started pulling brood frames, the ladies got testy.
They stung Andrea! What the world, ladies?!? I was the one pulling their house apart and smoking them and poking about, but they were all over her like she’d been dipped in honey. One stung her leg and two more worked themselves into her bee jacket and veil! It was quite a scene peeling her out of the suit without prompting more stings. I felt the vortex losing it’s strength; how could I ever convince her to enjoy beekeeping if my ladies scared her off on the first try?
I scolded the bees. What inhospitality. They buzzed back angrily that what should I expect on a cranky overcast day and that it really was my fault. The guard bees bounced off my veil in a huff. They were right. I thought we could do a fast inspection and that they’d give grace about the weather, but no.
As they roared about me I realized that I wouldn’t be able to show Andrea the egg frames, the baby bees chewing their way out of their cells, the larvae, and all that fascinating jazz. I called across the yard where Andrea was at a safe distance that “Wisdom tells me to close the hive”. Of course it had whispered to me earlier that the hive should have remained shut to begin with, but I had a vortex to whirl.
Ah, timing. There’s a good time for birds to leave their nests and a very vulnerable, too-early time. There’s a good time to check a beehive, when the sun is high and the wind is low, and a very bad time indeed. Screw-ups happen, but as the Athonite monks would say, even these can be worked to our spiritual benefit, if we humbly see our folly and let God use the mistake to teach us wisdom and discernment.
And I discern that I shan’t be bothering my ladies on overcast days anytime soon.