Sometime ago I wrote a piece about finding a home for my faith (which,oddly, won a Blogging for Books award) and then I left that topic because it’s pretty personal and not necessarily fodder for this blog. I know some people are comfortable sharing their beliefs and biases, one way or the other, but if ever there was a subject that falls under the heading of “preaching to the choir”, this, of course, is it. You do, you don’t, you’re on the fence. I have to say that Jen’s explanation of her religious views that I found on her profile at FaceBook made me laugh: All of the Above, none of the Above.
I’m not that ambivalent but at the ripe old age of 55 I’m still not as clear in my head and heart about it as either Hoss or Ms. Belle, who are on opposite ends of the continuum and, Amazing Grace!, they still enjoy and care about each other. Actually, now that I think about it, I suspect Hoss only pokes people about his lack of belief in “Big Ernie” so he can get the rest of us to pray for him and his aneurysms, his prostate and that he’ll stop with some of those photos he posts.
My faith is simple and childlike. It persists in this fashion, despite reading theological tomes and classes in religion and in spite of church memberships and life’s miserably unfair disappointments. As often as not, the driving force behind my faith is the natural world. Curiously, the more I educate myself about that the stronger my faith. Go figure.(Check out The Beak of the Finch, A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner) When Abby and I kayaked the Inside Passage we spent one long silent morning, sitting absolutely still in our tiny two person boat, watching pinnipeds and mammoth whales the size of buses breach and dive twenty feet away on the other side of the kelp line. How could I doubt?
In keeping with my simple mindedness about all of this, most of my praying is reduced, ala Anne Lamott, into two categories: “help me, help me, help me” or “thank You, thank You, thank You”. For me, it’s as easy as humility, charity and reverence. And believe me, that is not easy at all. So it’s no surprise that I’m most likely to turn to Psalms for the
passage du jour and I’m quick to relate to those that reference
sparrows. In the Book sparrows come off as the meek, the humble, the lowly
who are still cared for, who still find a place.
But face it: in reality sparrows are one of the messier, most pea-brained, common and unattractive of God’s creations. I mean, these birds are the white trash of the avian world. Carolina Wrens build neat and pretty little stick nests; sparrows nest anywhere, as in Psalm 84, “even the sparrow hath found a house.” They are so lazy they prefer someone else’s abandoned home and what they bring to it-gum wrappers, popsicle sticks and knotted bits of string- just slums the place up further.
I am most familiar with feeding a couple of titmice, a nuthatch, a Downy Woodpecker and some glorious goldfinches. On the ground I would have cardinals and juncos. Here in Chicago, only the sparrows have found the three feeders I put in the courtyard. Every morning there are hundreds of them, scrapping with each other, crapping and dancing around on the lawn furniture. They manage to poop sideways, midflight, so it hits the sliding doors. These tiny bits of dirty brown feathers have torn up planters filled with sharp needled cactus and delicate ferns.
1 Hear my prayer, O LORD,
And let my cry come to You.
2 Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble;
Incline Your ear to me;
In the day that I call, answer me speedily.
7 I lie awake,
And am like a sparrow alone on the housetop.
Between you and me, I don’t think the author of Psalm 102 was much of a bird watcher. I have yet to see a sparrow alone; it’s always him and 8 dozen of best friends.
I’m starting to loathe these birds. What am I to do? Take down the feeders? Turn off the cat TV? (Sophie
has already decided this is the feline equivalence of South Park and
lost interest…) Is it possible there is a lesson for me here? I want
goldfinches but I get sparrows? I have no idea. But most assuredly, just as there were two teinopalpus imperialis and two balaenoptera musculus, there were two passer domesticus on board that Ark. (submitted for Friday’s Ark)