Even the sparrow, redux

I suspect that I am not alone, among Midwestern wasps, in my confusion over the whole middle eastern West Bank brouhaha. I was 13 when I first read Exodus by Leon Uris and it was the most powerful piece of historical fiction I had encountered in my young life. For me, even the drama of hemophilia and Rasputin was dwarfed by this book. Ten years later, when I was working as a cardiology technician while starting graduate school, I became friends with a young Lebanese intern, and with his wife and new baby. That was the 70s and the Jewish Defense League, of which I knew nothing and still know relatively little, was gathering steam in our university town. For no other reason than his ethnicity they haunted him with phone calls and letters, threatening to harm his family some night while he was working at the hospital. I was horrified. In true Midwestern fashion, I’m a very conflict avoidant person and more than once, listening to the evening news, I’ve exclaimed to myself, “Jesus Christ! Isn’t there room for everyone?” which only speaks to how naive and uninformed I must be.

Last night I went to the most wonderful birthday party. It was a concert at Grant Park celebrating Israel’s 60th birthday and a sizable portion of the city turned out. I have never seen the place as full as it was last night. The present was for us: Pinchas Zukerman, who coincidentally was born in Tel Aviv in 1948, played and conducted. With Jeremy Black, the first piece was Concerto in D minor for Two Violins and Orchestra by Bach. There was an interesting bit in the program about how one of Bach’s sons, Wilhelm Friedemann, turned into something of a derelict after his father died and sold or lost track of many of his father’s manuscripts. Apparently, the Brandenburg Concertos were sold in street markets for, literally, a dime. Ah, me. After that incredible performance, Zuckerman conducted Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture.

So there we were, listening to this dazzling music and enjoying a glass of fine wine and I thought, “this is simply amazing. This free concert, this beautiful evening with friends, this spectacular venue and skyline, this city…what could be more wonderful?” And then there were three things. Above the sound of the orchestra there was the sound of a bird chirping and after I located the sparrow on one of the guy-wires to the stage I watched him take flight and dart into one of the recesses of Gehry’s metal plating construction on the Pritzker Pavilion. From then until it was too dark to see, I saw him and his mate go in and out, in and out, always returning to what is clearly their nesting spot, stage left. This vast field and pavilion and this tiny sparrow making all that ruckus, over and above the music.

I was still smiling about that when a peregrine falcon buzzed right in front of us, only about 5 feet off the ground, zip, zip, so fast I barely made him out. Larry, my neighbor, saw him too and we commented about it after the concert. I’m not sure whether he was sparrow hunting- I hope not- but it was startling to have him swoosh by so close right in the midst of thousands of people.

And then, as dusk was settling in for good, a tiny bat started winging it’s way in circles right over our heads. Back and forth, back and forth, fluttering about for insects.

The whole scene, all of a piece- that tiny but powerful nation celebrating a birthday, the musical genius, this urban bustle that I often times struggle with, and the aerial displays of nature right in the middle of it all- made me think, “Jesus, there is room for everybody.”

Have a great week! I’m off to the zoo.


14 responses to “Even the sparrow, redux

  1. It sounds an amazing concert–love all the pieces that I know. I too focus on the small beauties; I’ve gotten more appreciative of them as I’ve gotten older.

  2. Exodus had a profound effect on me as a young woman as well. As did a series of ficton books by Brock and Bodie Thoene that described the scenes around the development of the nation of Israel as though I was there. I was blessed to study in Isreal in college. See one of my posts about how I almost got arrested as a terrorist all because I was so young and naive. the media should report more than the violence that takes place there. It is a beautiful country, with awesome national parks, and a wonderful, welcoming people. But, all we hear about it is riots and murders. Such a shame.

  3. There has been so much…”unpleasantness” from all the players in the Middle East. It’s not easy to identify the good guys and the bad guys.

    And I always think to myself that the vast majority of people everywhere just want a little piece and quiet, a little time to spend with friends and family, a little enjoyment from watching the sparrows.

    Have a good day at the zoo, Vicki!

  4. I think that photo is spectacular and not an easy shot.
    Way to go on that!

    So, as I understand it you voluntarily go sit and listen to classical music?

  5. What a beautiful post, Vicki. Reading about the sparrow, I’m reminded of the old gospel song that says, “Why should I feel discouraged? Why should I anxious be?…His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me…I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free…for His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” Amen. End of message. Thank you for this reminder this morning.

  6. Pinchas Zukerman, nesting sparrows, and a Peregrine falcon? Does it really get any better than that?

    When I was little, my family would go to my father’s sister’s house for Passover and Hanukkah every year. On their coffee table was a children’s book about Israel’s struggle to achieve statehood. It was the story of one soldier. I read it every time we went there. I think of it every time I read something in the news about Israel and the middle east. Yes, there is room for everybody, it is just a matter of will and desire.

  7. There is room for everyone but only if everyone lets there be room. And, that’s the hard part, I fear.

  8. I guess being in a different country has somewhat spared me our news. I guess I’ll learn all of what’s going on in the U.S. when I get back. Don’t know if I will be too excited about that 🙂

    Mendelssohn under the stars, for free…I seriously am jealous. Hmmm maybe Top of the Park needs to do a classical version 😉 Although I like what they do now.

  9. This is your loveliest post yet! The only thing that could have improved your perfect evening would have been the playing of Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony, rather than the Italian.

    Happy belated Bastille Day! (Nobody expected the French Revolution!)
    Roasted Beets with Baby Arugula and Crottin de Chavignol

    Serves 4 (We triple it.)
    1. 12 baby beets, scrubbed
    2. 2 rounds of Crottin de Chavignol goat cheese
    3. 2 bunches baby arugula, well rinsed
    4. 1/4 cup toasted walnut halves
    5. Extra virgin olive oil and white
    balsamic vinegar for drizzling

    1. Preheat oven to 375F.
    2. Trim beet greens to 1/4 inch above beets. Place beets in large baking pan and cover bottom of pan with about 1/4 inch water. Cover pan tightly with foil, and bake beets until tender, or 30 to 45 minutes.
    3. Remove from oven, and allow beets to cool. Slice off stem ends and, holding beets with a damp towel, slip off skins. Quarter beets, and set aside.
    4. Cut cheese rounds in half crosswise to form two disks each. Place cheese on baking pan, and heat under broiler until warm. Remove from heat.
    5. Line serving dish with arugula, and arrange beets on top. Arrange cheese disks over beets, and sprinkle on nuts. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar, and serve.

    Wine pairing suggestion:
    Duck Pond Willamette Valley Estate Grown Pinot Noir (Nod to Hoss!)

  10. Wonderful post; actually, wonderful essay. The word post doesn’t do it justice.

  11. I am not in the habit of nominating posts for the best one of the month, but if I were, this one would be IT!!

    Leave it to you to notice the birds at that concert. (We saw Zukerman years ago and remain charmed!)
    This very morning I was serenaded by a song sparrow perched atop my cousin’s deck umbrella while we ate breakfast on the screened porch. It was a beautiful song (something about the beauty of the universe, I think) and I thanked God that I have new hearing aids with which to hear it!

  12. Last night, Paul and I went to a farm dinner at our CSA farm, on a hillside about an hour east of Seattle. As we ate dinner, swallows swooped overhead, trying to keep down the mosquito population. Suddenly, they were gone, and moments later, a bald eagle soared by overhead… on his way, we were told, to meet his mate at their nest half a mile away. As soon as he was out of sight, the swallows returned to entertain us with their aerial acrobatics.

  13. Gee whiz, Vicki, you got a mixed life there. Wonderful, babe.

  14. sounds like a wonderful concert, lovely to have the birds and bats flying around in the midst of it all too

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