Of Birds and Providence

I don’t know how this story ends.

But I do know how it started.

We’d just finished watching Jeopardy! on the eve of my twin sons’ thirteenth birthday. I sent the boys outside to run off the last of their energy before bed and I stepped into the kitchen to do up the supper dishes.

One boy came back in, telling me I had to come to the backyard.

I’m the kind of housekeeper who is always happy for an excuse to put off chores, so I went with him, a little nervous that I was about to see a snake.

Instead, I looked where he pointed, way up-up-up in our tree to a branch at least 40 feet from the ground. There, an oriole struggled, his foot caught in the makings of his nest. His efforts to fly came between moments of hanging upside down. Every few minutes he managed to flop back up into the nest, only to end up dangling from his foot again.

I ran inside to get my phone so I could message my friend Bruce.

Bruce is the guy I go to about anything wild and natural and winged. He’s the one I asked about loons when I was writing All Manner of Things and who I named a character after in The Nature of Small Birds.

“The nest is too far up for us to safely reach,” I wrote. “Any advice?”

He responded that, if I couldn’t get to the nest, it was best to let it work out on its own. It was what I expected. I had a hunch that there would be no easy fix. But I had to do something.

“Praying for the best,” he wrote. “He watches all.”

I knew that Bruce meant God.

And I thought how strange and wonderful it was that he wrote that. Because in The Nature of Small Birds, the character Bruce rushes outside to tend to a bird, stunned after crashing into a window.

Fictional Bruce quotes Shakespeare, saying, “There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.”

Then, a few lines later, he says, “God sees everything and cares, even if it’s just a little critter smacking into a window.”

God sees and He cares. Even if it’s just an oriole hanging upside down, his foot tangled in his nest.

I stood outside, keeping watch, for as long as I could. I watched a female oriole try to pull his foot loose to no avail. I watched as he tried and tried and tried again to work himself free. I watched when a red tailed hawk came at him, talons first, to snatch him away.

And I watched as a couple of bluejays chased that big old hawk away, screeching their lungs out at him, making him leave empty-handed.

And I watched the oriole — still stuck — fight to get loose, even wounded and weak.

And I prayed to the God who sees and cares and knows more than I ever will.

I stayed out with him until it got too dark for me to see. Until the mosquitoes found me. Until my neck ached deeply from looking up for so long.

I don’t know how this story ends.

But I know how it started.

With a God who pays attention to the smallest of birds and the world weary hearts of His children.

*Image courtesy of Audubon.org

One Comment on “Of Birds and Providence

  1. Oh Susie… I’ve been struggling with this lately. Him seeing and hearing. My journal bears the weight of my honesty, but today? Thank you for blogging. I needed this small reminder. My mom always used to say that God cares for the sparrows but He didn’t die for them. I miss her.


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