Thursday, May 11, 2017

Birds as a theme

I got back from Ireland today. Wonderful time and great workshop in a beautiful place called Larne, about 20 miles north of Belfast on the North Sea.

I'll have lots to write in the coming days about my time in Ireland, but what I want to ponder is how birds were a theme of it all.

Waiting to take off from my airport in Hartford (BRADLEY airport, get it?) a pigeon got it's foot caught on the outside of the walkway down to the plane. You could see it from the waiting area, laying backwards and upside down and struggling. And it's mate never left it alone. I was impressed with how many people were concerned. Dozens of us told the gate attendants and they promised to alert the ground crew to try to release the bird after we boarded. I only pray they did. I am haunted by the sight and the constant presence of the mate, fretting above the bird.

Then at Trish's house, a Presbyterian Minister and co-leader of Making a Difference, her cat Duffy killed two birds in the short time I was there in Trish's manse's extensive 'garden'--'back yard' to us.

I went to church with Trish Sunday morning--the first time I've even been in a Presbyterian church in my life, but low and behold, the preacher on a special ecumenical day for an Irish charity, was the former Archbishop (Church of Ireland, Anglican) of the Diocese of Armaugh. So my only time in a Presbyterian church I heard an Anglican preach!

But in the narthex (we Episcopalians would call it) the entry hall of the church, two swallows had gotten in and couldn't figure out how to get out! Large and beautiful birds, they were frantic before the service began but sitting on the rafters when it ended. Trish told me they left the doors open in hope that the birds would follow the outside lights when it became dark and find their way out.

At Larne there were hundreds of Magpies. I love Ireland for the Magpies. Remember Heckle and Jeckle, the cartoon magpies and their British accents? Almost as large as crows here but with brilliant patches of white on their chests and wings. Lovely and energetic birds. The resident cat at the retreat center had a magpie down when I came out a back door and the cat ran. The bird was gravely injured and I tried to catch it to end its suffering, but I couldn't catch it (though it couldn't fly) and am not sure I could have done what needed to be done had I caught it.

Then driving home from the airport today I saw two golden eagles (I'm almost sure they were) soaring over I-91 South. Imagine that.

(I told some of the Irish folk that we don't have magpies here, at least on the East Coast and they offered to send some home with me...familiarity does breed contempt, I guess. But I told them the gift of Starlings hadn't worked out too well, so I'd pass on bringing magpies home....)

God, I love birds. And God does too. God knows if even a sparrow falls to the ground, I'm told....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.