One of the oddities of scripture is even the person who lost faith in it–as I lost faith in Christianity before moving on to become Jewish–can remember key scriptures that express the way they feel at different times about different things. So it is that these words of Jesus still stick to my mind,
Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
This is, I suppose, a way of Jesus’ biding his followers against being care ridden and prone to excessive worry about what the future bring. I remember reading that a minister, Peter Gomes, preached on this piece of scripture to a group of kids just entering Harvard, telling them to remember to take time to “sniff the roses.” Gomes’ sermon ended up being quite controversial: surely the sole purpose of their coming to such an elite school was to work, not to take notice of the birds and the flowers. I for one, hold that Gomes was right. I believe that there is more in life to live for than hard work. It is true that as a Jew I pride myself on working hard, but I suppose even mafia dons and white nationalists could be “hard working” in a sense… Though it took me years to see it, good intentions matter as much as carrying them through to the finish.
Anyway, I quote Jesus words for another purpose: to highlight his love of the birds and the flowers. I have always loved reading about birds, though I am hardly an ornithologist. Part of this was because my mother and stepfather loved the wildlife. Yet I believe I struck out on my own, too. When I was a child I visited my father and in the bookstore I found Volume 2 of the 3-volume Audubon Master Guide to Birding. In love with it at first sight, I bought the copy–I had saved a little money and took it home. On two more visits I bought the other two books in the set. I did not use the books the way real birders do, however: I simply looked at the pictures, struck by the marvelous birds. If I remember my “favorite” was a Vermilion Flycatcher. I know he was a Flycatcher of some sort. Mom commented afterwards that my stepdad did not think it an “appropriate book for a kid as young as you were” and mysteriously when we moved the books disappeared. Long after Jim died, however, Mom bought me the set again, and I was very happy about this fact. That said, I was still content to look at the pictures and have done little real birding… What I have done was in a single trip to Nebraska to see the Sandhill Cranes and watching different birds around town or at the observation deck of the Nature Center in Wichita.
I also ordered a magazine Birds and Blooms, which tells tidbits about the birds. I believe I even got a book from then about “bird anecdotes.” Over the years, I have read Colin Tudge’s The Bird: A Natural History; Julie Zickfoose’s The Bluebird Effect; and books on Cranes, hummingbirds, and rare midwestern birds.
I wrote last night about my book, Bobcats: Master of Survival.
Tonight I write about birds…