Friday, December 24, 2010

The Year of the Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow
 Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)


I have never really thought much about sparrows, but this seems to be changing.  In my other blog reflecting on Mary Oliver's poetry, sparrows have come up frequently in her poems and my writing.  Then on Sunday, as part of the local Christmas Bird Count, I was a member of a counting circle that emphasized sparrows. We formed "sparrow lines" to flush out and identify the birds. Okay, I was more of flusher than an identifier.  Only two days later I received in the mail rather serendipitously a promotional nature calendar whose subject  was...wait for it....sparrows!

Then yesterday this story was brought to  my attention:

"Tell me, how much is a snowflake in weight?" asked a sparrow a wild pigeon.
"Not more than nothing" was the answer. 

"Then", the sparrow says, "I want to tell you a wonderful story: I was
sitting on a branch of a pine tree, close to the trunk when it started to
snow. Not much, not like in a storm. No, it was like in a dream, without
any touch of intensity. Because I did not have anything else to do I started
to count those snowflakes which fell on my branch and the needles. Their
number was 3 741 952. When the next snowflake fell on the branch - not
more than a nothing as you said - the branch broke." 

The sparrow did not say more, he took off. 

The pigeon, which is supposed to be an authority since Noah in this topic,
thought a while about this story and then said to itself: May be there is
only one voice missing on our earth that peace will be in our world. 

Is yours the missing voice?

Is it the sparrows?

Is it mine?

What I am learning, oh Lord, ever so slowly, is that all beings matter, for each sings a song of life, and of death. 

So to affirm this knowing I plan to embody this song.  I shall learn more about sparrows this year.  Let them no longer be unidentifiable "little-brown'jobs" but daily miracles to discern.

May I in this year come to know the voices in the field as I add my song to theirs.

Whose voice shall you join this year?


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Lama of Birds

080c2ef9e0 Tashi Sange. Photo: Geng Dong


Tibetan Buddhism produces much for us to admire, including now a lama of birds.  Tashi Sange, also known as the Bird Whisperer, dedicates his life to protecting the environment and birds of his homeland of Tibet.

Sange always loved birds, even before he moved to a Temple at 13 years of age.  Sange spent much of his free time at the temple observing birds, whom he imagined were his father and mother.  When he reached 15,  he began recording his observations, later to draw and paint his subjects, and thus his hobby turned into a lifetime passion.

One interviewer, Geng Dong, said "He regards birds as his friends. I remembered he once whispered to a Tibetan Bunting just like he was speaking to close friends."  Geng adds,  "I think he got a lot from Tibetan Buddhism, such as the equal rights of human beings with other life and the harmonious coexistence between nature and humans."

I wonder if his love of birds came before his path of Buddhism, a path he uses to sustain research and conservation for over 25 years.

This is the order at which I came to religion, birds, and conservation.  As a child I spent my days with birds, talking and singing to them as I wandered the fields and woods of my childhood.  Their songs led me to conservation and my religious calling as a Unitarian Universalist minister.   I came to Unitarian Universalism and my spiritual practices sprinkled with Sufism, Buddhism, and nature spirituality only 13 years ago. What if, instead, I had entered on this path at age 13 as did Sange.  Perhaps I could have given so much more in return for the company of birds.

No matter the past, the question now is how to sustain ourselves into the future.  

What do you do to sustain your efforts?