THE BALCONY BIRD
I was reading, enjoying the night on the little balcony outside our ship cabin this week. The balcony light, like the light of a back porch at home, lit up the space…and I was enjoying the night. The moon was bright and reflected on the ocean waves, steady but calm. Across from me were the Florida Keys. Their lights were twinkling in the dark; winking at us as we slowly cruised by. Key West was the last light I saw, and I silently remembered Jimmy Buffet who had just passed that day.
As I was reading, I realized there was a little sound playing in the background; a sound that didn’t belong with the sounds of the waves and the distant music of the ship. It was the intermittent quiet chirp of a small bird. I looked around and sure enough there, perched in the upper corner of girders over me, was a small, white-breasted black bird. He was the size of a finch. He was getting my attention, chirping one “peep” at a time, looking directly at me. He hopped down to the chair across the balcony from me, and I put my book down and watched him for a moment.
Then he started hopping in place, turning, looking, faster and faster, turning his head and body, looking all around him. I realized he was getting agitated. He ruffled his feathers a couple of times as he was trying to make up his mind about flying. Then he did. He fluttered closer to me and looked intently. He chirped again. Maybe it was my own imagination, but I got the clear idea he was trying to get my attention about something. Suddenly he swooped up and started flying in a panicked manner, back and forth from one side wall to the other. I was afraid he would hit the wall. He stopped and “hovered” right at the opening out to the sea but would not fly out. He continued to panic, I could see, as he didn’t think he could fight the breeze caused by our movement, and he continued to fly back and forth over me. I tried to calm him as best I could, not knowing anything about birds, hushing him till he stopped and perched, once again, on the chair across from me.
I watched him. I suddenly saw him as a small and helpless child, wanting to escape, panicking because he thought he couldn’t, and seeking help from the only other living being he could find.
My mind started spinning. I remembered a time when my youngest suddenly thought he was abandoned (he didn’t see me right there) and panicked like this little bird, until I called his name. He then ran to me and held on as if he hadn’t seen me in years. My mind quickly moved from there to a time, in my mind, when I also felt emotionally trapped, in a small place that was very dark – and from where I didn’t think I could escape…I could see myself flying back and forth, panicking as well, looking for an escape, wanting to be free, fearful of what lay beyond.
All of this led to a simple and ridiculous prayer for a 65-year-old man to pray. I prayed for this bird. I knew it would weigh me down like an anchor if I didn’t do it. I wasn’t sure if my little “Balcony Bird’s” survival instincts were better than mine, but I assumed if he tried to fly off the balcony, he really wouldn’t be battered by the slight wind but would instead be free. I also knew that he was afraid. So, I prayed for him. His panic had become my child’s panic. It had become my panic. I decided there was nothing I could do but let it go by giving it to the ”other closest living being I could find.”
The next voice I heard in my mind was the One that said, “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent…” and the music in my head began to play, “…His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me…”
And I knew: both my little Balcony Bird and I would be safe and loved.
“It’s the light”, said the voice, “turn off the light and he will sleep. By morning, he will have found a place. He will conquer his fear and will be fine…rest assured.”
I closed my book. I figuratively “dropped my own burden stone in the water”, slowly opened the balcony door, went inside, and shut off the light. Before I went to bed, I opened the drapes enough to see him sleeping, huddled in a corner. The next day he was gone.
The experience moved me enough to write it down. It moved me enough to remember that even a 65-year-old man can be haunted by the memory of being scared and trapped…and also still have feelings for something small, helpless, and dependent…just as all of us are small and helpless, in the face of the universe. But the “closest living being” to us is the KING of the Universe. He even cares for poor little birds…so, how much more does He care for us?
My Balcony Bird reminded me of His profound love and care; the kind I receive, and the kind I should reflect. I have honored my Balcony Bird, along with the time and place of our meeting, by naming him…”Jimmy”.