Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7
About three years ago, a new couple moved into our condo complex. Despite being noisy and shrill and occasionally waking us up with early morning squabbling – sometimes with each other and sometimes with other residents – they have been good neighbors. And they’ve been even better parents. We figure by now they probably have at least nine kids. Not all of them living at home, of course. Because when home is forty-five feet above ground, it’s important to make sure you get each batch of kids out on their own and on the wing as soon as possible.
I’m talking about a family of crows.
In early April, we noticed that our nesting pair had returned to their favorite address – a humongous pine tree right across from our third-floor balcony with a cup-like crown that makes seeing the actual nest impossible, even with binoculars. Except for the nearly daily intrusion of one particularly pestiferous squirrel, the crow family lives entirely unmolested and largely, I suspect, undetected.
In mid-May, we heard the first peepings of baby crows. Three weeks later, the peepings had become baby crow caws. Good efforts, but needing a lot of work to become good throaty adult crow cackles. Comparatively speaking, the baby crows sound like they are gargling with salt water.
So, we’ve had a good time watching the parents take turns scouting for worms and moths, patrolling the neighborhood, watching for predators (like the big owl that occasionally comes calling in the evening), and kicking the crap out of the squirrels. Then, came the big storm.
Eastern Colorado is similar to Kansas in terms of violent high plains weather. Here in Denver, we don’t see much of that. Once in a while, a cloud will turn lumpy and green and the local meteorologists go berserk with up-to-the-minute reporting. And sometimes, we get squishy, pea-sized hail that mushes down the potted plants for awhile, but for the most part, Denver weather, even in high summer, is pretty mellow.
So, last week, when we found ourselves under tornado watch, with round-the-clock weather coverage on every station and lightning that reminded us of CNN footage of the Battle of Baghdad, deluged with buckets of rain and hail in such quantity that five days later, some parts of town still had remnant drifts of it, we worried about the crow family in the top of the pine tree.
The morning after the night-long bombardment, coffee cup in hand, I dejectedly surveyed the damage to our tiny container garden – pepper plant shredded, tomato plant broken in several places, and lettuce smashed and frozen under half an inch of congealed hail. Picking miserably at the soggy remains of what had been a rather magnificent viola, I suddenly remembered the crow family. I tried to see them in their nest, which, as I said before, is an exercise in futility. But eventually, I saw one of the parents fly in with a tasty bug in its beak and I heard the baby crows’ enthusiastic gargling. I realized that all was actually all right with the world.
I need to remember that family of crows, crouching together in a swaying tree top with sheets of rain and hail pounding them relentlessly. I need to remember that darkness and deluge are part of our mortal experience and that God is compassionate in our suffering. God also keeps a longer view of life than I am generally able to muster. That vision apparently does not include home grown lettuce this year. But it may include a Lazarus-like banana pepper plant and half a tomato plant, both of which sprouted blossoms over the weekend. And it definitely includes a measure of grace for a couple of nesting crows.
This morning, we were treated to the highly anticipated “first flying lesson” of the year. Parents perched on buildings across the parking lot, cawing and barking encouragement to three charcoal grey, fluffy chicks who did not seem at all convinced that flying is a very good idea. Every once in awhile, one of them awkwardly flapped its wings and tumbled inelegantly over to an adjacent branch. The most enthusiasm they showed all morning was for breakfast, brought at intervals by whichever parent wasn’t presently engaged in aviation instruction. My husband and I worried a little that a baby might lose its footing and go crashing to the ground. But their parents seem to be watching out for them pretty well. And, I think, so is God.
Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to God, from care God sets me free;
God’s eye is on the sparrow, and I know God watches me.
I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For God’s eye is on the sparrow,
And I know God watches me.
– From “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” by Civilla D. Martin and Charles H. Gabriel, 1905
© Marian the Seminarian, 2012