Friday, May 04, 2007

For the birds

They say it is bad luck to have a bird get loose in the house. In Cattown, it IS bad luck -- for the bird. This week, not one but two birds, sparrows, probably, fell down my ancient chimney. I begged the guys who did the roof, I begged the guys who painted the house, to put some chicken wire on top of the two chimneys to cap them so birds wouldn't fall down, but they mustn't have taken me seriously, because they never did it. Every now and then, one of the local birds decides to go for a spin down the chimney, and it usually ends badly.

Years ago, when my uncle was a boy, these chimneys vented coal-burning fireplaces, two upstairs and two downstairs, and the fireplaces and the stove were the only heat in the house. My uncle's job was to fill them with coal in the mornings. I still have two of the non-polished aluminum (?) scoop-like shovels he used for this task. At any rate, those old chimneys are still full of coal soot. And this week, when the birds fell, they got covered in it, which is why I'm not sure they were sparrows, because they were quite black when they ended up in the living room.

They fell one at a time. I found the first one in the dining room when I came home one afternoon -- and it was surrounded by three cats. 'Teebie, the hunter, was holding it down with a paw. Then he picked it up in his mouth and carried it around. When I realized it was alive, I managed to scoop it up with paper towels and carried it outside. As soon as I loosed my delicate grip on it, it took off.

But there was another one still in the chimney. I could hear it fluttering around in there, and so could the cats, who kept watch around the living room fireplace for quite some time. I was hoping it would find its way out.

Unfortunately, when I got home the next afternoon, I found the second bird upside down on the living room floor, quite dead. The cats weren't even playing with it. I suspect 'Teebie snapped its neck, because there were no signs of injury to its body. This one I took outside and buried.

Jesus said, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." [Matthew 10:29] Even the death of a little sparrow that wandered into the wrong place is known to God.

On a lighter note, the green parrots of Uptown New Orleans are back. One of them has been happily dining on the drying, fermenting remnants of the Japanese plums still on the tree. (We are moving into the hot weather season now that it's May.) I can watch him from an upstairs window (joined by excited cats) as he picks a fruit from the tree with one clawed foot and holds it as he eats, using the other foot to hang on to the tree branch. He is bright green with a white underbody and a bright yellow beak. Some say these are wild parakeets, but he's awfully big for a parakeet, in my humble opinion. And gorgeous.

The tiny soot-covered sparrows and the magnificent green parrot both are part of God's awesome creation. How humble I feel to also be a part of that creation!