Small feathered miracles

Small feathered miracles

Hilary Smith

2 November 2012

 

A hot sun and a cold wind and 'the uncertain glory of a spring day', wrote William Shakespeare. The grass has sprung, gardens are being hoed and sowed, capsicums planted.
 
Azaleas fragrance the air, petalled peonies turn their faces up to the sun – never were there so many. Apple and cherry blossom have drifted away, leaving the promise of fruit. Bees are buzzing about. An orchestrated woodland of birds perform a symphony.
 
It is time to sit on an old park bench and eat ice cream or gaze at boats sailing by, or meander by a creek and hear clear fresh water which has been smoothly rounding the stones over many moons. Think of the first time you heard the rain fall and the green smell of grass afterwards. Or when water lapped around your legs as you paddled in the sea as a child or when sand slipped through your fingers as you built an imaginary castle.
 
It is in these moments that we are being recalled to our earliest memories of the earth. We are experiencing the sacred goodness and grace at the heart of creation, in communion with God who is at the very heart of life.
 
Spring is a season of hope and possibility yet Christchurch, like so many places in the world, struck by the groaning of the earth, still copes with uncertainty and loss. Yet God is not in the earthquake, the tsunami or the storm. Hope springs. We keep the good people of Christchurch, Japan, the United States and other places, in our thoughts and prayers.
 
The Nelson Cathedral bells rang out a few weeks ago as the bar-tailed godwits began to arrive from Alaska to a very different cathedral of creation at Motueka Sandspit. On a visit there, I found myself in the company of small feathered miracles and was reminded of words in the book of Job, chapter 12:
 
But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?   In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.
 
An auspicious name – godwit, with hundreds of years of speculation about their name.   Another mystery.   Flying nonstop from Alaska to our shores, their epic journey is made possible by many giftings:   at hletic prowess and endurance, the aerodynamic contouring of bodies in flight to glide through the air with little resistance, hollow bones which reduce their weight, feathers to keep them warm at high altitudes; fat is easily made while feeding and used for energy; they know to seek favourable wind currents and have the ability, from birth, to navigate by the sun and the stars; they sleep by allowing one side of their brains to shut down at a time; their rhythmic life is sustained by the air they breathe, circling around their little lungs while oxygen is extracted to make the air always fresh.  
 
God saw that it was good…God saw that it was good…God saw all that had been created and it was very good.
 
This year, like last, bells did not peal out from Christchurch Cathedral to welcome the godwits to the Avon/Heathcote estuary. Yet St. Paul's Anglican Church, Papanui carried on this tradition of hope in springtime.   In Dunedin too, the church bells of St. Paul's Cathedral and The First Church of Otago sounded as the first albatross gracefully winged its way to the expectant city.    
 
All of these musings have reminded me of the angelic voice of Hayley Westenra, as she sings the Benedictus. It has been a prayer, uttered in churches throughout the world, over long centuries: 'Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in excelsis.'