out of sync

This search for happiness can knock us out of sync with God. As the life of Jesus makes clear, keeping in sync with God is about obedience. Any other pursuit will get in the way.
Franklin Graham

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(the grackles are back / Julie Cook / 2015)

A common visitor to the yard, in the quiet dull grey winter months, is the common grackle.
A lanky gregarious bird who reminds one of that over the top boisterous relative who comes periodically to visit, wreaking havoc on one’s usually quiet, calm and orderly world.
The grackles swoop in by the hundreds, like a giant black undulating cloud, shape shifting against th bleak cold backdrop of sky.
Loud,
noisy,
obnoxious. . .

So imagine my confusion today when that oh so familiar black squawky loud cloud of winter descended on the yard in the middle of a hot, sweltering August morning.
Hummmm. . .

They swooped in by the hundreds—darting through the early morning sprinklers spraying a desperately thirsty lawn. They chased the regular birds from the feeders. They pecked and groused at the mourning doves. They filled the trees like a million black frigidity leaves. They devoured the stale bread I’d thrown out for the crows. Even the rabbits ran for cover when the shifting black cloud landed, blanketing the lawn like a heavy black curtain.
The silent genteel Southern morning calm now punctuated with the herky jerky jabbering din of chaos.

As to why this unseasonal visitation, I can’t exactly say—but I will say that it has brought a bit of lively vigor to this otherwise oppressively hot, dog day, sensory dulling, summer’s end. . .
I can’t help but feel a bit out of sync with this topsy turvy season business and wonder what, or more precisely who, just might show up next. . . .

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“Did you hear the one about the crow and the telephone pole. . .”

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.
Francis Bacon

How are we to survive? Solemnity is not the answer, any more than witless and irresponsible frivolity is. I think our best chance lies in humor, which in this case means a wry acceptance of our predicament. We don’t have to like it but we can at least recognize its ridiculous aspects, one of which is ourselves.
Ogden Nash

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(crows telling jokes / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(crows laughing at jokes / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Did you hear the one about the crow and the telephone pole?
He wanted to make a long distance caw”

How do crows stick together in a flock?
Velcrow.

So the first crow asks the second crow,
“did you hear the one about the two Buzzards?
“No” says the second crow, “what?”
“Two buzzards were on the side of a road eating a dead clown. The first buzzard turns and asks the second buzzard “does this taste funny to you?”

Why did the gum cross the road?
It was stuck to the chicken’s foot.

Why did the chicken cross the road?
To prove to the Opossum that it could be done!

It is easy to determine if someone is committed to a cause or just involved.
Consider the case of the bacon and egg breakfast.
The chicken is involved, the pig is committed!

Two turkey vultures were preparing to migrate north for the summer but, after talking about it, they decided they were too old to fly all that way, so they decided to take a plane.
When they were about to board the aircraft, the flight attendant, noticing that both buzzards were carrying a dead armadillo, asked,
“Would you like to check those armadillos through as luggage?”
“No thanks,” the buzzards replied, “they’re carrion.”

Why did Mozart sell his chickens?
Because they kept saying “bach bach”!

How do you keep a turkey in suspense?
I’ll tell you tomorrow!

When life get too serious,
too difficult,
too hard,
too sad. . .
just remember. . .
A little bit humor and laughter can make everything lighter,
easier,
softer,
happier. . .

Humor and laughter are good for the soul. . .

Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.

Psalm 126:2

(jokes taken from World’s worst bird jokes at Wildbirds.com and funology.com)

The gift of a special bond

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
― Mother Teresa

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(resident crow / Julie Cook / 2015)

My husband grew up in a small west Georgia town during the 1950s. It was a wonderful time and place in which to relish in the joy and innocence of youth. He often fondly recalls a rather peculiar friendship he formed with a most unusual individual during this particular youthful time of his life.
It wasn’t exactly the sort of friendship one would imagine for a young boy.
It was a friendship and bond forged with a crow.

My husband was a boy who loved being outdoors. The freedom to roam through the woods, wade in and out of creeks and climb up and down trees were all simply vital components of his life and this magical time of innocence of which he never gave a second thought. Leaving home at sun up and not returning until the sun had long set was a common occurrence.

Sadly for a generation of children today the desire to venture out, as often as previous generations had, is no longer as alluring. And as today’s adults, we simply don’t feel good about allowing our kids to “take off,” going to parts unknown as our parents had with us. Much to our sorrow, the world is no longer safe.

It was during this exuberant time of childhood exploration and adventure that my husband found and subsequently took into his care a young fledgling crow that had fallen from a nest. Caring for the young bird, feeding it cereal, keeping it safe and interacting with it daily as only a young boy would with a new found, albeit odd, friend, the baby crow thrived.

Each morning, as he walked to school, his new friend / pet would flitter along over head. As my husband ventured into his school and up to his classroom, the crow would fly to the exact classroom’s open window, flying into the classroom over to my husband’s desk where he’d grab the pencil always sitting on the desk before flying back out the window and eventually home with the pencil. The teacher telling my husband that he would have to keep the crow at home because he was becoming too much of a distraction.

Always marveling at his tale, I was sweetly reminded of his story this week when I read an endearing story on the BBC about a young girl in Washington State who has befriend several crows. .
I hope you’ll enjoy the story as much as I did. . .

The girl who gets gifts from birds
By Katy Sewall
Seattle

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(Gabi)

Lots of people love the birds in their garden, but it’s rare for that affection to be reciprocated. One young girl in Seattle is luckier than most. She feeds the crows in her garden – and they bring her gifts in return.

Eight-year-old Gabi Mann sets a bead storage container on the dining room table, and clicks the lid open. This is her most precious collection.

“You may take a few close looks,” she says, “but don’t touch.” It’s a warning she’s most likely practised on her younger brother. She laughs after saying it though. She is happy for the audience.

Inside the box are rows of small objects in clear plastic bags. One label reads: “Black table by feeder. 2:30 p.m. 09 Nov 2014.” Inside is a broken light bulb. Another bag contains small pieces of brown glass worn smooth by the sea. “Beer coloured glass,” as Gabi describes it.

Each item is individually wrapped and categorised. Gabi pulls a black zip out of a labelled bag and holds it up. “We keep it in as good condition as we can,” she says, before explaining this object is one of her favourites.

There’s a miniature silver ball, a black button, a blue paper clip, a yellow bead, a faded black piece of foam, a blue Lego piece, and the list goes on. Many of them are scuffed and dirty. It is an odd assortment of objects for a little girl to treasure, but to Gabi these things are more valuable than gold.

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(Gifts given by the crows)

She didn’t gather this collection. Each item was a gift – given to her by crows.

She holds up a pearl coloured heart. It is her most-prized present. “It’s showing me how much they love me.”

If you want to form a bond with a crow, be consistent in rewarding them”
John Marzluff
Prof of wildlife science
Gabi’s relationship with the neighbourhood crows began accidentally in 2011. She was four years old, and prone to dropping food. She’d get out of the car, and a chicken nugget would tumble off her lap. A crow would rush in to recover it. Soon, the crows were watching for her, hoping for another bite.

As she got older, she rewarded their attention, by sharing her packed lunch on the way to the bus stop. Her brother joined in. Soon, crows were lining up in the afternoon to greet Gabi’s bus, hoping for another feeding session.

Gabi’s mother Lisa didn’t mind that crows consumed most of the school lunches she packed. “I like that they love the animals and are willing to share,” she says, while admitting she never noticed crows until her daughter took an interest in them. “It was a kind of transformation. I never thought about birds.”

In 2013, Gabi and Lisa started offering food as a daily ritual, rather than dropping scraps from time to time.

Each morning, they fill the backyard birdbath with fresh water and cover bird-feeder platforms with peanuts. Gabi throws handfuls of dog food into the grass. As they work, crows assemble on the telephone lines, calling loudly to them.

(There is a lovely video clip of Gabi feeding birds in her garden–please follow this link to the original article in order to be able to see the video
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31604026)

It was after they adopted this routine that the gifts started appearing.

The crows would clear the feeder of peanuts, and leave shiny trinkets on the empty tray; an earring, a hinge, a polished rock. There wasn’t a pattern. Gifts showed up sporadically – anything shiny and small enough to fit in a crow’s mouth.

One time it was a tiny piece of metal with the word “best” printed on it. “I don’t know if they still have the part that says ‘friend’,” Gabi laughs, amused by the thought of a crow wearing a matching necklace.

When you see Gabi’s collection, it’s hard not to wish for gift-giving crows of your own.

“If you want to form a bond with a crow, be consistent in rewarding them,” advises John Marzluff, professor of wildlife science at the University of Washington. He specializes in birds, particularly crows and ravens.

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(Crow on feeder)

What food is best? “A few peanuts in the shell,” he says. “It’s a high-energy food… and it makes noise when you throw it on the ground, so they hear it and they quickly habituate to your routine.”

Marzluff, and his colleague Mark Miller, did a study of crows and the people who feed them. They found that crows and people form a very personal relationship. “There’s definitely a two-way communication going on there,” Marzluff says. “They understand each other’s signals.”

The birds communicate by how they fly, how close they walk, and where they sit. The human learns their language and the crows learn their feeder’s patterns and posture. They start to know and trust each other. Sometimes a crow leaves a gift.

But crow gifts are not guaranteed. “I can’t say they always will (give presents),” Marzluff admits, having never received any gifts personally, “but I have seen an awful lot of things crows have brought people.”

Not all crows deliver shiny objects either. Sometimes they give the kind of presents “they would give to their mate”, says Marzluff. “Courtship feeding, for example. So some people, their presents are dead baby birds that the crow brings in.”

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(Crows at the birdbath)

Gabi has been given some icky objects. Her mother threw out a rotting crab claw, for example.

Gabi points out a heavily rusted screw she prefers not to touch. It’s labelled “Third Favorite.” Asking her why an untouchable object is in the favourites, she answers, “You don’t’ see a crow carrying around a screw that much. Unless it’s trying to build its house.”

Lisa, Gabi’s mom, regularly photographs the crows and charts their behaviour and interactions. Her most amazing gift came just a few weeks ago, when she lost a lens cap in a nearby alley while photographing a bald eagle as it circled over the neighbourhood.

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(Gabi with Lisa)

She didn’t even have to look for it. It was sitting on the edge of the birdbath.

Had the crows returned it? Lisa logged on to her computer and pulled up their bird-cam. There was the crow she suspected. “You can see it bringing it into the yard. Walks it to the birdbath and actually spends time rinsing this lens cap.”

“I’m sure that it was intentional,” she smiles. “They watch us all the time. I’m sure they knew I dropped it. I’m sure they decided they wanted to return it.”

Writer and broadcaster Katy Sewall is co-host of The BitterSweet Life podcast.” She’s been a journalist and radio professional for 12 years.

Who is the Watchman

“For he hears the lambs innocent call.
And he hears the ewes tender reply.
He is watchful while they are in peace.
For they know when their Shepherd is nigh.”

William Blake

We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.
Thomas Merton

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( a threesome of crows / Julie Cook / 2015)

Chasing dreams or chasing demons
In the darkened night of silence we slumber

Are we cautious sleeping with one eye open
Or do we rest free of worry and dread

Who is charged with the midnight watch
Who stands ready to sound the warning

Danger bays at the gate
While Trouble lurks in the shadows

Wickedness waits ready to strike
Will the Watchman see the signs

When fatigue deadens the senses
Precarious security wraps up the weary

As the winds rustle through the tress
The enemy circles the camp

Remember the Master stands ready to return
Will the enemy route his arrival

Be mindful you who slumber
Be cautious of demons masquerading as dreams

Where is thy peace
How may we rest

Listen all you who have ears to hear. . .
Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.
Ezekiel 33:7

I’ll fly away

“Every bird that flies has the thread of the infinite in its claw.”
Victor Hugo,

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(crows taking off from the field / Julie Cook / 2014)

Watching two crows waddle about on a cold January morning, on their never ending quest for something to eat, only to have them spooked by who knows what— I was reminded of a very old and very southern song—“I’ll Fly Away”

Having been raised in the Episcopal / Anglican Church, with it’s rich ancient sounds and music, songs such as I’ll Fly Away were never a part of my Church experience much less on my radar. . . However it is that part about being raised in the South which leads itself to my being very familiar with this “other” type of church music—music simply known as Gospel Music.

I am certainly no aficionado of music and truthfully I prefer, as well as love and adore, the more ancient hymns of an ancient church— but I would not be true to my southern raising if I totally eschewed the type of music which is rooted as deep as it can go into this very deep South I call home.

Music is as much a part of our lives here in the South as it is a part of our history—it is who we are as a people. So much so that it has transcended an entire Nation, offering the world a unique sound that is truly all our own.

Much of the Gospel music echoing out of this sun-baked ground, found only here in these Southern states, is steeped in the histories of a wide variety of people— all of whom made their way to this area very long ago by either choice or coercion.

Whether it is the traditional music of the “Negro Spirituals”, whose history is mingled with the blood, sweat and tears of the cotton fields of long gone plantations–songs of faith and strength created by those brought here against their own wishes in order to tend the land of others—– or be it those of the melodic tragic stories and tales as told by an accented clannish people who fled the famine of another country, traveling across a vast ocean, only to settle within the “highlands”, as it were, of Appalachia— culture and music are each wedded and woven just as intricately as the kudzu and red dirt which both run deep and wide here in the South.

The “hymn” I’ll Fly Away was written by Albert E. Brumley in 1929. Need we be reminded of what transpired in this Country in 1929? Our fate that year was sealed on Wall Street as it, along with almost everything around this Nation of ours, crashed. Who living at that time most likely didn’t wish to “fly away”–as things, as a whole, were tragically bad for this Nation. Lives were shattered and changed forever. Dreams vanished over night. Hope was a lost commodity on an entire generation of people—so perhaps it was the desire of flying away, leaving those burdens of a very heavy and weary life behind, which most likely appealed to the masses.

It is claimed that the song I’ll Fly Away is the most widely recorded Gospel song in history. It has been taken and amended by not only Gospel singers, but those who sing Country, Bluegrass, Rock-a-billy, Rock, Christian, Jazz, Pop and even Rap. Most interesting that one song has had the ability of transcending such a wide variety of genres. Perhaps that speaks to the staying power of the lyrics themselves. Depending on who is currently singing, some of the lyrics may be added, subtracted or amended, but over all it is the enduring freeing gist of the song which remains the same—that of leaving behind the trials of life. . .oh to be freed, free as the bird who has just been released from a cage, soaring heavenward, all to the waiting arms of a loving Father—oh by and by. . .by and by.

So on this new day to a new week, don’t be surprised if at some point you too may find yourself wishing to just leave it all behind—however, just remember, don’t fly too high.

Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away

I’ll fly away oh glory
I’ll fly away (in the morning)
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away

When the shadows of this life have gone
I’ll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly
I’ll fly away

Oh how glad and happy when we meet
I’ll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I’ll fly away

Just a few more weary days and then
I’ll fly away
To a land where joys will never end
I’ll fly away