On today’s walk, I was blessed with the awareness of birds. What joy, beauty, and magic they bring to our world! Rachel Carson was right, if we somehow managed to kill off all the birds – through the short-sightedness of our crazy need to kill things with poisons (“weeds,” insects, etc.), the world would be an infinitely poorer place. Can you imagine the woods, the meadows, and the parks without birdsong? Can you imagine flight as something only machines were capable of? What if there were no birds in glorious flight, but only the straight-lined noisy polluted flying of planes? It’s scary to think of a world without the blessing of birds in it.
Today I heard a glorious chorus of birds. I am not an ornithologist and I can only identify the song of a few birds, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take rapturous delight in the songs, twitters, and calls that I hear. The songs of birds, when we take the time to notice them, really do elevate our mood and our consciousness.
On my walk first I noticed the swallows. They are plentiful here and I love watching them dart around, presumably gobbling up flying insects. They move with great agility and style. And I love that they help keep the insect population under control.
I also noticed the pecking/hammering/drumming sound of two different flickers. I love the staccato rhythm they bring to the morning’s symphony.
And, as has been happening with delightful regularity, I saw a hummingbird flitting from flower to flower gathering nectar and spreading joy.
But the bird I want most to speak about today is one that oftentimes gets bad press.
This morning when I was standing in a green wooded area adjacent to a beautiful stream, I was gazing at the beautiful sky and the tree tops and I noticed two large birds at the top of an aspen. Nope, not eagles, vultures. Most people kind of shudder a bit at the mention of vultures. They think they’re ugly and they associate them with death. But vultures are so important! It is to the vultures’ credit that we are not overrun by the bacteria of a myriad dying creatures. And the reason they have those allegedly “ugly” heads is they cannot have feathers on their head while they are eating dead things because the feathers would become infested with bacteria thereby making them ill.
I watched these two vultures for a good twenty minutes this morning. I watched them preen and I watched them spread their glorious wings to the morning sun. I’m sure they do this as one way of keeping clean. After all, the sun has amazing powers to do that. However, there is also something beautiful about this act of standing in one’s glory, facing the sun. It felt a bit like a spiritual ritual, an honoring of the Sun for the life and light it brings to our planet.
Vultures are one of the only animals on Earth which do not need to kill or eat any living thing. Instead they scavenge what has already died. Therefore, rather than disparage Vulture, we could choose to regard it as noble. It never takes a life.
About ten years ago, I had a powerful dream about a vulture. It was very large and it was standing over me, looking at me with its cold, emotionless eyes. I was nervous. I said to it, “If you have to peck me in order to clean things up, please be gentle.” One large lone tear fell from its eye and landed upon my body. It opened the floodgates in me and I cried and cried and cried. (Come to think of it, that was a very powerful cleansing! I just realized that!)
Ever since then, I have had great respect for vultures.
Vulture’s “medicine” is about transmuting toxins and negativity in one’s life. I generally have mostly very good and kind people in my life, but in the last week I have been exposed to a couple incidents of people being rather unkind to either to me or someone else they once loved. I would indeed greatly appreciate Vulture’s help in transmuting the energies of these incidents.
What is the moral of today’s story? Each one of us has gifts. No matter what we look like or what others think of us, there is something that we do well, something we can offer the world that helps to make it a better place. What hole would be left in this great web of life if we were not here to fill it? This is our big life question: Why am I here? What am I here to do? What is my gift to offer the world? Once you have answered that question, once you have fulfilled your purpose here, you are home free.
Godspeed, friends. Grace be with you.