Who doesn’t enjoy birds? The sharp whistle, melodious song, the quick glimpse of color camouflaged among the hedges bring smiles to folks of all ages whether they admit to being a bird watcher or not.
One of the joys of traveling for me is discovering birds I’ve only seen in a field guide. Our first day in Montana, I spotted a magpie. When I commented on the regal black and white and the pinwheel effect when they fly, a waitress replied, “Them? They’re noisy and dirty. I think the ranchers shoot them.” I was reminded of an incident in Costa Rica.
I was amazed to see the beautiful red and green parrots flying to and fro, mostly hated by the Costa
Ricans. The farmers in Costa Rica shoot the parrots because they open the tops of the ears of corn ruining the crop. I began to see the rightness of capturing them for pets, which would be better than killing them, I supposed.
We had a delightful local tour guide who drove me around every day to see sloth, butterflies, howler monkeys, toucans and other exotic birds. After a few days, he invited us to come with him on a family picnic. He was taking his wife and baby, his mother and sister, to the beach for the day. He wanted to show me how to snorkel, but I spent most of the time on the blanket trying to communicate with his family. His sister understood a little and knew a few words. His mother tried hard to ask me a question, drawing it in the sand. Finally, the son succeeded in the translation. What she said was, “I understand in America you have a bird all red that sings nicely. Is that true?” I said, “Yes. It is true. It’s called a cardinal.” She got a kick out of that and caught on immediately it was named for its little cap like the Cardinals wear. “Oh,” she said, with her hands across her chest in sheer ecstasy. “That must be so very beautiful to see. I wish I could see one before I die.”
I wanted to say, “Look up! You have scissor tailed fly-catchers! Look at the orioles and the macaws and the green parrots, and that yellow-whats-its-name. You are so lucky!” But, I didn’t say anything. I just absorbed what she’d said, as I realized that for most of the world, the cardinal is exotic. Here in this jungle, this amazing place, the cardinal is exotic. I mailed her the December picture off my Audubon calendar. Her son said she framed it and hung it on the wall next to her pictures of Jesus, Mary, and the Pope.
God has given us all an equal measure of his goodness. We just need to look up. We are all exotic in His Creation. Thank you, God, for everything.