As I make my way across campus to the Retreat Center where I have a little office, I love to take note of the birds I encounter. My favorites are the wrens, so very small and active, darting here and there, seemingly always very busy. Their whole lives lie in the bushes, the lower branches of trees, and on the grass, pecking here and there for whatever will sustain them and their nestlings. Today I noted their small wings, perhaps just 2 inches long, and I wondered of the difference between them and their huge cousins the eagles. Six foot wing spans keep them soaring above the tallest trees and hills. The wrens do not, cannot soar. They dart. And the even smaller hummingbirds’ wings flutter so rapidly, you cannot see them.
Why should there be such a difference of wings among the many species of birds? The very large eagle and others such are birds of prey. To sustain themselves they must search for food that can nourish and sustain their large bodies and powerful strength. This will not happen by nibbling at seeds. High above the ground they watch with their very sharp eyes for small animals that they can use to feed themselves and little ones waiting in the aerie. Flapping their wings rapidly would alert their prey, weaken their focus and make them clumsy to do what they must. They float on air currents and are beautiful to watch even while hunting.
Now the very tiny hummingbird flutters because a balance must be maintained in order to reach the nectar it needs to survive. They do not float like the eagle, but hover in one place to reach the flower’s center. Their wings are just right for that.
As for my favorite, the wren, it just darts here and there on the ground, flying ten or twelve feet or less. They are so small and earthen in color, it is easy to miss them. Shy little creatures that go about their business without intruding on anyone’s time or space, they are small and precious.
We need them all. The bold eagles, marking strength and power, are held as the example for our country. The tiny rainbow-hued hummingbirds remind me of my mother as she prepared for guests. This way and that way she went, getting things ready. Afterward she would be exhausted and collapse into her sofa chair. The wren, and perhaps the robin and other smaller birds, are for me the mainstay. They go about their work everyday, do it, and do not grudge the doing. I think I would like to be like them. How about you? Are you an eagle, a hummingbird, or maybe a cardinal?!
Oldenburg Franciscan Center