… be nearer God’s heart in the garden, where the flowers speak, the trees enfold in friendliness and motherliness … nearer God’s heart in these conditions than anywhere on earth.
On Easter Sunday, while I was finishing the morning dishes, I noticed our dogwood tree dotted with nine feathery ornaments. I could hear the trill of their melodious song, one of the most beautiful and well known amongst the Kingdom of the Feather. Their trill has been described as a “thin, sweet whistle.” As I watched with delight, a tenth bird flew out of the hedge to join the contingent.
How fortunate this little grouping of White-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys), currently enhancing our garden sanctuary, totaled the number 10! In keeping with the celebration of Easter, it reminded me of the ten steps on the ladder of mystical love described by Saint John of the Cross in “Dark Night of the Soul,” something originally described in part by Aristotle and later by Saint Thomas Aquinas.
In addition, if we consider the mystical 0 in the number 10, it represents an encompassing circle—a symbol that is associated with Creation and the birth of all life.1 Ten actually reduces to “one” (1 + 0). One, as the leader of the pack of numbers, is a strong, powerful number. It is the “point” number. Feeling like the Great Mother of Nature was smiling upon us, the “point” for me from this band of sparrows was joy, gratitude, and love to share an extraordinary moment of grace in our simple, daily rhythm.
Take life one moment at a time.
Enjoy its true quality.
Enjoy its true abundance.
Joy and presence are their own reward.
The White-crowned sparrow is a common, year-round resident in parts of the West, but we have never had the privilege to host ten of these pale beaked, handsome birds with their black-and-white striped heads. With their long tail and brown streaked breasts, they forage through our garden with characteristic back and forth hops—“double-scratching” much like the towhee—uncovering insects and seeds of grasses and weeds. They are also known to eat various grains and fruit, such as blackberries and elderberries.2 They are great gobblers of the millet, sunflower seeds, and whole wheat bread we scatter in the protected niche along our big hedge, which is the northern boundary of our garden. While surveying their territory, they periodically sit atop the hedge, stretched up to their full height, scanning the skyways.
With such a strong La Niña year, the remaining Oregon juncos and Audubon warblers were increased in ranks a few weeks ago by this band of White-crowns. Although not now large in number, the juncos and warblers have never stayed this late in the year probing around the garden. So, while parts of the rest of the United States are unfortunately experiencing horrific, deadly tornadoes and flooding, in our quiet garden sanctuary, we are the recipients of a great feathered blessing. In thanks for each and every blessing we daily receive, we are further blessed by our feathered friends.
Fascinating Facts about the White-crowned Sparrow
• Because male White-crowned Sparrows learn the songs they grew up with and do not travel far from where they were raised, song dialects frequently form. Males on the edge of two dialects may be bilingual and able to sing both dialects.
• A migrating White-crowned Sparrow was once tracked moving 300 miles in a single night. Alaskan White-crowned Sparrows migrate about 2,600 miles to winter in Southern California.
• The White-crowned Sparrow is known for its natural alertness mechanism, which allows it to stay awake for up to two weeks during migration.
• Scientists interested in movement and energetics have discovered that White-crowned Sparrows can run on a treadmill at a pace of about one-third of a mile an hour without tiring out.
• The oldest recorded White-crowned Sparrow was 13 years 4 months old.3
1. Dusty Bunker. 1987. Numerology, Astrology and Dreams. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.
3. Ibid. [The list of facts are direct quotes.]
Photo credits: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-crowned_Sparrow
No copyright or photographer was mentioned.
Text © by Zane Maser, 2011. All rights reserved worldwide.
My editorial guru and technological wizard is Chris Maser, my delightful husband. (Photograph by Barbara Shaw)
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