Tuesday, September 1, 2009

All the birds of the air . . .

I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine. -- Psalm 50:11

This afternoon I made an unplanned trip to Holy Trinity. I'd forgotten to drop off my electric roaster for use at the weekly dinner party we throw for the neighborhood. I also needed to have an extra parish hall key made, so I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone. I didn't plan on rescuing one.

I'd dropped off the roaster in the parish hall--a separate building from the church--and was about to leave when I realized we might have an extra key kicking around in the sacristy. It would save me a trip to the hardware store then back to the church to test a new key. I unlocked the church and stepped in when a flutter of wings erupted in the cool, dim light.

Our vicar likes to have the doors open in the summer. This one must have flown in earlier that day, or the day before. No one would have noticed him perched high in the beams of the sanctuary.

The bird was tiny, grayish brown with a pale yellow belly and the kind of long slender beak that would make him adept at picking insects from the bark of a Ponderosa pine. Inside the church--where the crumbs of sacred bread had all been swept, where the holy water had dried up months ago--he didn't stand much of a chance.

Except chance--or a nudge--had brought me here, prompted me to unlock the door. Now I propped both front doors wide, and fetched a broom from the sacristy. He was easy to spook. All I had to do was raise the broom in his general direction, and the poor thing fluttered back down the nave coming to rest on a light fixture near the door. I tried to coax him down and out the door, but instead he shot into Lady's Chapel and clung to the chain of a lamp that hung from the high ceiling.

We went up and down the chapel a couple of times before I saw the problem. As long as I was there, he wasn't going to fly down low enough to pass under the door's lintel and back into the sanctuary where the wide-open doors awaited.

I stepped outside the chapel, out of sight and waited. He flew from the light fixture into a bundle of twigs in a vase on the altar.

What to do? A net? It probably wouldn't work. Even if I could get close enough, I'd probably just end up hurting him. I prayed for a little St. Francis mojo. This wasn't working. I could wait. But could I wait all day? It never occurred to me that perhaps this bird did not need to be micromanaged, that he didn't even need me to save him.

Out of ideas, I pulled out my cell phone to call for help. There must be a way.

I had no idea I'd already done all that was required of me: I'd opened the door, and now--distracted by my cell phone and my mission of mercy--I'd gotten out of the way. A flutter of gray wings swooped into the sunlight, pulling hard in the safe and open air.