Whose Eye is on the Sparrow?

Published:
November 26, 2022

Gripped by a common enemy they expected to eliminate, the cats took places side by side, perfectly still, heads raised, ears back. A new rustle in the gutter above our large front window held their attention.

But sheltered indoor cats are inept at outdoor wildlife strategies. Failing to intimidate the unseen foe, they lost interest and shifted their gaze to squirrels.

With the threat of damage escalating, gutter cleaners were called. Leaning a long ladder against our eaves, the young man delivered a range of warnings. “If I find a bird’s nest with eggs inside, I can’t scrap it. They’re protected an’ all,” he concluded.

Gutter guy proved to be extra-talkative. Elaborate tales, sensational experiences, detailed accounts of feral hazards made it difficult to excuse myself.

“Then again it could be a mouse or a bat; maybe a rat. Them can slip through bitty spaces. They’re good that way!”

My unease grew in proportion to his expert opinions. I waited politely, a captive audience of one gazing from yard to man wrestling with 20 feet of securely-fastened gutter helmet that hadn’t been removed in decades.

Finally he reached the last clasp. Gingerly shielding his face with his right palm, he lifted. There, crammed in the farthest corner of the gutter was a tiny, unoccupied home of twigs and grass.  

“It’s a nest!” he called down, kneeling for closer inspection. “No eggs! I can clear this out no problem. I just need to get down, grab my gloves from the truck.”

Without hesitation he rose to his feet and launched a new animated anecdote, too close to the roof’s edge. I escalated my disengagement strategies, calculated my escape from this perilous, idle chit chat. Inching toward the door I picked random twigs off the lawn, pulled weed-like grasses from the pavement.

“OK, then,” I called, pitching my voice to signal departure, “thank you so much, glad we solved the mystery! Who shall I write the check to?”

No sooner had I spoken than a tiny, fearless creature flew to the open gutter’s edge. Tucked in her beak was a clump of yellow grass, finishing touches to her bed before she released as many eggs as she could hold. She hopped with the same rhythm and energy as the cats and I had become accustomed to — intentional, on a mission, with a deadline.

“Oh!” I gasped. “Oh NO!” How had I not anticipated this?

Gutter guy fell silent. Together we watched the sparrow survey the space where her shelter once stood. Her beak clutched the catch of the day; her throat uttered no sound. She simply hopped. Back and forth.

I was among the ‘powers that be’ who had a hand in this. My interests were served, our gutters would soon be cleared. I looked away. She flew. Returned. Again. Again.

On this Spring day the trees popped fresh blooms pink and white. A sweet scent colored the air, a gentle breeze teased the senses. No morning could be more radiant, none could hold more promise. This wasn’t a day for cruel surprises, random evictions, wrecks, demolitions. Not a day in which bosses terminate or doctors say it’s terminal. Not a day when bullies win on the world stage, in the boardroom, on the playground… In this front yard.

An old gospel hymn lassoed the broken morning. Preserved in memory and poised to soothe, my mother’s voice, pure and clear, sang of safety, courage, joy and freedom. But the anthem brought no comfort. “His eye is on the sparrow,” presented a million difficulties. Vermin — No?

Naturally, I rationalized. An inventory of wrongs spilled out of history books for analysis — vast offenses, past, present, unconscionable. In contrast, my intervention was necessary.

But this was bigger than a bird, more far-reaching than this deed. My curated trove of finger-pointed debate-worthy defenses crumbled. The morning lost its glow, dimmed to shades of gray, smelled a lot like smoke. I was perched atop a heap of irreconcilable remains, mute as a helpless beak clutching a clump of grass.

In my yard, your neighborhood, in this country, our world — is your eye on the sparrow?


Ani Elmadjian Holdsworth is a freelance graphic designer and reflective writer. Her stories have been published in local and national journals, including Spectrum online. She lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Dorinda Kuebler Mills is a nature photographer whose images appear in scientific journals and in Surprising Nature: Lessons from God’s Creation. She lives in West Virginia.

 

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