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  • Rachel Welcher

Praying for Birds

I spent the morning praying for a bird; a fluff of a blue jay sitting at the base of our maple tree. I was worried for him at first because he didn’t seem ready to fly while my cat, Ronald, is always ready to hunt. I wondered if I should give him a nudge, but I waited.

As I waited, I noticed his mother and father nearby, taking turns swooping down to check on him. Mother Bird, who I identified by her subdued colors, squawked at me when I inadvertently sat down with my own baby under the tree. It’s our spot. We sit there multiple times a day on a quilted blanket, surrounded by soggy toys that I forgot to bring in the night before. Hildegaard is sixteen pounds of eager joy and she loves to look up at the leaves and wait for her best friend, the aforementioned predator – Ron – to come say hello. Our routine is simple, but it matters.

Today, we deferred to Mama Bird, and moved to the porch where I continued to watch the little family as Hilde grasped at a stuffed ostrich, chewing on its beak. I prayed:

Father, help him fly.
Make him fly.

I’m increasingly tired these days. Not from motherhood or age, but from angst over the way we treat one another. In Grey’s Anatomy – the extent of my medical education – the surgeons are always talking about tissues that have become “friable.” Fragile. Difficult to approach without extreme caution. Lately, it feels like we’re just holding our breath - all of us - waiting to be misunderstood.

Gen Z is brilliant but quiet. They have ideas and passions but they have seen what happens when someone tweets the wrong thing. Or forgets to use someone’s preferred pronouns, or doesn’t remember to pull up their mask in a Trader Joe’s. Mercy is missing. In this New Order, judgements are final.

The brightly feathered Father Bird swoops down to give his fledgling a few gentle pecks. An hour later, he returns with food which he not-so-gently shoves down his baby’s throat. After all this - hours of Mother squawks and Fatherly encouragement - the baby bird remains at the base of the tree. And I keep praying.

I sit and watch birds care for one another. Check on each other. Root for one another’s flourishing. And Hilde smiles at the cat, grabbing his fur with her baby fists. She doesn’t know how to hold a grudge, act passive aggressively, or try to hurt someone because they hurt her. All she knows is that she loves cats and milk and Carole King. She fusses sometimes, but that’s because she has an immediate need: hunger, thirst, or fatigue. It’s not complicated. She doesn’t know yet. She doesn’t know how friable things become as we grow older and stop watching birds. So I pray:

God, help us. All of us.
Show us mercy, and help us
show mercy to others in return.

Cover image by sydney Rae.


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