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Sharon Randall: The language of birds

By Sharon Randall

Most of us have a few good bird stories. I’d love to hear yours. Here are some of mine.

When I was 7, I broke my new front tooth. A dentist replaced it with a metal crown until we could afford a better one. I wore it for six years. My dad called it the “silver bullet.” It was fine for eating, but not for smiling.

“What’s wrong with your mouth?” said my dad.

“I hate this silver tooth,” I said. “It makes me … ugly.”

He took my face in his callused hands. “Not to me,” he said.

Later, on our way to the barn to milk cows, a cardinal sang out, “Purty! Purty! Purty!”

“Hear that?” Dad said. “He says you’re pretty, pretty, pretty! It must be true. Birds don’t lie.”

That made me laugh. But I did not feel quite so ugly anymore.

When my children were small, we laughed at the jays in our yard. Chased sea gulls at the beach. And on rainy days, we’d go to a pond, open the door of our van and toss bread to the ducks. The kids loved the ducks. The ducks loved the bread. And I loved to watch them. Ducks, kids, feathers, curls, wings flapping, hands clapping, all laughing and quacking together.

After the kids grew up, their dad, a high school basketball coach, was diagnosed with cancer. He spent weeks in a hospital where the rooms looked out on a forest. I had always watched birds for pleasure. In his hospital room, I learned to watch them for salvation.

While the Coach lay adrift on a  sea of morphine, I studied the sparrows that flocked to a feeder outside his window. Why were they there? What was their purpose? Did they believe in the promise that not one of them could fall to Earth apart from the will of God? Did they wake at night fearing what lay ahead for them and their loved ones?

I didn’t have answers. I just watched those birds go about their lives, seemingly at peace, finding joy in birdseed and bird song and the ability to fly. Watching them, I had a feeling that one day, I would fly, too.

Four years later, when the Coach finally lost his long fight with cancer, I rented a place on a lake in North Carolina, where I was born, and spent a month resting, writing and watching birds — especially a great blue heron. Something about that breathtaking creature became a healing balm for my soul.

Fast forward 10 years to the desert outside Las Vegas. We were sitting on our patio, my new husband and I, drinking coffee and watching birds.

The air was filled with music. Bird song blended with a melody my husband was composing to play at his son’s wedding.

“That’s beautiful,” I said. “What will you call it?”

He looked up from his guitar and smiled. “I call it ‘The Language of Birds.’ ”

The wedding took place on the Fourth of July. My husband played his song. It was almost as lovely as the light in the eyes of the bride and the groom, their family and friends, and the birds that sang along in the trees.

Fast forward four more years to today. Just back from a week with my kids and grandkids, I was happy to be home with my husband, but missing the people I had left in California.

To cheer me up, my husband told me what he had seen while I was gone, an annual event I look forward to all year: The quail chicks had hatched!

I sat in our family room for an hour (if I went outside, I might frighten the chicks) watching, waiting, hoping to see them.

My husband spotted them first. “There they go!” he yelled.

Choking on my coffee, I ran to the door. And there they were: One fat mama quail and four fuzzy thumb-sized chicks.

I wish you could see them.

Birds remind me of my children, my grandchildren, all children to come. They assure me life goes on. They give me hope and make me feel that one day I’ll fly, too. I watch them for pleasure and salvation. I believe absolutely in their song.

I hope you will, too.

Birds don’t lie.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson, NV 89077, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.

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