Thoroughly Alive

We must hunger after the beautiful and the good...


Epiphany by Blue Jay

I had an escort of bright blue birds the other day. A downright cavalcade of them right at my elbow and heels. A midday walk had struck me as a particular pleasure, so I snapped shut my laptop and set out in search of a good ramble. I parked my car halfway up Mt. Herman road, where trails snake in glorious confusion into the mountainside with its darkling woods. Down the red, red road, through the ranks of spruces with their dark, enigmatic faces I went, my eyes lit by pearled sunlight in a high, fresh wind. It was cool, dappled, the air full of flowing, silvered light.

I tried to strike up a chat with God as I went. My recent days had been busy, and full of rather impassioned prayer for certain strong desires. I felt I had neglected the usual niceties that friendship with anyone, particularly God, requires. As a side note, I find that my own peremptory drives and needs are almost as abrupt a separator from God for me as outright sin. Intensity, when channeled into anything but love of God and his people can be quite a disruptive force.

I felt this keenly as I wandered. I was out to walk out adrenaline as much as anything, but felt my angst rise as my spirit sensed no returned hello from the heavens. The words, "argh God! are you with me?" were rising in my throat when - whisk and whir! A mad dash of opalescent blue streaked by me and into the trees. I shimmed aside in startlement. Another dash, of deeper blue rushed by and settled in a frail little scrub oak just ahead. Yet one more streak of sapphire came, and I stopped, my eyes widened in amazement. Three mountain jays were watching me, and two more were just behind.

Birds, you should know, have quite a special spot in Clarkson symbolism. Ever since my mother sat on the porch of an alpine inn in Austria, praying she wouldn't lose me, her first baby, and a sparrow perched on the railing and God said to be at peace, we Clarksons think birds mean God is with us. I can't tell you the number of times when in prayer, or grief, we have been together as a family and birds flock in at the strangest of moments.

I remembered this just as another mountain jay all but kissed me. In that instant, I knew, knew, as if it had been shouted over my head, that God was with me. Before my thoughts could even form the full cry of my supposed abandonment, God met me in the whirring rush of a bird. But it didn't stop there. The jays kept coming, and then, with a whistle and chirp, a whole flock of downy grey little birds with black eyes and creamy faces, and then a bevy of brown, wren-like chirrupers, eyes darting, with whistles like tiny bells.

And they followed me, looping from tree to tree, oak to pine, to wheaten grass as I strode down the trail. Leaping along in glorious song that wove a circle around me. Just like the love of my God.