Are you a serious birder, a bird lover, or have you had any amazing encounters with a bird or birds? Do birds or other winged creatures have a special meaning or association in your life?
Do you love butterflies, dragonflies, or other small creatures with wings?
What do birds or flying insects symbolize to you? Freedom, flight, transformation, home?
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Featured Image: Redwinged Blackbird at Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Julie H. Danan
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I have a deep appreciation for birds and butterflies. I have learned many of the species in our region and enjoy practicing recalling their names. When I have close bird encounters, I enjoy looking up the symbolism of the particular species in Ted Andrews’ book, “Animal Speak.” I have come to associate Crow with the spirit of my mother, who died when I was young. I have a special affinity with the red tail hawk for its symbolism as a messenger between heaven and earth and its ability to see small details on the ground as well as a higher perspective.
Most mornings I davven my abbreviated version of shacharit, the morning prayers, walking from my home in a rural part of the North Valley (the northern end of the great Central Valley of California) to the west branch of Clear Creek and home again. I am ready for Kriat Shema when I get to the creek, and there always are at least a few birds there to davven with me. There has been a shift in the universal background radiation of bird sounds now that we are in August/Elul. The cacophony of the spring morning chorus is a memory. The air even early in the morning is heavy, and my minyan is made up of a starling or two, some acorn woodpeckers, maybe some California quail, an oak titmouse. Insects fill in for warblers long gone. The birds and I sing Shema in freygish, so we know it is a weekday, and I cup my hands to catch the Flow of Baruch Shem K’vod Malchuto and gently pour it into Clear Creek, confident that it is carried downstream, past the agami of course, and out into the world.
Steve, I am just wowed by your wonderful words and images here. I have a beautiful picture of your davening on the creek with the birds, the radiating and pouring and flowing of birdsong and prayer. Even I would sometimes get up early (!) to daven with the swallows as they swooped around 5 mile bridge in Bidwell Park in the early morning, and in another post I wrote about praying on Shabbat at my daughter’s in Minneapolis and being joined by a Cardinal. “Nishmat Kol Chai,” the soul and breath of every living being sings praise.
I’m reading a lovely book, “Listening to a Continent Sing: Birdsong by Bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific,” by Donald Kroodsma (Princeton University Press). Not only is it the amazing story of a bird expert and his song biking coast to coast to experience and study birds, but it has QR codes throughout the book that take you to a website where you can hear the bird calls for yourself. Thank you to student Cantor (and expert birder) Steve Margolin for recommending this book.
Redwinged blackbirds (in the featured image) are one of my favorites. I love their bright red wing markings, their beautiful song, and their bold antics, especially during nesting season. They will chase hawks if they seem to be in their nesting territory! Enjoying these lovely birds makes me want to protect their home and habitat.