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Monday, April 16, 2007


Dead Spotted Tohwee (alias Rufous-sided Tohwee)
Pipilo maculatus L 7 ½ (19 cm)
Friday, April 06, 2007
"Fallen" 8x10 oil/linen J. Matt Miller

“Why would I want to buy a picture of a dead bird?” was the questioning look I got when I bought Matt’s oil painting titled “Fallen”. He painted and posted it on his daily life painting blog on Good Friday.

In the past I talked to Matt about painting birds, but he said they don’t sit still long enough for real life painting. I recall last summer when our grandson, Andrew, and I sat at our dining table drawing a bird. It was a window-crashed-dead pine siskin after which we buried it with ceremony, a cross as its marker. Easter Sunday, Matt told me that he did paint a bird on Good Friday, one that crashed into his living room window. I looked at his blog and woke up on Monday knowing I had to buy the painting. I spent the week pondering why.

Yes, I have a "thing" about injured or dying birds. Ask my kids. More than once I dragged them and various boxed birds with concussions through rush hour traffic for 20 miles to the Seattle Wild Bird Center, then the only state-licensed wildlife clinic in the area. I learned a lot about helping birds survive a crash. So now, in our island home closet sits an electric heating pad and a cardboard box with towels just for these occurrences.

The picture reminds me of two winters ago. Upon hearing the all too often terrible “thud” against the window of our island home, my heart and I race outside to find a spotted Tohwee, feet up, not a good sign. As only its red eyes move, I gather it in a soft towel and place it in the box, out of the way of noise and traffic, and set the heating pad to low. All the while softly muttering, “Please God let it live”. With many hours passing and several tries taking the box outside and lifting the cover to release it, it finally flew to safety. Often when I see what I think is “the” Tohwee scratching at the grass for seed and scurrying with its mate under the lavender bushes that line the flag patio, I thank God for its revival.

Perhaps I need to do more about the ignored problem of our window glass. The Bird Conservation Network gives some solutions mentioning window glass crash as the number one human caused bird mortality with an estimated 1 billion birds killed in the U.S. each year. I’ve hung metal birds from the door frame on a raffia chord and stuck an outdoor chair in front of the glass door, neither of which works well. I pull curtains when we are gone. So today I try “designer” vertical lines of soap every four inches down the window. We’ll see what my husband says when he gets in. “I still think a barn would be best for you,” was his response. Maybe so, at least there are not many windows to crash into.

But then, God, don't you know when a sparrow (or tohwee) falls?1 Don’t we all continue to exist by Your will? You, God, say how much more valuable we are than birds.2 Stuck in my head this week is the song that we sang on Easter Sunday, “Crucified, laid behind the stone, you lived to die, rejected and alone, like a rose (or a rose-sided Tohwee), trampled on the ground, you took the fall and thought of me, above all.”3

You found me fallen because I saw and worshiped a reflection of your image, not you. I've worshipped a reflection, a visual barrier, that is the form of religion, not you; my own independence, not your way, my sometimes greater interest in birds than people, especially vulnerable children . You picked me up, wrapped me warm, and put me in a safe place. You loved me so wondrously, God, that you took the fall and died yourself, your substitute sacrifice, not for birds who still obey your commands, but for my sake, so I can be revived and set free. Every time I look at Matt's picuture I am reminded.

What is the reflection you look at and head towards that does not lead to freedom or life?

1. Matthew 10:29
2. Luke 12:24b; Matthew 10:31; Luke 12:4-9
3. “Above All”, Paul Baloche and Lenny LeBlanc.

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