by Ruth, aka Momma Frizzle
5:54 a.m. — I just killed a huge spider. When I did, dozens of baby spiders scampered off the mother spider’s back. I swept them all up and flushed them down the toilet. While finishing the job, this story popped into my mind. I’m not exactly sure why. But I decided to share it with you again. I wrote this story at the end of our 2009-2010 school year, when a trip to Gatorland made me reflective about life, death, and motherhood. Kind of like this morning…
Birds are not the main attraction at Gatorland. But they are what captured our attention and empathy on a recent visit.
To celebrate the end of the school year, I took my six children, plus two of their friends, on a field trip to Gatorland. We enjoyed the shows, splash park and exhibits, but the highlight was the observation tower and boardwalk through the alligator breeding marsh.
In early June, the swamp is a busy place. The dark waters roll as dozens of gigantic alligators consummate underwater mating rituals. In the surrounding trees, hundreds of water birds are preoccupied with their own dances of life.
From the boardwalk, we had a window into the domestic endeavors of numerous water bird families.
“It was really amazing for me to see the stages of a bird’s life,” said my eldest daughter. “The eggs, young hatchlings, then birds learning to fly. The mothers taking care of the eggs and everything throughout that stage.” She identified and recorded five types of birds – cattle heron, white egret, tri-color heron, wood stork, and cormorant.
Meticulously built nests were tucked everywhere – in branches and on treetops. For my five-year-old youngest, seeing eggs in a nest was a new experience. “It was really cool when we saw the blue egg because I have never seen a blue egg in my life,” she said. “I’ve seen a painted Easter egg, but that’s all I’ve seen of a blue egg. I never knew God could create a blue egg in a momma’s nest.”
As we watched, parents swooped in to feed hungry, demanding chicks. Others taught their maturing offspring to fly. “It was neat for me to see the dedication of the mothers,” said my 10-year-old Kit-Kat. “I actually saw one stand up, arrange her eggs, fix her feathers and sit back down. It’s like she knew the danger that was around her and took such care that nothing could get her babies.”
Indeed, just inches below the nests huge alligators were lurking, waiting for any hapless mistake. The birds were carrying on their domestic and parental duties under constant threat. Our sense of wonder was mixed with real fear as the precarious nature of their nesting dawned on us.
“The baby birds were still very young, and I think their nests should not be that close to the water because there’s a ton of alligators,” worried my seven-year-old Curly-locks. “They won’t leave the nests alone. They’ll just sit there and wait for the baby birds.”
Of course, the alligators are just inches below my eight little chicks as well. Watching and waiting for bigger meals, I imagined. The other seven-year-old thought so too. “I was kind of focusing on the really cute birds and watching the alligators to make sure they didn’t get me,” she said.
“Be careful! Get off the railing! Come back here!” was my mantra. I was vigilant, but also nervous and anxious.
Because of my own fear, I suddenly realized the true beauty of the birds’ actions. They were living in faith. In the presence of obvious danger unto death, they were trusting in the God who made them.
Actually, Jesus used birds as examples of why we shouldn’t worry. He said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life.”
Scattered feathers on the ground by the alligators’ mouths were evidence that some birds did fall. Mysteriously, that was God’s provision as well. After all, He cares for His alligators too.
But how much more does God care for His children? “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs on your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows!” We are reassured and humbled.
My mommy lesson on the last day of school – be like those birds. Fear not, even while nesting over alligators!