August 23, 2009

Gretchen Grackle and the Hummingbirds

In a departure from the normal Sunday meditation--today's is a parable starring 3 contentious hummingbirds and a grackle. Let me know what you think. Do the birds remind you of any human traits?

Gretchen perched on the waving top of the poplar tree. She surveyed everything in the surrounding area. Loud chirps drew her attention to a commotion below her. Three small, fierce birds were buzzing around one another. They each had an opinion.
“You should never land to eat. Hover and flap your wings,” whirred one.
“If you settle on the perch, you can rest your wings and get a good drink,” insisted another.
The third flew past chirping triumphantly, “It’s all mine.”
“No!” Simultaneously both the others buzzed toward the feeder, chasing the interloper away.
He chirped angrily and flew in an irritated circle. A moment later he zipped to the top of an adjacent tree.
“What’s wrong?” Gretchen asked after a moment, “if you don’t mind me asking.”
Her companion sighed sadly and watched the fast moving little birds. The argument was growing more heated.
“My mother told me that there would be birds like you insisting that we change our way of doing things!” screamed one. “Hovering over a flower is a hummer tradition.”
In response, the black headed bird alighted on the feeder.
“Consider the ease with which you can eat…” he began calmly but changed to an angry chirp when the green backed bird zipped so close her wings brushed the black feathers. In a flurry of rage, he shot after the green bird.
“Excuse me,” Gretchen’s new friend dived toward the feeder while they were gone.
However, he seemed indecisive about how to eat. Hovering over first one and then another opening, he grabbed a few quick sips. For just a moment he let his feet perch on the rim before bolting away just before the return of the dueling pair. Panting a little from his frantic flight away from the battle front, the little bird settled across from Gretchen.
“What is your name?” the grackle asked politely.
“Horace,” replied the bird, taking a deep breath. “That’s Consuelo with the black head and Liberace.”
“Are you all friends?” Gretchen was a little confused.
“We used to be,” admitted Horace. He watched the pair once again circle the feeder, arguing loudly. When they zipped away after each other, he rushed down to grab a few sips.
“If you are friends, why are you fighting?” Gretchen asked when he returned. She was feeling a bit dizzy from all the fast movement.
Horace shrugged, “It’s a good question.”
He took another quick flight to the feeder. This time he sat on the rim to slurp up syrup. Only at the return of Consuelo and Liberace did he fly rapidly away.
“Sneak!”
“Traitor!”
The accusations followed him to his perch.
“We used to fly together and visit the gardens with fragrant flowers filled with nectar. When there were so many flowers we could each eat our fill. I guess we never noticed any differences or it didn’t seem to matter. We all flew from flower to flower.”
Horace stopped to listen to a tirade from Liberace.
“You are wasting all your energy hovering when you could just as easily perch and eat all you want. You know it’s an old hen’s tale that you have to flap constantly while eating or we die.”
“How dare you say that?” raged Consuelo. “My own grandmother told me that.”
“It’s been proven…” Liberace began but a wild rush by Consuelo made him stop in mid sentence. The pair raced away in mad circles around each other.
“There are fewer flowers now, so we all gather at the feeders,” Horace explained. “That’s when we started noticing the differences in sipping habits.”
“So it’s all about how you eat?” Gretchen almost chuckled and had to quickly make a circuit of the yard to hide the fact.
“It is silly,” Horace was not fooled. He shrugged and buzzed down to his friends.
Gretchen leaned forward to watch.
“Can’t we get along like we used to? It didn’t matter at the flower garden,” he pointed out.
“You want to put an end to the traditions founded on generation upon generation of black-headed hummers?” Consuelo flew straight at Horace and hovered there. “You are as bad as that green fool who insists on preaching lies.”
Horace backed away rapidly. Consuelo flew in an arc avoiding both other birds.
“Liberace, what difference does it make if Consuelo wants to hover and eat?” Horace tried a new tactic.
“Silly chicky, you are obviously too young to understand that one must move with the times. It is a proven fact that it is better for the digestion when you perch. I saw you do it yourself, just a little while ago. Wasn’t it better?”
“That’s my point,” argued Horace. “I’ve tried it both ways…”
“And you now know that the modern way is better,” Liberace interrupted triumphantly.
“I did not say that,” Horace flew after the celebratory bird. “I said I tried them both and I think they can both be useful, depending…”
Liberace turned wrathfully and dived toward Horace.
“Depending—on what—your indecisiveness?” he chirped angrily. “You have to make a decision about whose side you are on.”
Horace dodged between the birds and flew back to land on the tree below Gretchen.
Consuelo followed him to demand, “You have to decide. Are you for tradition or the modern folderol? You can’t have it both ways.”
Liberace circled the tree before racing down to perch on the feeder before Consuelo noticed.
“Ah, refreshing!” he taunted when she dived past him again.
“That is too bad,” Gretchen stated solemnly. “I’m sorry your friends are both angry with you.”
“It isn’t your fault,” Horace assured her before flying away alone.
“His friends won’t compromise and now he is gone,” Gretchen shook her head sadly at the conflict continuing below her.
(By Cynthia Davis, August 2009)

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