Sitting in the sunshine with a friend, under the watchful eye of the elaborate stained-glass windows of Madonna and child at the Minster, I was paid a visit by an inquisitive, yet slightly bashful local celebrity – and this was not my first rodeo. It is clear she hoped to secure our attention, but we try our best to look the other way and pretend not to see her. If you are thinking that doesn’t sound very Christian behaviour you would be right – except that Jake is a corvid, a female Jackdaw to be precise, and she even has her own blog! She continues to make attempts at getting our attention and begins to pull with fervour on the soft cotton mask, with its moss green ditsy print, stuffed into my back jean pocket without a thought some minutes earlier. I find it almost impossible to avoid those distinctive pale irises that track my movements, with an intensity that is exposing.
Rewilding a bird is a tricky business.
Even the term re-wilding, jars and irks, sounding incongruous; unnatural even. And rightly so, it is like trying to undo a wrong. Even where the intentions have been highly honourable, we cannot deny the complexity of the task and the pitfalls of the desire to turn back time.
Snatched by a seagull and dropped in a local garden, Jake’s adoptive mum and dad are now trying to give her the chance of a more free and natural life; that isn’t easy when half of the town know her by name, absolutely adore her and want to feed, pet, and love her! The first time we met Jake, we did not know the history and could not believe her confidence. Knowing something of the corvid’s reputation for high intelligence it was fascinating to see how she sought our attention (hoping for a snack no doubt). Sitting with a jackdaw makes you consider the world from an alternative viewpoint, and, I have been imagining the world leaders gathered in Glasgow for COP26 (having flown in via private jet, Biden even bringing his own motorcade via air). How frail and ridiculous we humans must look to the birds of the air: we have domesticated our own lives with control and socially constructed hierarchies, even seeking to tame the wildness of God.
It is easy to finger-trace this lineage of power and corruption, by simply scanning the earliest passages of scripture, where we ‘name’ the animals. I often muse that Genesis has a lot to answer for. The stories from the ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia recorded in The Epic of Gilgamesh and regarded as the earliest surviving literature in the world, also contain flood myth and are rooted in an anthropocentric belief. This desire to place ourselves as the central focus of all existence has been present since the earliest of times, maybe even the beginning? It is not surprising then, that we find it hard to take a different view, to think of the planet and all it’s wildness as our equal, our co-worker and friend. Looking at Jake, I consider
what it would be like if we did treat all of creation as FAMILY?
The one and only Jake
I genuinely believe we will only begin to protect and care for our planet enough when we have as much affection for her as the other great loves in our lives. Be they children, wives, partners, friends; we all have someone we cherish and would stop at nothing to defend.
To save our planet
we need to fall in love with her.
To be faithful lovers
whose hearts leap with passion –
whose eyes burn with jealous fire.
Do we wake up with the song of creation in our hearts?
Do we feel our hearts leap at the sight of the geese flying in formation above our heads?
For what were we created?
In the following passage from Matthew, I think we all too easily miss the point, and place the emphasis on our own (self) attested importance:
26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed, your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:26-34 NRSV)
If you have a few minutes to spare today, find a quiet spot and ask God to show you where the truth lies in this passage. May God bless you and increase the questioning in our hearts as we face the challenge of climate emergency together- and if you see Jake, remember not to feed her!