Tuesday, June 4

The Caw and the Why

The fledgling crow suddenly found himself on the lawn under the pine.  

When we approached he blinked his blue eyes watching us.  His soft head moved side-to-side in the feather-ruffling breeze.   We listened and his scratchy gutteral caw took the attention of the adults looking with sideways interest from the fence.

The fear I felt for him was eased by the information I found regarding what to do:

Well-meaning humans often try to rescue fledglings who will not take food from our hands.  Crows, being deeply familial, will answer the call of any young bird, show it care and adopt it in.  It only needs to caw.

The fledgling lay on the ground through the night, unprotected, undernourished.  Sun rising, as I sat again with word and pen on the deck, I heard his call going out like a question.  It was a call for closeness and care.

It reminded me so much of us.


There has been a considerable amount of "why?" floating about lately, both coming at me and going out from my heart.  It is, the question we ask when we feel alone, when the tragedy strikes, when the world moves faster or seems smarter than we do. Just like the birds, we throw it out in strings, "Why? Why? Why?"  perhaps because we value the question more than the explanation.  The question is important. The question opens up intimacy.

Asking why is our own call for closeness.

Babies don't cry out to hear us explain their feelings of isolation, but to receive the warmth of embrace. Fledglings don't call out for descriptions of their fall, but for nurture and care.  When the house is burned or broken by storms we don't ask why to understand the science, but to get a sense of the new boundaries of our dwellings and who will live there with us. We send our own cry out to the universe not so much for commentary or evidence, but for a response that we are not alone.

We ask the why to find the intimacy.

What we really want to know is that we will not walk alone through our own fall, or grief, or shift.  What we really want to know is that we can be companions for one another.  What we really want to know is that God is attendant to all.

We say it nearly as much to others as we do to God.  It is a cry of curiosity as much as it is a cry of betrayal.   The wisdom of the world, incomplete and selfish, is betrayer enough.  The wisdom of God is to be present.

The fledgling cries out, "I find myself broken away from certainty.  I am relying on nourishment in a new way.  Please, find me.  Please, hear me."  We cry out all the same things.  The grieving, questioning one asks, "Why did I fall?" or just "Why me?"  And friends come with hugs and attention and go through our pain with us.  Affection rather than answers.  Support instead of statements.

Every why is an opportunity for increased intimacy.  "Why?" should be a disarming flag, causing us to listen for where the intimacy is missing.  Is it with me?  Is it with God?  Is it with community or other?  The challenge is not to fight back when we're questioned, but to chip away and find the gap that only closeness and vulnerability can fill.

{Summer of Midrash}