Tethered Sparrow

image-300x228-2831475A few mornings ago, I awoke to find this feathered friend tethered to the desert floor by a slender black thread. The thread was seriously fouled around the left claw of the little fellow and he was stuck good.

Made curious by his seemingly strange antics, I approached him carefully. Initially, I didn’t realize he was a prisoner. He was hopping around when I drew near to him and as I came closer I realized he was definitively caught. Moreover, this little guy was clearly eager to be released from his mooring line.

I carefully picked up this fragile sparrow and gently severed the thread holding him fast to the ground. Noticing the thread entwined his claw and knotted it up like an old arthritic hand, I decided simply releasing him without removing the twisted thread would be imprudent. I brought him back to base camp for advanced procedures.

Using scissors, tweezers, and finger nail clippers, I delicately cut away the threads tangled around his claw.

A few things struck me most profoundly about this encounter. First, the little bird, after some slight initial reluctance, settled quite comfortably into my hand and allowed me to gently cut away the knotted thread. He almost became docile to my ministrations.

As I experienced this docility, I thought to myself if only we would let go and allow God to cut away the tethered threads of lack of love that limit our ability to soar.

Second, I had never been so close to a bird’s claw and was captivated by its complexity and its seeming fragility. How wonderfully made we are! I paused in quiet awe.

Next, I found myself deeply aware of this little sparrow’s beating heart. Oh how rapid it was as it beat against my palm. Knowing I could easily crush this little bird, the fragility of life and its attendant beauty struck me deeply. Again, I paused in awe.

One of the other elements that amazed me about this encounter, and there were many, was the fact that I had been meditating on the following quote from St. John of the Cross for the last few months:

“The soul that is attached to anything, however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for until the cord be broken, the bird cannot fly.”

~ St. John of the Cross

As I was cutting away the threads that bound our little sparrow, these words came to my heart. Seeing this little bird caught fast by a gossamer thread and knowing I only wanted to help him fly, helped me to better understand the teaching of St. John of the Cross.

This encounter was no small event for me. I was really touched by this little sparrow and my chanced meeting the other day in the desert. It seems to me, we are called to be helpful to other beings not simply because it is good for them but also because we become transformed in the process of helping.

At the end, the little bird chirped a happy song and flew away. As for me, I spent the rest of the week deeply moved by this encounter.

Some days later around 2:30 in the morning, I was awakened by a little songbird singing outside my window. I thought to myself, “Gee, little bird it’s too early in the morning for you to be awake. Why are you not sleeping like all the other birds?” I then thought perhaps this was my little friend released from his bonds and healed from his wounds returning to offer me an early morning song of thanks. Who knows!

This encounter with the tethered sparrow happened a few days ago and yet the joy of that moment lingers. Life is good. Rich. Beautiful.

33 thoughts on “Tethered Sparrow

  1. Such a touching story so beautifully rendered.

    Thank you for sharing, Andrew!

    p.s. I actually wondered if this little bird would visit you again.
    I choose to believe it was the same bird who awakened you at 2:30 a.m. 🙂

  2. Andrew,

    Beautiful story and wonderful message! I love that by stopping long enough to pay attention to our world around us, we can make a difference to others and transform ourselves in the process! Thanks for such a clear message through this bird encounter! Love your writing! I look forward to more of your blog posts!! 🙂


  3. Really enjoyed this Andrew and how wonderful that you were given the gift of helping this bird. I just love life lessons and the parallels of teaching/learning… and that ah-ha moment that all gets connected to the lesson.

  4. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful, meaningful, and joyful story. It’s made my day, and I look forward to more.

  5. Wasn’t it you Uncle Andy who brought the sea gull back to Run Hill Rd that you found at the dump caught up in a plastic six-pack holder? Perhaps you needed a second lesson to learn what God was trying to teach you then?

    1. My memory is weak. Perhaps I did. Learning lessons takes time with me. Gratefully, God is patient. I do know back when I was young I found an injured squirrel while on my paper route and brought him home to nurse him back to health. I remember carefully carrying him in my paper route bag. My mom, your grandmother, allowed me to care for him in the basement. There is always room for one more in an Irish home. 🙂

      1. Ahh, the days of the paper route. I can’t say I ever carried a squirrel in my projo bag, though. Are kids allowed to have paper routes anymore? Not around here, anyway… different times… sad.

        My daughter will be so glad to know that you rescued a squirrel, though.

  6. Powerful and touching. As I spend much of my time outdoors I find many ensnared and entangled animals…from snakes to possums to blackthroated loons, and even once a tiny brown bat I almost mistook for a leaf. Although I find joy in every endeavor to rescue or release any of God’s creatures…at last your post has made me realize what I’ve been missing–to see the parallel embedded as a message FROM God. Thank you for including me in your share 🙂

  7. Nice blog post, Andy. You have a gift for writing (along with an apparent talent for rescuing animals).

    Spring has arrived in the mid-Atlantic and we’re enjoying plenty of colorful visitors to our backyard feeder. I am grateful that God has displayed just a bit of his creativity through so many wonderful birds, animals, and flowers… and that he’s given us the senses to enjoy them.
    Oh, the things we often take for granted…

    “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Fatherâ??s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So donâ??t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
    – Matthew 10 (out of context)

  8. Andrew – I loved, loved, loved this post. It is amazing how we learn and are also nutured when we nurture someone or something else. I am so glad you shared your story with us.

  9. What an endearing encounter and demonstration of your humanity, compassion and spirituality. I think this sums your story up nicely…

    â??Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.â?
    — Rabindranath Tagore quotes (Indian Poet, Playwright and Essayist, Won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, 1861-1941)

  10. I love how you look at the cup being half full, instead of half empty….reminding me to do so! Xoxo

  11. Your words flow like a gentle stream, taking us on the journey with you. Thank you for sharing your life with us!

  12. Beautiful post. So true. So true. How the Divine works!! Always bringing us exactly what we need at the time we need it. May you have many more blessings in this month.

  13. Andrew I love your writing as it is beautiful which is a reflection of your mind & thoughts. This is the 1st time I’ve experienced your blog as I very rarely get on my emails as my catch up to do list is way out of control but I forgive myself as this past 9 mo. was way too much for me except our wondrous good Lord heard all the prayers for me & allowed me to be cancer free & have more time to spend loving the family & friends & pets & glorious nature He gave me. Blessings to you. God seems to use birds for me also. In Christ Jesus’s love- Di

  14. Hi Andrew: I enjoyed the story of the sparrow, and especially the quote from St. John of the Cross. I wasn’t sure what meaning you found in his quote and would have liked to hear more about that. Also, your nephew’s comment was a real tease. What lesson do you think he was referring to, that he thought you needed a refresher course on?

    St. John’s comments on detachment are echoed in many mystical teachings, the idea being that a chain, be it of iron or gold, is still a chain and will bind us to the world instead of to the Divine. I used to agree with that but no more. I believe that the mundane world is a vehicle for service. We are all connected and mirrored experessions of the working out of high moral purpose. How else can we, who have physical bodies, serve but through the body? The trick is remembering that the perception of being all separate creatures, independent of one another’s kindness and love, is an illusion.

    Your story of the sparrow reminds me of that famous story of the old man on a beach littered with stranded starfish, patiently picking up one at a time and throwing it back into the sea. He was challenged by someone who could not see how his efforts could possibly make a difference, given the hundreds of starfish in the sand. The old man bent over, picked up another starfish, threw it back into the water and said, “Made a difference to that one.”

  15. Simplicity, love and connection. This encounter was all of this and more and thank you so much for the sharing of it, Andrew. The words of St. John of the Cross makes the time spent with the little sparrow that much more meaningful and special. What a wonderful experience.

  16. Oh Andrew,
    Thank you for bringing the beauty of your experience into my life this morning. I’ll fly with that little bird today. Please continue to let me know when you post – they open my heart.

  17. I’ve also had that experience of holding a scared bird in my hands when I’ve had to untangle them from the netting on my blueberry bushes. It’s amazing how fast their hearts beat!

  18. Hi Andrew! Thx for this wonderful story – just got a new laptop after several months of working with very, very tiny writing on smartphone.
    Will look at your blog more thoroughly. You’re a very good writer. Look forward to more.

    I am a cyber-support group buddy over in ABQ, NM. I got back in touch with my writing soul after a stroke in Jan. 2009 and, because i have ironically worked as a Speech Path, I’m telling my story.

    I look forward to reading more of your stories. Thank you,

  19. We are all tethered to something. Maybe life begins when we find a way to cut whatever cord holds us back.

  20. That’s really wonderful that you took the time to help this little creature!!…
    And in return, it touched your heart deeply!!… You likely saved its life.
    You really seems to “get it,” Andrew!… It is true that so many curious things that happen or that do not happen are not just “by accident”… We are all blessed just to be living, sentient beings here at any given time, by the Grace of God!…and it’s not an accident! 😉 Even the greatest scientists and doctors regularly notice the statistical improbability of biological phenomena on earth….
    Thanks for sharing and thanks for your eloquence! ~Ellen <3
    p.s. I just have to add that when I was ailing a couple years ago, not only did your kind words REALLY perk me up, I have to give credit to my parents' dog!… Somehow when I was in so much pain, that little pup kept looking up at me in such a way, and it kept me going!!!….Mysteries abound!! He truly helped me. It was so mysterious. (and strangely enough I had been the one who had encouraged my folks to adopt him after he had been rejected by everyone because he did not meet pedigree standards from his bloodline). He turned out to be a very healthy, super cute, loving dog. And now I'm fine! I now send that special dog some special healthy treats, too! 🙂 Thanks again!~

  21. There is freedom in the liberating love of God. He gave us free will and like the bird who trusted you to set him free, our choosing to trust God will set us free from anything that is not God. That is detachment, Steve.
    Great meditation Andrew, thank you for sharing your heart with us.

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