By Elizabeth Mitchell

Her eyes blinked open. Habitually she looked above her grounded nest of moss and grasses for any hawks.  Although rarely a threat, the habit was deep within her. Her small flock and mate had already moved on. She gently moved her still healing wing. Perhaps a few more days, and she would continue her migration south as well. A falling branch laden with early snow had bruised it, but she was lucky. For the last few days, she had been flying longer and longer distances in order to build up strength. It will be time soon. In the meantime, she would rest and forage to build up strength.

Although no hawks roam the sky today, she sensed storms clouds would soon. She will complete her foraging early. Her main chance of survival is to return to her nest early and ride it out. Her nest. It took her 8 days to gather enough brush and weave it into the perfect haven of protection it was for her eggs. From air, nothing could see it. From the ground, it blended perfectly with the browns of tans of her surroundings. The Creator gifted her with this knowledge on the day of her hatching, and it served her and her young well. Soon she would have to leave it, but she was thankful for the safety it provided during this time.

She cautiously stretched her wings and flew off in search of food. Once again, she saw the hand of the Creator. She was sure most of the beetles and insects would be deep under ground at this time, preparing for the storm, but she was wrong. A few leaves overturned here and there produced quite a feast.  So big of one that she lost track of time. A sudden low dipping gust brought her to attention. She knew this area, but she had wandered farther than she had intended. The wind picked up. She knew if she didn’t fly now, she might not make it back to her nest before the storm unleashed its fury.  No time like the present to test her wing.

Almost as soon as she lifted off the ground, the skies opened. Icy rain and powerful blasts seemed to buffet the little bird back and forth. She sent a silent song up to her Creator for guidance and safe passage to her nest. If only she could make it home, she would be safe. Blow after blow threw her light body back and forth. Her weak wing quivered under the added strain, but she plunged ahead into the darkness praying for rest and safety, the safety of her layers of shrub and moss. It did not come. Instead, she was thrown into a tree. She grabbed hold of a tiny branch and looked through the pelting rain. Up ahead was a hollow in the tree. She knew all to well what it was: the cavity of an owl nest. Her mate said there was one this way. This must be it. Another blast hit her, and she fluttered to the side. She regained her grip and stared at the hole. This was her only chance. The nest was too far for her to make it with this wing. She would enter. If there was an owl, she would die. If not, she would live, but she could not stay here. Here death was certain.  Whispering one last prayer to the Creator, she shifted to the mouth of the darkness and entered.

***

A feather of light softened the old owl hole. Instead of a nocturnal bird of prey, however, a small American Tree Sparrow opened her eyes. Her body ached from the beating it had taken the night before, but she rejoiced that it was still intact. Now, to get back to her nest. As she haphazardly fluttered to her home, she wondered once again, as she did many times last night in the dark of the hole, why the Creator hadn’t brought her safely home. Why hadn’t He warned her earlier? Why hadn’t He strengthened her wing? She was thankful to be alive, yes, but her nest would have made the perfect refuge. That is why she had built it. Why torment her in a predator’s lair? It didn’t make sense.

She was gliding over the crest of the brushy area she called home when she saw it: a huge tree ripping through the ground, pushing up earth and grass on either side of its fallen trunk. A strange sound came from her throat as she dove to ground and quickly tried to find her nest. Skittering here and there, she finally found what was once her home.  Instead now lay the beastly body of the tree. Her nest, her sanctuary, the safety she had flown so hard for through the storm was crushed and made null by the wooden giant. Numb by the sight of it, she just stood and stared. The note “why” crept up into her throat, but it was silenced by a song deeper than the loudest river, by a song that rolled through her like thunder. It simply said: “Because My eye is on the sparrow.”

“Yes…yes”, she thought as things dawned on her like the rising sun over the tundra. The owl hole was not a danger after all, but a haven, a blessing, a gift. “Yes”. She sang, “He watches over me!” And with that final note, she turned and flew to the south.

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