Tuesday, April 20, 2010

where can red-winged blackbirds live?

red winged blackbirds coverAnimal Habitats: Where Can Red-Winged Blackbirds Live? by authors: Herbert H. Wong and Matthew F. Vessel; illustrations by Arvis L. Stewart.

Long after the copyright date of 1970/1971 I bought this book on a whim at the nearby grocery store because the subject interested me and especially because of the enchanting illustrations! Given that this coming Thursday is Earth Day and since I've been writing some book blogs and following up some of them with Amazon reviews, I knew blogging about this book was in order. Disclaimer: blog images are in book order but don't necessarily correlate with blog paragraphs.

Where can blackbirds live? Where can non-human creation find a safe, nurturing, forever place? How many times have I written about that incessant, essential quest for home many of us undertake almost endlessly? blackbirds over pondHome as a location where we find a modicum of recognition, acknowledgment, safety and belonging; a place where we are with "our own / one's own kind" that's sometimes a particular culture or ethnicity or style, sometimes "own kind" is simple mutual understanding. Home has to be a place that easily supplies necessary social and emotional nutrients as well as opportunities for self-expression and service to earth, world, church and all creation. Like the blackbirds in this book, each of us journeys to find home. Some parts of the trek are physical ones, traveling over roads or through the air; some segments take us to varying habitats and various styles of community. Like the critters in this book, we assess each stop along the way for amenities it offers and those it lacks.

blackbird with nestDespite current interest in ecological theology emphasizing the redemption and integrity of all creation – not solely human creatures – a lot of teaching and preaching in the Church still focuses on humanity, which in some ways may not be all that "off," given that so much of the rest of creation is in need of restoration, revitalization and resurrection from death primarily because of human sin and failure to steward creation (which naturally results in failure to take proper care of human needs).

rabbitWhere? and live? are essential questions for all creation. As the narrative unfolds, red-winged blackbirds fly past and consider...the city, but they need food an urban environment can't provide. Besides, it is too structurally developed and too oriented toward humans. The desert is too dry for blackbirds, though it's not totally dry all the time. Orioles can live and thrive there—that particular habitat dryness is just right for them. They fly past a once-green forest, now charred in the wake of a fire. "At one time it was green. // There were many animals here then. // Now there is very little food."

desertThen they come upon a green forest where some animals, birds and insects are at home; red-winged blackbirds and cowbirds stop there for a respite and continue on there way. Deers, woodpeckers, squirrels and insects are at home in that forest. "Some brown birds stay..." but red-winged blackbirds and cowbirds continue on their way.

They fly past "...what was once a meadow" and now is an airport. Another meadow, and "this habitat is not dry like the desert. // And it is not like the forest." It is home to hawks and rabbits; the cowbirds stay, but the red-winged blackbirds move on. Finally a pond, with water and cattails, frogs and insects, too, a place where some red-winged blackbirds already live. The blackbirds in this story "...had to fly a long way to find it. // But now they will make their homes here." The search for home seems endless, but occasionally it stops for just a while!

orioleIn Romans 8:19-23, the scriptural book theology types often refer to as the latest undisputed Pauline epistle, and is considered his systematic theology – or as systematic as that Apostle of Grace ever gets! – Saul/Paul of Tarsus insists all creation waits for redemption because true children of God, humans who authentically mirror and embody the Divine Image in which they've been created, care for the earth differently, in a manner that reflects their Divine Nature. In the witness of scripture all creation is mutually covenanted and covenanted with heaven; all creation carries within itself breath of the Divine and breathes the Spirit of Life.
19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
red winged blackbirds coverThe garden of first creation becomes the garden of resurrection that grows into the new creation of the City of God, a habitat where all dwell in shalom. Revelation 22:1-5
1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Where can blackbirds live? Where can humans live? Where can all creation safely take up residence and flourish? Scripture tells us the God of heaven and earth chose and still chooses to make Shekinah, to pitch a tent, live and journey alongside creation. Christianity's central hermeneutic proclaims God's definitive self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth, in a body formed from the "stuff" of the earth. Jesus the Christ, the one whose body his followers would become... where can God find a home?

Especially as the world celebrates forty years of formal Earth Day observations, this beautifully written and crafted book (though sadly out of print) would be an excellent starting point for teaching elementary or middle school students about specific needs of different species and ways human creatures can become aware and work together to heal and restore aspects of nature's habitats that have become unwell and explore and discover ways to help maintain healthy environments.

scriptures NRSV

my Amazon review: the search for home and a duplicate review!


  1. Romans 8 is my favorite chapter of all scripture!

  2. What a beautiful post and you're so right about the art work! It's wonderful. Thanks for sharing. ♥


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