Sparrows, Oh Lord

I think I may have been a little ADD as a kid. I know I had more than a little tendency to zone out, in school, in church. In school, I could get away with having a book under my desk top for surreptitious reading, probably because I was always a couple of chapters ahead in my studies, anyway.

In church, no such luck. As the sermon droned on, I'd fidget, watch dust motes in the stained-glass light, re-read the prayers in the back of the missal, or just daydream until it was time to stand, kneel, sing or otherwise respond again...

Where was I? I remember one time, lost in space in the middle of the litany of the saints and all the "pray frus's" being jolted back to attention when everybody said "Sparrows, oh Lord."

Sparrows? Cool! These must be the "birds of the air" that went with lilies of the field. I wondered if any other critters were going to get a mention.

Of course, what they were saying was actually "Spare us, oh Lord." I like my version better.

Sparrows get no respect in secular life, either. Noah Adams, in his book St. Croix Notes, complains that his birding life list is a short one, mainly because his field guide doesn't have a section for "little brown ones." In The Big Year, Mark Obmascik refers to them as "LBJ's" (little brown jobs).

Frankly, I think they do sparrows a disservice. I think they're gorgeous, trim and chipper, with plumage as varied and handsome as a pheasant's. My favorites are the white-crowned and golden-crowned sparrows, but even the common house or English sparrow, with his grey and chestnut cap and dark bib, is a beautiful little bird. I've been looking at them a lot more lately since reading Chris Chester's Providence of a Sparrow: Lessons from a Life Gone to the Birds. Chester was a Portland resident who wrote a moving and hilarious story of the orphaned sparrow fledgling that changed his life.

Sometimes I think about sparrows what a retired priest I met in La Crosse said about dandelions. "You know, if these things weren't so common, they'd grow 'em in greenhouses," he observed, "like roses."

Now I'm not saying you're going to see sparrows in the aviary just yet, nor your neighborhood pet store, but you will see them on serving bowls and vases, pitchers and the occasional dessert plate.

My eye is on the sparrow, too.