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Mockingbirds and Diversity

Mockingbirds and Diversity

It’s a pain to wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep. It’s been happening with more and more frequency these days, and I can’t say that I like it. I live in a relatively noisy area, where a several-block-long stretch of asphalt paving and a bit of a distance between stoplights. It appears to be a prime “Let’s see how fast this bucket of bolts will go” area. Yesterday morning, just before dawn, I woke up and I couldn’t get back to sleep, but for once it was quiet outside, unusually blessedly so. All of a sudden, I heard a bird. The bird had several different vocalizations which kept things interesting, and I wondered what (I am presuming) he was trying to say. He chirped, whistled, sang, and then started the whole thing over again. It was rather entertaining until he moved off to another tree further down the road from my house, and I could not hear that clearly. I found myself drifting back to sleep quickly and peacefully.

We live in the desert, a sort of semi-civilized desert with subdivisions, some trees, and lots of irrigation systems. We still have birds, different types of birds: little ones, big ones, everything from hummingbirds to red-tailed hawks, burrowing owls to eagles. All of them have a specific song or sound, some which you hear often and some which you don’t. A hummingbird is a small bird, but it makes a rather loud noise when it wishes to converse. The doves of various varieties have their individual sounds. In the orange trees across the street, early in the morning, there is a virtual cacophony of small bird chatter as if everybody were talking all at the same time. Eventually, it disperses for the day and then returns in the evening. I think they are sparrows or possibly wrens. I don’t want to disturb them by going over and asking for ID.

The point is that it’s lovely to hear birds, even mockingbirds. They are great imitators, stealing songs from other varieties of birds and incorporating them into their songs.

Last year my neighbor had a mockingbird in her orange tree. It was a very possessive bird, buzzing her and pecking at her and her dog every time they came out on the porch, about ten feet away from its nest and certainly much higher up than my neighbor or her dogs could reach. The bird didn’t want them outside at all. The male bird started blitzing my cats and eventually me as if to say “I’m the boss and you’re too close to my nest, I don’t care if it is fifty feet or so away.” It got quite annoying, especially since I was many times larger than the mockingbird and I was still trying to feed the cats and water the plants while being bombarded by this possessive feathered kamikaze. Yesterday evening I saw him again, walking on the roof of my truck, casting his eyes around to see what was about, and giving my outdoor cat a very hairy eyeball. He didn’t swoop and peck, but my mind told me that he had that in mind. Still, he was a bird, a bit aggressive, yes, but still obeying the mockingbird imperative.

God must have had a good time creating birds and their different songs, and, come to think of it, dolphins and whales with their own songs, so different from those of the birds. Each animal and bird has its particular sound or song.  It is kind of amusing to think of God, especially the stern, judging God that many of us were taught about, having fun creating things and then picking out songs and sounds for each of them. House cats certainly don’t sound like lions, but they’re related. Hummingbirds don’t sound like canaries, but they all started in the same way. God created diversity, and that’s something I think a lot of times people forget about, especially when it comes to other people.

Diversity comes from differences. It comes from a multiplicity of factors, hereditary, cultural, or environmental.  

Thinking of diversity reminds me of the birth of my son. We were in the Philippines, in the military, and when the time came, I went to the military hospital. When my son was born, with his blonde curls and blue eyes, he was put in the nursery with one other blonde-haired blue-eyed baby and several black haired brown-skinned babies of the Filipino wives of members of the armed forces stationed there.  The Filipino nurses could not tell the two blonde babies apart without looking at the name bracelets but were very deft at getting the Filipino-American babies to the right parents without checking the tags. I’d heard people say that certain groups of people (mostly white folks) couldn’t tell individuals of other races apart, but, like a lot of things I learned in the Philippines, I found the same things in different groups. It was a lesson in diversity for me.

So why is it I (and a lot of others) seem to have such trouble with diversity? To me, it feels like we are trying to create, or maybe maintain, differences that give one group superiority over others based on physical characteristics like race or some other variations.

God created diversity. It seems reasonable that God created diversity for the variety of it. I don’t think God created humans and animals to fight among themselves, although they do. And birds and animals, males compete to attract females so they can mate and pass their genes on to the next generation. Humans seem to struggle to prevent acceptance of diversity for somewhat the same reason. It’s a protection mechanism and also a preservation of the status quo.  

I think this week I’m going to be listening to the birds a bit more. I want to watch that cheeky mockingbird and listen to it song just before dawn. I want to think about the coos of the doves that I often hear in the evenings and the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves of my trees. I want to enjoy the diversity of life around me, even the neighborhood kids that sometimes get a little rowdy. I need to learn to see the God-presence in differences, be it bird, animal, or human, and treasure it as a gift from God to keep us all interested, involved, and accepting of all the differences this world (and others) offer us. I’ll just start small, though.  

God bless.


Image: Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos orpheus) wing flash, Author Charles J. Sharp. Found at Wikimedia Commons.


Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She is also estate manager and administrative assistant for Dominic, Phoebe, and Gandhi.


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