Redstart on Moravia Street

American Redstart, male. Photo: Wikipedia.

The bird song in the tree above me, on Ephraim’s Upper Road, was a jumble of high-pitched notes. “American Redstart,” I thought and looked up. To my delight, I was right. Identifying bird song has always been a challenge, and the redstart has no helpful mnemonic phrase like the robin’s “cheerio.”

Dashes of orange marked the sides and wings of the coal-black redstart. The bird bounced along a branch, sallying forth every now and then with exuberant aerial acrobatics, grabbing startled insects. What a joy to see this feathered friend, who’d flown all the way from Central America to our little village. Serendipity, too, for I had paused when I heard its call to look up. Warm memories of long-ago May days, watching for redstarts and other warblers with dear ones who have since passed, quickly pushed out this day’s melancholy and let in bliss.

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness,” Paul wrote to the Romans. “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us.” (Romans 8: 26) And later to Timothy, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude.” (1 Timothy 4:4)

An ordinary black-topped road, strung along a low bluff. Below it, deep thwacking sounds as men moved dolostone boulders along the shoreline. Beside it, imagined echoes of children’s laughter from a bright white pioneer schoolhouse. Above it, a joyful little bird with marks like flames, and feathers dark as burnt offerings after the fire departs. A moment of grace.

This essay is shared courtesy of the Ephraim Moravian Church. The essay was published May 23, 2021, Pentecost Sunday.

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