In late spring, the Christian Church celebrates the feast of Pentecost, a commemoration of the fabled descent of the Holy Sprit upon the disciples of Jesus Christ. Inspired by the breath of God, those frightened men and women abruptly left their hiding place and surged out into the street, speaking in tongues of the wonders they had experienced.
I got up early this Pentecost morning, made a cup of black tea and went out into the back yard to watch the dawn. By 4:00, the robin chorus was faint but steady in the distance. The volume grew until cardinals began to sing at 4:37, and then the doves came in at 4:40, and then the blue jays at 4:48, and the red-bellied woodpecker at 4:56, crows at 4;59.
By the time the grackles woke up at 5:09, the avian chorus was loud and raucous. Then a sudden breeze passed through the trees, and, to my surprise, the grackles, adults and fledgelings, filled the yard and became so loud, their calls drowning out the other songsters as the sun came up.
Earlier in the month, the birds had become a little quieter after sunrise, but now this Pentecost morning, it seemed to me that all the grackle young had hatched at once, and that their entire community was aroused and filled with purpose. The wave of their language grew and grew as though every grackle that lived in my woods had received a great message, and that each one knew it was time to speak.
I sat wondering, as I sipped my tea and listened to this grand gathering of creatures, if maybe the human saints were gone, those disciples and their fervor long decayed, and, in their place, these joyous birds had felt the overwhelming wind of Revelation and were clucking and cackling in universal, earthy tongues the news of summer and rebirth.