Been a busy few days, what with Jubilee things happening right, left and centre and the children on holiday. It's been a couple of days full of people and laughter and good things going on. It's been a happy time. I could go on and on about family - immediate family and church family and the wider church, or I could go on about the Queen and her sixty years of reign and how cold she looked on her barge on the Thames yesterday watching an endless flotilla with impressive dignity and stoicism despite the dismal weather.
But I won't. Or at least, I may well witter on about all those things at some point but there's one thing that happened in the last couple of days that stands out for me. It pressed all my buttons. It was only a little thing (actually, very small indeed) but it was a Big Thing for me.
We were at the Jubilee picnic at church, which turned out to be a bit of an indoor event, thanks to incessant rain for an entire day, but at least we got to watch the events in London from the warmth of the church centre instead of a freezing boat in the middle of a river. I do admire the Queen. At no point was she seen with a Thermos or a thick blanket, and where the younger Royals were hopping from foot to foot and shivering she stood her ground with head held high. A bit of a grim expression from time to time, but she didn't knock off early and call it a day because she fancied a warm bath and a glass of wine. If a job's worth doing... Amazing stuff.
We watched some of the coverage indoors and we ate our picnics and we made bunting (how British is that?) and we painted faces and we did quizzes and we cheered on the little ones as they stumbled about in three legged races and the egg and spoon. When it came to the sack race, however, health and safety common sense dictated that we should brave the drizzle and nip outside so that the kids didn't fracture skulls on the wooden floors. So that's what we did.
I didn't see any of the sack races at all, even though my own little girls took part in at least two races and had such a good time that they were full of it later. As they lined up at the starting line I went to stand under a tree to get a bit of shelter (didn't work, actually; the tree dripped on me) and there he was.
A little tiny bird. Tiny. Little fledgeling. Sitting in the grass underneath the tree cheeping away at my feet.
Not sure what sort of little bird - bluetit, maybe. Someone suggested a chaffinch, but I think chaffinches are sort of pinky, aren't they?
Well, you know what sort of little bird he was because not a sparrow falls without your knowledge, and I assume that counts for very small baby birds of undetermined species as well. I think he must have fallen. He was small and damp and fluffy and had a very plaintive sort of cheep cheep in a small voice.
He looked at me.
I wondered what to do. Knowing that there's no point in doing anything, really, if the poor little fella had fallen out of his nest then we busybody human beings can only make matters worse by interfering. Let him get on with it, maybe. Still, I stood next to him admiring him at my feet for a while indecisively.
One of the teenagers picked him up and cradled him in his palm. The others came to admire him and he sat with a bit of a tremble and looked about him. Cheep cheep. Then the older kids' sack race was called and the boy looked about for someone to offload the little bird to. I held out my hand and the tiny little thing stepped onto it. He was so light that I couldn't feel any weight at all. Just his little cold toes and pointy little claws. He walked up my arm and settled in the crook of my elbow and there he stayed for a while. He looked around, he made the little cheep cheep sound that broke my heart as he called for his mummy.
He was so beautiful. So tiny and so fragile. With his feathers all fluffed up he appeared at least five times bigger than he was, and still he was minute. His little eyes were bright and alert and he was taking everything in. He regarded me with a beady eye and I stared back at him.
He was young enough not to be afraid of things he should be afraid of. I was soaking him up when he opened his little wings and flapped them in an unsynchronised sort of way. He didn't take off. He sort of jumped and fluttered and climbed his way up onto my shoulder where he sat for another few minutes before walking round the back of my neck to the other shoulder and eventually hop-fluttering onto the tree behind me.
By this time my little friend had a small crowd of admirers. We took pictures and he posed for us beautifully. The rain got heavier, the sack races finished and we straggled back indoors for the quiz results and coffee and Jubilee buns. We left little beaky to cheep cheep for his mummy. Maybe she came and took him home. I don't really know how his story ended. I hope he was alright.
Here's the thing. A tiny little baby bird came to sit with me for ten minutes the other day. How often do wild birds come to say hello? How often do we get the chance to examine your astounding handiwork so closely? His tiny, tiny feathers in blues and greys and yellows. His little yellow beak. His bright little black eyes darting around. Sharp claws. No weight at all. He was absolutely beautiful.
A breathtaking piece of nature in my hand.
It was a piece of you. Even as I held his little feathered body I realised that it was the most special thing that was going to happen to me that day, even though it had been a great day. You know what? I was so pleased that this little bird chose me to walk about on for a few minutes. Me.
It was a blessing from you.
I've decided it was a blessing from you. I know it was. I don't really know about random events, or the fact that I just happened to be the closest person when the senior boys sack race was called. I was just amazed and very glad that I got to hold him for a little while. It was a privilege.
You were with me.
You were there. Whether you were smiling down to see me open mouthed at your creation, or whether you sent a little bird to say 'Here I am - look at me!' or whether that little bird was a little bit of you to tell me 'I'm with you' at a time when I sort of need to hear it, I don't know. I don't know what or why or how, but I know you, my God, and I know that this was from you.
It doesn't matter to me if nobody else who was there would agree with me, but I know. I knew as he sat on my arm and when he fluttered his ungainly way onto the tree. It was a special moment.
It was about his beauty and fragility and the strangeness of such a close encounter with wildlife, and it was about a little bit of unlikely trust that this amazing creature had in a few people who came close and said hello and marvelled at him.
He was lovely. He made me think of you; it was an awe-inspiring few minutes. I'm sorry if I'm going on about it.
I wonder where the little bird is now. I hope he was reunited with his family and I hope he got a good meal and a few more flying lessons before it was time for him to go it alone because he wasn't ready. But you know all that. You care about every feather on his back, because that's the kind of God you are.
Thankyou for a few minutes on Sunday afternoon in a light drizzle underneath a tree while my children thundered about in wet grass and hessian sacks.
Thankyou for the joy of children crossing the line in the egg and spoon race.
Thankyou for the joy of sitting with a big group of brothers and sisters who just enjoy being together and sharing in your blessings.
Thankyou for our Queen who has been steadfastly faithful to you despite a relentless job that must at times be very difficult indeed.
Thankyou for red, white and blue bunting and iced buns and songs and nostalgia and for cold, wet days in June.
Most of all, thankyou for the feel of tiny claws in my hand and the flutter of tiny wings as a small, wild bird climbed my arm onto my shoulder and made a cheeping sound.
Thankyou that you are with me.
You are with me.