Some goldfinches were having a melodious argument at the edge of puddle. The bird wanted to bathe, or perhaps just to dip their heads and look at themselves, and they were having trouble with who should be first, and so on. So they discussed it while I stood in the distance, listening. Perhaps in Tibet, in the old holy places, they also have such fragile bells. Or are these birds really just that, bells come to us-come to this road in America-let us bow our heads and remember now how we (are) used to do it, say a prayer. Meanwhile the birds bathe and splash and have a good time. Then they fly off, their dark wings opening from their bright, yellow bodies; their tiny feet, all washed, clasping the air.
I am recalling how in the Christian scripture there is a story of their prophet Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Highly acclaimed as a symbol of service, this is an act deemed to be a humble confession that the greatest is here only to serve the least of us. Our precious sparkling goldfinches come into our backyards and we give them a place and space to wash their tiny feet. We the humbled before such beauty are brought to awareness of service with every bird bath and feeder. Like the bell in far of Buddhist lands, these birds tone out a call to interconnecting clarity and compassion.
I was once humbled with a goldfinch. Biking back from my work at the Raptor Center in Davis, California I saw a dead goldfinch upon the road. He was so gorgeous that I picked him up, stuffed him into a plastic bag and my back pack, and then pedaled off to a potluck social. During the evening there started a buzz about a foul smell, which was finally located within my backpack. Eyes around the room saw me take out the still form that had perhaps laid too long upon a hot summer's road to keep preserved. I don't know if those gathered suspected my embarrassment or resonated with my impulse - death does not end beauty and if anything calls us ever closer to service, be it Jesus, Buddha, or birds.
What reminds you that you are here to serve?