I have always loved birds and been intrigued by their symbolism, but it has only been recently that they have found a prominent place in my work. Somehow the process of integrating the experience of Shane's illness calls for these images. Sparrows here represent the courage to face a world full of good and evil that is so much bigger than we are. Sparrows know their place in the order of things, and they don't try to look too far ahead. These tiny birds face that big ominous world with eyes wide and full of trust.
Sparrows figure into the folklore of a great many cultures. According to the ancient Egyptians, sparrows would catch the souls of the recently deceased and carry them to heaven. In Europe, there is a superstition that if a sparrow flies into your house, then it means someone will die. In some places, the person who catches the sparrow has to kill it or he will be the one who dies. In the Bible, sparrows were offered up by the very poor, and represent the concern of God for even the smallest and most insignificant beings.
Matthew 6:25-34: Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
The sky in this drawing is from a day when we learned that Shane had a rare mutation (ALK) for which cutting edge research has found a treatment. This news turned a very dire prognosis into a disease that could be managed for some time. This is the sky that we saw as we drove home that day, and the rays of light somehow carried hope with them.
Life is brutal, but we cannot be beaten down by it. The world lost one of its finest poets this week, one who spoke eloquently of courage in the face of hardship. Perhaps the sparrows carried the soul of Maya Angelou to heaven. I have shared a video here in which she recited "And Still I Rise."
What keeps you grounded and helps you find the courage to face life's hardships?