The migrating birds that make their way over my Jerusalem neighborhood as summer winds down will always remain my favorite
birds are back, just as I said they would be.
I’ve always been attracted to birds. I miss the colorful assortment that fluttered around my parents’ home in Canada. I fondly recall the robin with his red breast, the bright- red cardinals, and the beloved blue jays and Canada geese that occasionally flew past.
For many years, our garden here in Jerusalem was graced mostly by pigeons, sparrows, and a threatening raven or two. But as the trees behind my home grew and their branches spread far and high, they became an inviting home for my feathered friends. Now we sometimes spy sparkling hummingbirds or other colorful species.
But the migrating birds that make their way over my Jerusalem neighborhood as summer winds down will always remain my favorite. I love watching their sudden descent on my small country. They soar in vast circles over the white-stoned buildings, and their aerodynamic stunts astound me. I enjoy watching different pairs break off on their own — I sense the mutual loyalty as the feathered couples circle in tandem.
They take off at sunset, my birds, when the sun descends into the mountains, painting the sky in hues of red, pink, and orange. Their silhouettes outlined in the sky makes me smile for days. And then they leave as suddenly as they came — Jerusalem is only a stopover on their journey — and I find myself wistful, wishing for time to stay still.
Just the day before, I had remarked to my son that the birds would soon be arriving. They usually make their appearance in late August, and I was wondering where they were. Their presence comforts me; they are a promise of the predictability of nature and the seasons.
My birds’ arrival is a signal. It means the kids are journeying back to school after a respite from homework, tests, and all things scholastic. The birds’ arrival heralds vacation’s end — the kids are moving on. One son has already gone back to school. He now leaves earlier in the morning to join the older classes who daven with a minyan. It is a sign of his maturing, and it fills me with pleasure. But watching my youngest son grow up and move away from his boyhood also makes me wistful.
This year, I first heard my birds on Rosh Chodesh Elul. Their distinct call, more of a quack than a chirp, reminds me of the shofar, awakening us to a New Year. Wake up, the shofar tells us. Think about who you have been and who you want to be. We are fleeting, say my birds. We are here now, but not for long.
My Elul birds are back, painting the sky. They remind me that Hashem is here, in the field, not shuttered away in His castle. He has come out to His beloved People, ready to listen to all their wants and desires.
My Elul birds are back. They ground me to time. It’s a season of winding down, of reflecting. Signs of autumn are peeking. The days are getting shorter, and the early morning sky is filled with dense fog. The year is coming to an end, and I am reflective.
My Elul birds are back, squawking, crying for a closeness to our King, reminding me that we are preparing to enter a New Year, with all the entailing hope for rebirth and a fresh start.
My Elul birds are back, traveling through the seasons as I journey through life.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 860)
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