Friday, October 16, 2015

"There were Ninety and Nine... "

"The Ninety and Nine"


Music by Ira D. Sankey

from words of a poem written by 

Elizabeth C. Clephane, a resident of Melrose, Scotland

Gone are the summer birds:  the skylarks, the bluebirds and the hummingbirds.  Autumn, with its canvas filled with oranges, yellows and reds, also has many species and colors of birds this time of the year.  Geese and ducks outlined against the sky as they begin their long migrations, a host of robin red breasts devouring the cornucopia of plenty in the orchard while the meadowlarks sing their sweet, sweet songs in the fields and relieves their parched throats by drinking from the pond.  Gene and I peer outside as we drink our morning coffee, watching hundreds of robins in the orchard, drinking or taking a bath in the pond, their bodies dipping and their wings throwing the water with wild abandon. Gene and I laugh, we point, we gossip about the countless shapes and sizes of birds and the carefree lives they seem to live.  But there are dangers for the birds when they venture out "...on the mountains wild and bare" and  "...the hills away."

1 There were ninety and nine that safely lay 
In the shelter of the fold;
But one was out on the hills away,

Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare;
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care. 

For some unknown reason,  we have had an inordinate amount of birds come down our chimney pipes this year.  We hear them fluttering about as they tumble down, down, down onto the floor of the stove, scratching and chirping, scaring Molly so that her head jerks up from her chew bone and, looking at the stove pipe and then at me, she gets up and makes her way to my side.  I reassure Molly that all is well and, making my way to the stove, I go through my routine of opening all outside doors and windows, tie back the curtains, close all the interior doors and then open the stove door.  I back away from the stove to give the little bird room to fly out and join his "ninety-and-nine"  (and then some) family members outside.  

2 "Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?"
But the Shepherd made answer: "This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me.
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep."

My brother and I were talking to each other on the phone yesterday.  He had just said something funny and I was laughing as  I walked over and opened the stove door to put some paper in.  Whoosh, out rushed a little bird, scaring me half to death.  My scream gave fodder to my brother on the other end of the phone and he laughed.  While trying to retrieve my dignity, I opened the french doors, the kitchen window, the hall door and the utility doors so the little critter could fly out and taste freedom once again.  Toby, Gene's little bird-hating jack russell, scurried out the bedroom when he heard the little bird swoosh out of the stove.  Then, he returned to the bedroom and I didn't see or hear the little bird anymore.  I  breathed a sigh of relief, thinking the little critter had escaped the jaws of death (Toby).   Sadly, I did not hear a cry or a peep from this little bird nor did I see him again.

3 But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry—
Sick and helpless, and ready to die. 

In the morning I sat down to finish my coffee and do some reading.  I was about half-way through my last cup of coffee for the morning and the fire Gene had made to warm the house had burnt down just enough for there to be the glow of the embers and a lazy flame erupting every once in a while. My blanket was wrapped around me and all was right with my world until I heard the faint little fluttering noise coming  from the kitchen. I listened for a minute, no noises faint or loud, and I started reading again.  There!  I heard it again:  that flutter sound as if something was in the kitchen wall.  It was just for a second and if the house hadn't been quiet, I would not have heard the sound.  It stopped and for another minute or two, I heard nothing.  By now, I was anticipating a sound and I was not disappointed for, after waiting a few minutes, I heard the fluttering, faintly, again.  Clearing off the counter by the refrigerator, grabbing a chair and borrowing a flashlight from Gene, I climbed up on the counter and flashed the light down the narrow crack between the refrigerator and wall.  At first I saw nothing; then, movement; then, two little button eyes staring up at me and fluff.  Unbeknowingly, the little bird escaped the jaws of death yesterday but he hadn't escaped from the house.  He had somehow fallen and became lodged on the floor between the refrigerator back and the wall.  And there he stayed all night, quietly, in a dark, narrow opening with no food or water where he could not spread his wings and fly away to safety.  I saw no blood, I saw no wounds, I saw no broken wings or gathered-in foot; I saw a scared little bird hunched in the corner as far away from me as he could get.  

4 "Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way,
That mark out the mountain’s track?"
"They were shed for one who had gone astray
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back."
"Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?"
"They are pierced tonight by many a thorn." 

I climbed off the counter and took the bottom off the refrigerator, shined my light to see if there was a way the little bird could go through the bottom of the refrigerator or I could retrieve it someway but, no such luck.  So I moved the chair over in front of the refrigerator, climbed onto the chair and moved all the stuff on top as well as the stuff attached by magnets to the sides and then I tried to move the refrigerator.  Not having very much luck there either, I called to Gene that I needed help.  While he came and moved the refrigerator, I ran outside and got my fishing net and a curtain rod and anything I could find that was long and skinny and that I could get down between that narrow gap between the refrigerator and wall.  

The curtain rod just scared the little bird but that net was worth its weight in gold, although not as I had first thought.  Climbing back onto the chair and then onto the counter, I flashed the light down towards the floor and saw the little bird had moved from the far side of the space over to just under me against the counter wall and the wall.  I took the net and slowly lowered it down the wall, trying to miss the cords and water line, thinking that perhaps I could put the little bird in the net and bring him up without squishing his little guts out.  The little bird seemed to know I was trying to help for he hopped on the net ; (he didn't seem to like the idea of going in the net).  Off he fell.  Again we tried:  me putting the net by him and he hopping up on the net only to fall off.  Gene pushed the refrigerator again away from the wall, just enough room for the little bird to once again hop on the net and this time, instead of falling down, he flew up and away.  Gene rushed to open the french doors and away the little bird flew to freedom.  "There arose a glad cry...Rejoice!"

5 And all through the mountains, thunder-riven,
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of heaven,
"Rejoice! I have found My sheep!"
And the angels echoed around the throne,
"Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!"

When I first flashed that light down and finally saw that little bird, this song "The Ninety-and-Nine" filled my mind.  "There were ninety-and-nine that safely lay, in the shelters of the fold..."  All those birds outside, enjoying their freedom, safe and secure, and this little one trapped in a foreboding place with no sustenance or means of escaping.  I started crying after the bird flew out the doors because I doubted we were going to free this little bird alive and rejoicing because we were successful!  Sweet, sweet success!  A day to rejoice!

I hate crying but Gene, knowing I can get cranky when anyone sees me crying, came over and put his arms around me anyway.  He didn't pat me on the back as if he was burping me; he just held me and let me blubber for a while.  I blamed the crying on getting stung by a bee on Friday and getting a flu shot on Monday.  But today was a good day!  Even if I blubbered all over like a wimp, we rescued a bird!  A day to rejoice, indeed!