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Starting Point

Blue string stays, bad mood lifts


On rare occasions, I get grumpy. Last Tuesday, I had one of those rare occasions. I was standing at my kitchen sink, washing dishes, with a big, mean frown on my face. Just being grumpy wasn’t enough. I started to feel stabs of martyrdom, self-pity and frustration at being taken for granted. This progressed into snowballing despair.

So, I started praying. I said “You know, God, I’m really not a mean, angry, hopeless person, but I just can’t seem to shake this bad attitude. Help!” It wasn’t 60 seconds before a small, orange bird flitted past my window outside and landed on the swing-set in the back yard. The only orange birds I’ve seen around these parts are male orioles. But the bird I was watching had a brownish head, not the requisite black head of a male oriole.

The little bird swooped down to the grass and tried to pick up a big clump of blue string from the ground. It tried and tried, and just couldn’t get it done. It would pick up the string in its beak, strain to lift it, then let go and return to the swing set perch.

I tried to lock a mental picture of the bird into my brain, dried my hands and rushed to find my bird book. By the time I found the book and returned to the window, the bird was gone. The blue string was still on the ground.

I leafed through the book to the page showing Baltimore orioles. The adult males were bright orange, with black heads and white striped wings. The females were similarly marked, but bright yellow. The juveniles looked exactly like the bird I had seen seconds before tugging at the big clump of blue string.

I picked up my dishcloth and persisted with my monotonous chore. As I was drying the last dish, the little bird returned, this time with an adult pair of Baltimore orioles. Amazed, I watched as the juvenile tried yet again to pick up the string, while the gorgeous adult pair remained perched on the swing set, heads cocked, considering the actions of their fledgling. The bird family chatted about the subject rather intensely for a few brief minutes. Then they all three just flew away. The blue string remained on the ground.

I was so excited about what I had seen and trying to identify the birds, that I completely forgot I was having a bad attitude!

With a humble smile on my face, I thanked God for the inspiration. Then I started thinking about my life, and which “clumps of blue string” I just needed to leave lying on the ground.

Julie Geiger lives, farms and writes at Wild Rose Acres near Everest, Kan.

National Catholic Reporter, August 30, 2002