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A Thought for Health and Social Care Workers and the Hedge Sparrow By Francis Gahan


I find the cooings, chirpings and warblings of the many wonderful bird species that we are fortunate enough to live alongside, much  more present in my life at this time. There is a welcomed   lessening of the constant ‘hummings’ and ‘grindings’ of mechanical life that I have become accustomed to in recent years. I have listened curiously to the ‘dawn chorus’ most days since the implementation of ‘restrictions’ associated with our recent health crisis and the tune becomes ever louder, ever relevant and ever more wonderful as the days pass by. A blanket of consiousness seems to have fallen over our world despite the threat posed by Coronavirus.

I seem to have revisited a keen awareness, and have regained a curiosity in the activities of the ‘creatures’ that buzz and hum, slither and crawl, bumble and flutter in my natural surrounds. I accept that I had lost this for some time now. In my renewed awareness, I have become most conscious of a hedge-sparrow who has made her nest in a briary ditch nearby. I intrique in her absolute devotion to tending to the needs of the chicks who wait in hope and utter dependance on her continuous return to them with food.

Each time she leaves the nest she faces certain danger such as the ‘stealthy cat’ and other preying birds. Yet, she is all consumed by the powerful instinct to ensure that her chicks are fed and that life will go on. As I watched her this morning, I thought about the many thousands of health and social care workers who themselves, knowingly jeapordise their health and indeed their lives in tending to the needs of people who are at risk of, or who have been hospitalised with the effects of the illness. They too are surely driven by an instinctive, internal drive to care just as the hedge sparrow or ‘Donnog’ as she is known in our native language. I have written the piece below in recognition of both the hedge sparrow and those who risk their lives in health and social care at this time.

‘Peering through the well worn, net blinds with feelings almost ‘perverse’ in my ‘watching’, I wait for her. I am counting the seconds since she had last been here. What gifts would she bring this time? Motionless, yet cruelly conscious I wait. Would she ‘get’ the shape of me, silhouetted somehow in a dusky post-dawn light, or would doubled-glazed reflections of the East-risen sun conceal my ‘being’ to her. Only time would tell. I have often waited and watched as I do now, but I have never been conscious like this!

There is a stillness about this moment. There is a stillness about the briars, the patient apple trees as they wait for early summer bees and late summer sun and there is a stillness about the grass that I should have cut last week. It doesn’t seem to mind. There is a crisp reality about waking and wanting to know and be known. I am reminded in this early morning dew, of the slow and truthful tears of many  for the ones that we are losing and those that we have lost. I hope that my patience pays.

I have nothing much to hurry for, despite my thoughts and feeling sometimes, and in truth I never really had. I will wait now just to know that she has come and is alive.  I have a sudden feeling that by now, I should have seen the neighbours rushing by and in this, breaking wide the silence of the dawn as they meet the needs of man- but nothing. Thankfully!

 I recall  the recent words of one who proclaimed  that silence such as this is  ‘strange’ and that they know not how to fill their days or how to ‘entertain the children’. I am somewhat saddened by this thought, as I wait for her. For I know that her days are, and always have been in her waking, living, sleeping and perhaps dreaming hours, of  the hope that she should rise again in spirit, faith or offspring. So, I will keep on waiting  because I think I understand.

As I wait, I dream that I am her ‘spriteful’ form as she dances first apon the holly, ash and then the hazel. I then pluck the fruits from blackthorn, cherry tree and from the ground. There is a ‘setting free’ in thoughts such as these, as they remind me of the ‘miles to go before I sleep’.  It must nearly be time! I have heard the choir much earlier in the past few weeks it seems.

I know that there is a nest! I have seen her always  come from there and I watch towards this place. She has shielded from nocturnal cold her babies, and soon will spend the day in keeping them alive before the dark should come again. It seems, the least that I can do is wait for her. Just then..a sudden rustling on the hawthorn bush and fluttering up she flies, no hesitation or fear to humble my perceptions.

She will spend the day selflessly and relentlessly following her heart! She has not seen me in the falsehood of my place. I am glad that I have seen her to know that she is alive and that hope exists. I will watch her comings and goings and pray that I or any living form do not come between the love that she can give and the life that she would yield. ‘



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