Chipping Sparrows

This morning’s ride on the stationary bike began earlier than usual. When I had uncovered the bike and adjusted every detail to begin my five-mile workout, the small grove of 14 pine trees between our road and me were still shrouded in soft, morning shadows. Because of the crisp December wind, I hurried to get moving in order to create some warmth because the sun had yet to clear the horizon of Lake Norman.

Before too long, my rotations on the stationary bike began to create a stronger blood flow, and I sensed a rise of temperature. While no sweat dripped from my brow, the steady wind was not now causing as much discomfort as it was just a few minutes before. The rhythm of the ride steadied, and as my arms flowed into it my entire body joined. It was then that I noticed a small movement in the pine tree grove next to me. Then I saw another and another and another.

I watched as I cranked the bike. The small sparrows were busy looking for a morsel or more on the ground under the 14 pine trees. Because of the morning shadows I could not see the sparrows as clearly as I wished, but by the small bodies and action, I think that I was seeing a morning flock of chipping sparrows. It seemed that when I saw one, I saw another. Their constant movement along the ground prevented any accurate count, but I was more interested in how they were almost indistinguishable from a pine needle or piece of pine bark or a fallen leaf from one of the dogwood trees. When I thought I was seeing a chipping sparrow, the breeze would blow the leaf across the ground. But I saw many as they flurried across the ground in search for food. Then they quietly disappeared, leaving me to now have time to notice the first sun rays grace the grove’s shadows.

 I have watched many sunrises from this postage stamp of earth where I ride each morning. All of them are the same, but all are different. They are like people in that way. But no matter, I watched this one as I shifted to a higher gear for more resistance. I wanted the heat created by the harder riding, but I also wanted the warmth the sun would give. And I also needed to observe it, aware that the rotating earth and nature’s way would not wait. Aware of the moment,  I watched as the sunlight first graced the tree tops across the road in Ken’s yard and, clearing the housetops on our side of the lake, cast shadows of morning on the pine forest floor where the chipping sparrows had just been. Soon the shadows under the pine grove disappeared,   its needle covered floor revealed by soft, early morning sunlight. Deep shadows, chipping sparrows, and a morning moment replaced by another as the day, like all days, made its offer.

I began my warm down, but I kept notice as the day began. Watching the sun rise, seeing its rays break the grip of night, and feeling its warmth, I applauded its promise and the hope of that promise. A new day that would resemble yesterday and tomorrow, but one that had its own personality and potential. Its own hope. The Pharisee turned Christian, St. Paul, writes in Romans—“we are saved by hope.”


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