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Watching White Terns Fly by Michael Little


“The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.” - J. M. Barrie We are blessed to live on an island in the middle of a great ocean where there is incredible natural beauty, from green mountains to rainbows to an endless variety of flowers. After many years on Oahu, however, I have found something new to open my eyes, and heart, to God's creation. Something to inspire my spiritual journey. Not too long ago the local news reported that a nesting white tern had delayed a major renovation project for the building near the State Capitol that houses the State Art Museum and government offices. The tern was guarding an egg that was laid on the railing of a lanai. The white tern is a protected native Hawaiian sea bird, manu-o-Ku, the official bird of Honolulu. Since my office is in that building, I went outside and stared up at the railing. Now, a year later, the bird has flown, and the building renovation is well underway, but I am still looking up. Every morning as I walk to work, I look up to see the small white terns flying above the monkeypod trees. These terns are urban birds, catching small fish in the nearby ocean waters, and laying their eggs in the trees. They are, above all, inspiring to watch, soaring swiftly and gracefully above the trees, often in pairs. Their flight fills the eyes and lifts the spirit. For me, and I suspect for others, this is a spiritual experience. We can be amused by the birds on the ground, especially the comical mynahs and occasional egret, but these terns, purest white against a blue sky, are bright gems of creation, to be treasured. They are a singular blessing on our island home, sent by the gods to delight our eyes.


Michael Little plays the organ and piano at Epiphany Episcopal Church. He is also a member of our vestry.

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