Said and Done

God’s eye is on the sparrow

“Why do I feel discontented?

Why must the shadows fall?

God’s eye is on the Sparrow!

And I know He thinks of me.”

— Old revivalist hymn

A year or so ago, Florence Haskell died. She was 90, the widow of Clarence Haskell who with his sons owned and operated Haskell’s Lumber yard on Route 5 in Bernardston.

Among her accomplishments and contributions, she had served as organist for many years in the Guilford Community Church. I came to know Mrs. Haskell very well when several of the old ladies of the church got me to serve as interim pastor while they searched for a permanent minister.

I think often of Mrs. Haskell. The hard truth is that when I made my home on Munn’s Ferry, I thought of her every early morning. The “punch line” of her favorite hymn was in the happy line “His eye is on the sparrow — and I know he thinks of me.”

Florence would sit on the long polished organ bench, sliding hard left and right to address the keyboard head-on, a smile on her lips, all stops out, belting out that wake-up piece with absolute fervor. In her rendition, you could feel her commitment to God on high, the joy that derived from her faith. When she attacked that piece, charging Fuilford’s tiny church with the electricity in her musical message, sermons and pastoral prayers came as after-thought.

Dear Florence Haskell. I only wish she could have been here to see where that sparrow was. I knew where that sparrow was. In fact, I knew where it and its mother and father, sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., were. They were right outside my kitchen window piggin’ out on the “Special Mix Bird Food” we brought in large quantities from Bernardston’s grain mill.

That antiquated revivalist hymn exalts the lowly sparrow. it comes now with no small annoyance that God in fact does show favoritism to an avian nonentity like the sparrow. When snow flew and we set out feeder tubes hoping to watch cardinals and grossbeaks, sparrows came for the free lunch program.

Not only does God see to it that His sparrows’ bellies are filled daytimes, in a providential way He tucks them in bed nighttimes. Where do birds go after dark? We know. Well, we used to know for sure.

We had a doorway onto the woodshed side of our garage. It fronts on the river and opens on the lilac bushes that grow next to the bird feeders. Sparrows stop only momentarily in the lilacs, then dash for the rafters in the garage. You can go out any night at 10 o’clock, snap on a light, and see myriad tiny eyeballs flashing wide-awake vibes back at you. God’s good grace and protection is OK as far as our sparrows go, but we wish that somewhere in God’s good grace and protection some provision had been made to protect our car and truck from their droppings.

So we are up at dawn every morning, fill our cereal bowl and sit down to have breakfast with the sparrows. Now we find we can record here that God’s justice is not lopsided. Sparrows bicker and fight among themselves, titmice, buntings and chickadees bravely elbow their way into the melee — and the eagle shows up.

We can disparage small fry, be annoyed by the overburden of sparrows. All of that goes by the board when our national bird beats his majestic way upriver just outside the picture window.

On arrival, eagles sit in the cottonwoods on the riverbank. Once one dismembered some hapless creature on a tree branch even as we were crunching our Grape-Nuts.

We’d invite you out some early morning to watch this early-morning show with us. But we have moved from Munn’s Ferry and think of our sparrows only in memory.

If our successors keep at filling the grain bins, our sparrows make them work at it. The bins are not bottomless.

Paul Seamans is a permanent resident of the Charlene Manor nursing home. A picture window on his room’s west side gives a full view of Shelburne Mountain, a continuing inspiration for “Said & Done.” Some of his columns will have been previously published.

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