As two vultures boarded the airplane, the attendant noticed that one vulture was carrying a dead raccoon under his wing while the other vulture was carrying a dead armadillo. “Excuse me, gentlemen, do you wish to check those through as luggage?” the attendant asked. “No, thanks,” replied the vultures. “They’re carrion.”
I’ve always loved that joke.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
As I drove the back roads between Augusta and Cairo this weekend, winding past acres of freshly tilled soil, I was reminded again how I miss home. “Home” is where the soil is more pine-needle red than mushroom-compost black. “Home” is scattered with little white clapboard houses with a pick-up truck in the driveway because it’s practical. “Home” has irrigation systems spanning tremendous fields within five miles of leaving the city limits … irrigation systems that rhythmically thump water across the ocean blue sky in the August haze. “Home” is dotted with little towns that are unincorporated.
As I drove, my vision was lured to the right and then the left. Field after field … I watched. I watched the pattern of the rows tilled fresh and new. I searched from green sprigs of new life – autumn harvest at it’s inception. I watched the color of the field gently move lighter and more sandy to darker and richer amber. I watched mile after mile of pecan grove, greening in the spring, leaves unfurling as I inched by, mesmerized, passing in fifty-five mile an hour slow motion.
When I spied them.
I’ve seen many a vulture circle over a field. I’ve spied as many as three congregate beside a road, waiting for their turn at some unfortunate varmint. But, I’ve never seen this many turkey vultures, gathered together in the boughs of a close by tree.
As unattractive as they are, I’m thankful for buzzards. Like ants and worms, catfish, hyenas and flies, they do an important task. Without their proclivity for scavenger habits, the dead would accumulate. They do an unpleasant job: they clean up the messes.
Isn’t God amazing that He gave us bats to eat mosquitoes and vultures to eat the dead? That He created worms to aerate the soil and ants to carry away the crumbs. He caused our blood to clot to create scabs and seal over our broken skin that we won’t bleed to death. And He created herring by the school for the dolphin dine and the beautiful sea anemone for the clown fish to hide.
I watched these winged creatures, fly with beauty and grace from perch to ground. I saw them dine and keep watch. And I thought about how unliked they are by many … but what an important job they perform.
Like the argument that n.e.e.d.s to be settled,
the mistake that is dying to be admitted,
the mean gesture from a stranger that stirs a surprising wound,
the intentional jab from a friend that takes work to forgive,
the vulture cleans up carrion.
For the buzzard, it comes natural to clean up the mess.
The death has already occurred and he takes away the debris …
In fact, can we even say that he consumes it and it makes him stronger?
What if I could do that? What if I could gain strength from cleaning up the messes that come along in my life? What if I saw them as a way to become stronger rather than dirty carrion to avoid. What if I stepped up to the pile of stench, picked it apart, cleaned it up and kept going. Maybe this idea is a stretch, but it was just something I thought about
as I watched this gathering of fowl
light in the boughs of a pecan tree
and fly about
knowing they are disliked
and considered dirty
because of their behavior
but was moved by their presence
there on the edge of a freshly turned field
Parenting is difficult.
Friendship is labor.
Marriage is work.
Being a good neighbor takes exertion.
Being a helpful, contributing co-worker is arduous.
Being a positive influence within a family is strenuous.
Relationships take effort.
I’m thinking it would be helpful
if I got dirty a little more often
and cleaned up the messes
the are easier to avoid
simply because of their stench.
Yep. Vultures ….
dirty and unattractive
yet necessary and stunning if seen in the right light
made me happy this weekend
as I traveled the back roads of Georgia.