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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Melody (08/24/06)

TITLE: If Not For the Blackbird
By Ann Grover


“Are we there yet, Mommy?” inquired Alex as he swung the berry buckets at the fireweed in our path.

I shifted Marc to my other hip. “Not yet. Just a little further.”

Our little trio continued to hike through the forest, beyond the stand of stately blue spruce, and past the pond ringed with bulrushes. Finally, we reached the treasure we sought: a thicket of saskatoon bushes, heavy laden with berries, dusted with the blue bloom of ripeness.

I pulled a light blanket from my backpack, spread it on the ground, and set Marc down. I surrounded him with a few playthings, shaking the ones that chimed and rattled as I did so. Marc gave me a toothy grin and reached for the orange frog.

“Mom! Look at all the ‘toons!” Alex hollered as he dangled a grape-like cluster for me to see.

“We better get picking while Marc is happy.”

He handed me a bucket and dived into the nearest bush with his own. I knew it wouldn’t be long before five-year old Alex grew tired, but for now, his enthusiasm for filling our freezer and pantry was high, and that was important. Plunk, plunk. The first berries hit the bottom of his pail.

The August afternoon was brilliant. A clear heaven shone over trembling aspen trees; already, golden leaves were interspersed among the green. Fluffy fireweed tapers swayed in the gentle breeze. From a nearby treetop, a blackbird trilled her chorus, obviously enjoying the sunshine as much as we were. I thought how generous God was with His provisions. Food, and a sweet melody to gather it by.

“Look, Mommy.” Alex showed me his bucket. There was a layer covering the bottom.

“Good job, sweetie.”

Alex picked out an especially plump berry and popped it into Marc’s mouth. Marc gummed it rapturously, and purple drool ran down his chin. Alex flashed me an indigo smile.

“Is my tongue purple?” He stuck it out for my inspection.

“Back to work, Purple Boy.” I chided jokingly.

The blackbird sang on, and soon, Marc slumped over, soothed to sleep by the whispering leaves and the soft plopping of berries. As predicted, when Alex’s bucket was half full -- which I thought was a valiant effort -- he came and curled up on the corner of Marc’s blanket. I rummaged through the backpack and found some small trucks for him.

I wandered deeper into the thicket, keeping watch as Marc slept and Alex played. My buckets were filling quickly; I had filled mine, as well as topped up Alex’s, and had started another.

Abruptly, the blackbird stopped her cheery refrain. A hush descended. Something was wrong.

I felt, rather than heard, the warning call as the bird rocketed from her lofty perch.

A black bear rose onto its haunches, not six feet away from me.

“Huff.” It grunted reeking breath into my face.

Paralyzed, I dropped the berry bucket and saskatoons cascaded across my feet. At the same time, the blackbird swooped at the bear, shrieking her fury. He swiped at her with a mighty paw, but the little bird flew swiftly away. She dived at the bear again, dipping and darting fiercely, while the bear swiped and swung in vexation. By then, I had gathered my wits and retreated.

Alex was staring, wide-eyed. I scooped up the slumbering Marc, grabbed Alex’s hand, and abandoned the backpack, berries, and toys. The fruit would distract the bear long enough for our escape, once he got past the attacking blackbird.

We raced through the woods, Marc oblivious in my arms, Alex speechless, half running, half being dragged. Amazingly, our blackbird joined us again, flying from treetop to treetop, giving joy and comfort, even accompanying us beyond her home by the pond. We slowed to a walk and breathed again.

I realized, then, what a miracle it had been, to be saved by the silencing of a song. And it had been a miracle out of season; our blackbird had no nestlings to protect. It could only have been the nudging of God within her breast to adopt and protect us as she would her own.

As she warbled at the top of the spruce tree, waiting for us to catch up, I thought how fitting it was that the blackbird’s caring eye was upon us, we, who are of more worth to God than the tiniest bird.

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This article has been read 1399 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Amy Michelle Wiley 08/31/06
Wow! is this a true story? Either way, very cool!
Debbie Sickler08/31/06
I loved this one, especially the remark about "Back to work, Purple Boy." Too funny, only to set us up for the bear twist. Great balance and pace to this. :)
Karen Chatham08/31/06
Oh how that blessed my heart! Very well done!....Karen Chatham
Suzanne R09/01/06
Wow ... that's about all I can say......

Your choice of words - magnificent.

The story - beautiful. (True??? I wonder......)

Masterful writing indeed.
Beth Muehlhausen09/01/06
I can just imagine the backgound call of the bird...so melodic. Have you ever read "Blueberries for Sal" - a classic children's book about a mother and child who encounter a bear while picking blueberries?

Kaye Petts09/01/06
This was wonderful! You are an inspiration to me. God Bless, Kaye
Lynda Schultz 09/01/06
What a wonderful story!
Rose Spagnola09/02/06
Masterfully written, indeed. And I really liked your ending. God's creation does truly echo His love for us.
Joanne Sher 09/03/06
This sent CHILLS up my spine!! Wonderfully told - an excellent job of setting the atmosphere and mood. Like everyone else, I want to know if this is a true story. Regardless, it is definitely a masterful one!
Brenda Craig09/05/06
Ahhh...Excellent story. This was a joy to read. I loved it. I believe birds sind the melodies of heaven. Blessings Brenda
Lynda Lee Schab 09/05/06
I loved this story! If this is not true, it very well could be. I love hearing miracle stories like this. You told it in an exciting and suspenseful way that held me captive to the perfect ending. Well done!
Venice Kichura09/05/06
This is lovely and so creatively and artfully written!
Joanne Malley09/05/06
Isn't it just like God to find a unique way to shield us from danger? Such a sweet story with a bold message. Good job! :)
Jan Ackerson 09/05/06
Wow--this is a bit of a change of pace for you, and a very suspenseful read. I like it a lot.
Teri Wilson09/05/06
Your details are exquisite, without being overdone. Exceptional writing and great story!
Shari Armstrong 09/05/06
Very well written story, I knew something was coming, but wasn't sure what. Well done!
Allison Egley 09/07/06
Wow. "His eye is on the sparrow..." Congratulations on a well deserved win!
Sharlyn Guthrie09/07/06
I thought that I had commented on this the first time i read it. What a great story! Congratulations on a well-deserved win!
Edy T Johnson 09/07/06
I don't think I've noticed this author, until now, for some reason. But, the ending to this beautiful story brought a sob to my throat. What touching insights! I'm glad you're a winner!
Ruthie Forgey09/08/06
Thank you for a great read and an excellent reminder that God can protect us using the smallest of things.
Bonnie Derksen09/12/06
I would like to add my congratulations to the long list before me. Very well written, Ann. I loved your description of everything, the sweet talk between mother and child and the excellent way of carrying us, as your readers. From start to end, this was great. And for the record, I agree that God uses the voice of His feathery creations to sing to us His delight. Oh, and I loved the idea that the absence of song was a warning. I sense that there is something very deep in that thought... Again, congrats on winning first!