The Hungry ‘Apapane Brothers

Two apapaneThis morning’s story is about a particular kind of bird. Now, I have a reputation for telling stories about this one particular kind of bird, so I’ll just put the question out there: Would anyone like to guess what kind of bird this story is about?

The i’iwi? That’s a good guess – really close, in fact – but no.

Wait, I think I just heard it…

Yes, it’s the ‘apapane. (The room settles into comfortable expectancy.) Although actually, it’s not.

It’s about two ‘apapane!

They were brothers. They’d hatched from eggs in the same nest, about an hour apart from each other.

Why yes, just the way you two are brothers. Only I don’t think you two were hatched? Were you? Am I wrong? No. OK. I thought not.

I also suspect that you weren’t born an hour apart. Right. Mom says not. Three years apart? OK.

Well, these two ‘apapane were hatched just an hour apart.

They grew up together, and learned to fly together, and had the same friends, and they wore the same wonderful feather cloaks of rusty red and white and black.

Not surprisingly, since ‘apapane tend to like the same things, they had the same taste in food. That’s also where the trouble came in.

You see, when they’d see an ‘ohi’a tree in blossom, they’d both swoop down to drink the nectar from its flowers. That’s fine. That’s what ‘apapane do.

But these two, well, not only would the swoop down to the same tree, they’d land on the same branch. Not just the same branch, but the same cluster of flowers. And when they went to dip their beaks, they’d aim for the same single blossom. At the same time. So they’d bang their foreheads together.

Then they’d sit there on the same cluster along the same branch in the same tree and scream, “MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE!”

Each time they’d scream, “MINE!” they’d jab their beaks at each other, and the screeching echoed around the forest.

Their friends soon learned to get out of the way when this started. For a while, they tried pulling them apart, but they weren’t so much driven away as ignored. They’d scream “MINE!” no matter what they did.

Their parents tried to intervene, and got no farther. In desperation, they went to the older ‘apapane for advice. Some had some, and they tried it, but nothing worked. Finally, one wise ‘apapane, who had seen many things in her time, said, “Let them alone. They will discover one day that the ‘ohi’a do not belong to them.”

And so the forest continued to resound with the screaming: “MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE!”

There came the day when the two brothers flew to the same tree, landed on the same branch, hopped to the same cluster, and bonked their heads together over the same blossom. The screaming got started and wouldn’t stop. The other ‘apapane flew to other trees to escape the noise, but the two brothers didn’t notice. They didn’t notice as the sun dipped below the treetops. They didn’t even notice that the ‘ohi’a blossoms themselves were fading away, dropping from beneath them and going to seed. They screamed and they screamed and they screamed.

Not even an ‘apapane’s lungs can keep that up forever. Gasping for breath, they looked at each other, and then looked down at the blossoms that had faded away beneath them. It was a cluster of seeds. And finally they knew.

The ‘ohi’a lehua did not belong to either one of them. The blossoms did not belong to any ‘apapane. The flowers belonged to the ‘ohi’a trees, who shared them with the ‘apapane, and the i’iwi, and the ‘elepaio.

I hope you’ll remember that we do not own the living things of this world of ours, not the ‘ohi’a, nor the birds of the air, or the fish of the seas, or any of the people. God has shared them with us. Let us remember to always share God’s creation with the other living things of this Earth.

There are two ‘apapane in the digitally enhanced image above. Photo by Eric Anderson.

The Folded Peacock

PeacockThis week’s story is about a bird who is not native to these islands, but I’m pretty sure you know about them. Some do live here. This story is about a peacock.

Have you seen one?

Great!

I need to mention that since the beginning of Creation all the way up to the present day, there has never been such a thing as a humble peacock. Not one.

I guess they’ve got good reason. Their chests and necks are covered with feathers so blue that the sky looks down in awe. They wear a crest on their heads with is daring and delicate. And when they spread their tails in a great fan of feathers, those eye shapes glow as if with their own light.

It’s hard to say anything other than that they’re magnificent.

The peacock I want to tell you about was widely acknowledged to have the finest tail fan of his generation. The blues and greens were deeper, and they glistened brightly. There were silvers and golds in the eye patterns that were unique, and somehow the fan felt fuller, with less transparent gaps, than any of his fellows.

Among a species of magnificence, he was at the top.

He became concerned over the years, however, as he saw signs of wear begin to appear on the tails of other peacocks. He’d married a very nice peahen, and they’d raised a number of chicks during that time. But he noticed that time was not being kind to the tails of other peacocks.

Some were less careful, perhaps, to keep their tail feathers out of the dust or even muddy areas, and the dirt would dull their glistening feathers. A quick rinse would take care of most of that, but then there were other problems. The dirt would also pull at the feathers themselves, tearing away the little bits that made the fan connected.

The eye patterns would lose their shape sometimes when brambles or branches pulled the barbs of the feather apart, and sometimes pulled them away, leaving gaps.

The worst seemed to happen as a peacock opened his tail into that great fan. Hooks on the barbs would catch in the wrong place, hauling the feather out of shape. Feathers would cross each other, causing more damage.

Worst of all, the peacock considered, was when a bird lost a tail feather or two, and fanned his tail anyway. He didn’t approve of leaving those holes.

So he stopped displaying his tail.

It wasn’t enough, he thought, to carefully carry his tail above the dust and dirt, or open it gently to the eyes of others. An open tail came with the risk of wind guests, and sudden rain, and a score of other dangers. He kept his tail tightly closed.

A new generation of peacocks grew up with the stories: “This bird over here has the most amazing tail fan I’ve ever seen.” The tale-tellers would describe the appearance as they remembered it.

Their hearers, I regret to say, didn’t entirely believe them, and certainly didn’t understand that their glowing descriptions didn’t do justice to the stunning reality. The tail became a legend that could not be demonstrated, a glory that was cloaked in words.

None of you are peacocks, but you do have wonders about you: perhaps you sing, or build things, or paint things. Perhaps you are good at kind words; perhaps you have a wide, friendly smile. Those things are meant to be shared, not hidden away.

I hope that you’ll have the courage to risk your talents to the world: Risk singing, or painting, or helping, or smiling, or whatever you have to share.

Have courage. Share it. And let this peacock be the last creature to be afraid to share his gifts.

Photo Credit: By Alex Pronove (alexcooper1) – Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=452220