“Wait up” he said pausing at the Birds Enclosure, “we have to observe behavior” and whipped out his notebook while monitoring each flight of the parrot like birds in the large cage………… I am at the Zoo as a chaperon for the gifted Third grade class. Impatience was my middle name in those days and yet I pause to watch the birds flit from one perch to the next in their cage. Their behavior modified unbeknownst to my son, by their captivity……….

 Somewhere in the heart of the South at the very point of a barrier island is what I call “the bird island”.

It is a strip of land isolated from nosy beachcombers like me by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean on the far side and a deep pool filled with all kinds of wild life including jellyfishes and crabs. Entering the seemingly still pool of water the wild life may find your toes a novel delicacy and take a bite, the pain of which you would remember for a while.

Getting to the parallel beach to the Bird Island is a wild card. Most of the time the parallel beach is also covered with water and unapproachable, at which time all you can see are white and black specks of the birds in the far distance.

Balls ready in an artistic pyramid for practice

Today as I park my car and walk through the dandy golf course which nestles in the wilderness protected part of the island, I reach the sands of the beach, isolated and almost empty of the human imprint.

Far away on the left is the point of the Island to which no one has ever been because it changes with time and tide and soil. In other words there is no stability of the ground at that point even though it may look like a solid sandy beach to the naked eye.

I walk with “mindfulness, looking into the depths of the water to see if I can see the wild life careening with serene ecstasy in the still waters that separate me from the Birds Island.

The birds across this perilous width of still water ignore me. They have the innocence of one who is confident in their security in their peaceful haven. The water separating me from them moves with the ripple effect of the waves on the other side of the Bird Island. I with my naked eye am unable to see where the ocean and this piece connect. Looking at the regular ripples in sync with the waves I am sure they connect.

I decide to walk into the still water at the outer edge and try and cross over to a land bar that does not seem too far away from the Bird Island.

The crab swimming towards my feet, the shadow is from my hand and camera

As I step in I see something diaphanous like a the white veil of a bride waving in the water………having been bitten by one as a teenager at Hawkes bay, I note with consternation that it is a jelly fish, which is holding its own at the spot.

I look at my feet and they look like two pieces of steak in the water, and rapidly swimming towards them is a large blue crab with large eyes wide open and claws clenching and unclenching. I move quickly and it scuttles away.

This is enough to change my mind to cross over to the Birds Island. The memory of the pain of the jellyfish bite has not been dulled with time and if there is one there must be many more.

I look across at the Bird Island, secure, a sanctuary protected by Allah’s hands through his creatures in the watery divide, protecting the birds from human predators.

I decide to sit down at the waters edge and observe the birds from the nearest vantage point parallel to the Bird Island……….and suddenly as if on the wings of the warm beach air and electronic memory kicks in and I remember Tariq ‘s words at the Zoo: “Wait up Mom…we have to observe…………”

And so I observe with my limited bird knowledge.

I notice that the brown pelicans occupy the farther part of the Island, while the white birds occupy the near point.

It is between Asar and Maghrib. I note that they are not eating, they are not flying around aimlessly, they are not playing around………they seem to be in serious thought………..perhaps in Tasbeeh. I recall that Allah Subhanawataala says in the Quran and I paraphrase: that all my creation is in tasbeeh and if you remember me they also make dua for you.

I also join them in “Subhanallah e Wabe Hamde”, and I feel serenity pour into me.

There is one Brown Pelican who sits there unmoving, in an erect and regal posture without moving. Other pelicans fly into the island, or flap their wings to dry them in the weak sunshine, but he remains unmoved by their activity, focused as if in Dhikr………….His concentration and his regal posture reminds me of The Shaykh and I smile in admiration.

The white birds are more domestic, bathing in the water, flying around, but it is interesting to note that they are well organized and have a leader. It is a cue from the leader that they all take off and land together.

They then carry on playing in the water, squealing and I notice that it is the orange beaked ones who are squealing to the others or is it to their own companions…

What made them take off flying?

The Sanctuary……… has a whole different meaning here, where everyone respects each other’s space and yet when it is time to fly they fly together, whether for food or for exercise God only knows.

Allah Subhanawataala says in the Quran that he has made birds who fly out morning and evening to search for sustenance and they are confident that Sustenance will be provided from their Lord………….and thus is here, no greed to keep on fishing or keep on eating or being BORED………..

A Sanctuary…………..that is what we need as humans like the birds of the Bird Island, undisturbed by color of the feathers or size. White and Brown respecting each other and focused on the same Lord who created them and us.

DUA: I thank Allah Subhanawataala for His blessing to allow me to experience the Bird Island, and give me Sanctuary in the moments I spent there, unalloyed by human disturbance. It is truly a precious gift!

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