This week we chant the second portion (parashah) in the Torah, the well-known story of Noah, the Ark, the Flood, and the Covenant of the Rainbow. According to our story, Noah sent both a Raven and a Dove from the Ark after the flood waters receded, to determine if the waters had subsided sufficiently so that he and his family members and all the animals and birds could safely go forth from the ark onto dry land.
The roosting White Ibises featured on this post above, and this lovely juvenile Little Blue Heron below, make me think of the many beautiful Midrashim (interpretive stories) and legends about birds associated with the Torah. Our rabbi shared with us the following story recently, about the late Lubavitcher Rebbe: When he was asked how he had the stamina to work as hard as he did, the Rebbe replied: “Every person has a soul. It’s like a bird and its wings. Imagine if a bird were unaware that its wings enabled it to fly; they would only add an extra burden of weight. But once it flaps its wings, it lifts itself skyward. We all have wings – our soul – that can lift us as high as we need to go. All we have to do is learn to use them.” (Toward a Meaningful Life, S. Jacobson).
Although birds are important figures in the Flood narrative, this week naturally makes me think of all the other creatures that may have accompanied Noah on his great adventure. Right here in the wetlands, we see descendants every day of some of earth’s oldest reptiles – how wondrous!
I recently watched this (non-native!) Iguana walk very purposefully right across the boardwalk, from one fenced-in area to the opposite fence and through to the other side, and I couldn’t resist including this series. I call it: “Why did the Iguana cross the road?!”
A few weeks ago, baby American Alligators were born in our wetland preserve to their very protective mother, who will watch over them carefully for about a year. It is a joy to observe them as they learn to venture a bit further each week from their mama. But, like human toddlers, they never stray too far from their “secure base”.
In a sequence reminiscent of the Iguana above crossing over “to the other side”, this cute little fellow below laboriously clambered up onto his mother’s head, crawled across her shoulders, and immediately slid down back into the shallow water on the other side.