The Duchess of Soperton, our Northern Cardinal
Photography by Curtis and Norma Beaird
Article by Norma Beaird
I've thought long and hard about writing this particular article. I've wondered if it's necessarily the best idea, considering the fact that we're still living in the same area that is the subject matter of the article. However, sometimes it's easier to be honest about your situation than try to hide the truth of the matter.
For the last three years, we have been documenting the birds of rural Georgia and submitting our reports to Cornell University's eBird. We photograph, count, document and write about the amazing avian community in our backyard and in the surrounding counties, state parks and wildlife management areas. Our birds have been a blessing beyond words to both Curtis and me. I cannot properly describe with words what our birds have meant to us. As a matter of fact, our backyard birds have been just one of the reasons that we have kept our sanity in the midst of a very dark place called rural Georgia.
Within the last three years, a dark cloud has crept in over this part of Georgia. Drugs, drug trafficking, meth labs and the subsequent meth lab busts have increased and are the subjects of the weekly newspapers. Two of our small-town weekly newspapers have the monthly Jail Report. This edition of the newspapers feature almost full pages of mugshots, mostly due to drug possession, assault or theft.
....Talk about the myth of Southern hospitality....
Almost three years ago, I remember having, what felt like, a very dark cloud to descend over me, a cloud of fear and dread. It felt as though something bad was going to happen and the feeling produced an anxiety about the unknown. Curtis felt the same thing. A few weeks later in May 2012, our house was burglarized and approximately $7,000 worth of stuff was stolen, to include a laptop, camera, jewelry, tools, not to mention photos that can't be replaced. We were devastated.
We had just returned from a doctor's visit in Dublin, Georgia and Curtis had received wonderful news, thanks be to God and a great doctor. Later that day, we had driven into Riverbend Wildlife Management Area in Laurens County and photographed the beautiful Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron, a bird that we had not photographed before. We celebrated the good news with one of our favorite pastimes, birdwatching.
The Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron scratching his head as we photographed.
We were overjoyed to have found this entertaining bird hanging out in a very swampy area of the WMA. We had a good doctor's visit, a nice lunch and a fun excursion back on dirt roads in a rather remote avian hangout. And then we came home....
When we arrived home, our front door was open, a door that was locked when we left. My heart just sunk. I knew what had happened. It had happened twice to my mother and me when we lived in Augusta, Georgia. Words can't describe that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, knowing that some low-life thief has busted through your door and stolen precious treasures that can never be replaced.
For a while, Curtis and I were simply devastated. They had even stolen a one-of-a-kind custom pocket knife that I had given to him on a special occasion, a knife that cannot be replaced. They had stolen my beautiful Native American Squash Blossom Necklace that was a gift from Curtis, a necklace that I dearly cherished.
Talk about going into the emotional dumper..... Many people say that things can be replaced and "just be thankful that you weren't at home...." That's not the point. An alarm was sounded that we were no longer living in Mayberry. We had known for a long time that the seemingly innocent small town that we moved to wasn't the same anymore. Now, we knew for sure.
Even though there has been an increase in drug arrests and subsequent takedowns of meth labs, we continue to feel the dark cloud of spiritual oppression. Drug addiction is a strong, demonic force and drug trafficking is the result of greed and selfishness. Law Enforcement has a difficult task in taking down a criminal element that has affected this area for decades. There is a constant battle of good versus evil. Law-abiding citizens must remain vigilant and alert.
At times, in various counties over rural Georgia, crimes are committed that are never solved. Some shootings have occurred that seem to disappear off of the front pages of newspapers. Some burglars are never caught. We have read reports of drug dealers being arrested and then released.
Sometimes, it feels as though communities remain complacent while the Jail Report continues. No matter how many arrests are made, it never seems to jar the community as a whole. Law Enforcement can only do so much. Communities must rally together and look out for each other, patrolling their own streets and forming neighborhood watches.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure things out. And, no one wants to talk about it or deal with it. It's easier to ignore it than admit the truth. Many locals would prefer to turn a deaf ear even though they know what is going on. As Curtis says, "We are living in a pine straw ghetto." When people refuse to admit there is a drug or crime problem, then a once-safe community can turn into a crime-ridden ghetto in a matter of months.
An Umbrella of Faith
Why am I writing about all of this? Hopefully, we can encourage you to open up an umbrella of faith in the midst of a raging storm. That's what we had to do and are still doing. We pray constantly for God's wisdom, guidance and protection.
In the midst of this dark place, God sent us the most beautiful birds to photograph and document. We have bought bird identification books, researched them and studied taxonomy. We have fed the birds, filled up the birdbath and even named our avian friends. We have talked to chickadees, woodpeckers and crows and we have felt their love when we walk outside to greet them in the morning.
In the midst of your dark place, God can send powerful reminders that He created this world and that He is still in control.
Rocky, the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
Therefore, do not despair and don't give up hope. The answer is on the way. Don't allow distrust and bitterness to take root in your life. Allow God to show you the big picture and introduce you to His magnificent creation.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Elijah had delivered a message to the evil King Ahab, husband of Queen Jezebel. Elijah told King Ahab that there would be a time of neither dew nor rain. After the message was delivered to the king, God told Elijah to turn eastward and hide by the brook Cherith. He would drink of the brook while a raven would bring him food in the morning and evening.
Whenever I think about how God sent birds to us in the midst of a bad situation, I think about the prophet Elijah and the raven. The Lord used a bird to physically feed Elijah. God used birds to infuse our hearts with joy and teach us about migration and nesting behaviors. Birdwatching increased our focus and our faith. The majesty of God's creation will bring a sense of peace to your spirit.
In the midst of spiritual hunger and despair, God will feed our souls with the bread of Heaven. Sometimes, He gives us great joy in the midst of sorrow. At times, He sends us a distraction from the cares of this life that breathes hope into a seemingly hopeless situation. He knows all and He sees all. He is still in control.
No matter how long you've been in a dry barren land or how desperate your situation, I pray that God will send you manna in the wilderness. May He brighten your day with blue skies and cotton clouds or the fragrance of a Honeysuckle vine. May He send you an encouraging word or laughter in the midst of tears.
Just remember, the birds still sing on cloudy days.
1 Kings 17: 1 - 6
And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab,
As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand,
there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
And the word of the Lord came unto him, saying,
Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward,
and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook;
and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.
So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord:
for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan.
And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning,
and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.
Copyright 2015, Curtis and Norma Beaird. All rights reserved.