When Teddy was four he caught a sparrow. He watched and waited, creeping up slowly behind it and caught the bird in his hands. I thought it was a fluke.
A year later Teddy caught several birds with his bare hands. They were pigeons each time and he put them in a cage for a while before setting them free. He was so very gentle and even affectionate with them that it nearly brought tears to my eyes to watch.
More recently, he caught a robin.
Before he caught it he sat watching it go back and forth from a patch of loose, damp dirt, to a nest. It was a mother taking food to her babies. Teddy sat very still in the shade of a tree. Every few minutes he inched toward the area where she was collecting bugs.
All morning Teddy watched and waited for his chance. Finally the robin was so accustomed to his presence that she landed close enough and he snatched her up with his hands, victorious. The poor mama robin was so distressed that Teddy was immediately directed to release her rather than putting her in the cage that he had positioned nearby.
My little son has a gift. It's a strange gift, unappreciated in our culture, but a gift nevertheless. I can't even encourage him in it because I worry about diseases and bites, and yet I recognize something special and rare in what he's doing.
There is first of all the keen interest in the creatures around him. Despite exposure to the faster paced entertainment of our culture, he chose to sit outdoors and watch a bird for nearly two hours. This is a child who has been referred to as impulsive, unfocused, overly active. I watched him use extraordinary self control and focus as he waited for his opportunity to catch the robin.
What if he had been born to a hunting and gathering society? His interest and talent might have been given the highest esteem. I can imagine him a little Native American child of centuries past.
But he's living here and now, where our society doesn't value a child's stillness in nature, but then wants them to sit still at a desk.
At bedtime I pulled a thin volume of North American Indian Legends off the shelf. As Teddy fell asleep I read to him tales of great people who heard the whispers of nature and, like him they whispered back.