Our front room window looks directly out on to a Rowan tree. Although it is only August, it is already covered in ripe, orange berries. The other morning I drew back the curtains and there was movement in the tree. Nothing unusual. I’m used to a blackbird or two sitting on a branch and pulling at the bright orange berries. They nested in next door’s hedge, so several youngsters are trying their luck, as well as the adults.
Then I realised that there was movement all over the tree, the leaves flickering and bouncing as birds flitted from branch to branch, some spotting insects, others grabbing the berries. Two nuthatches, a trio of long tailed tits, a blue tit or two, a couple of blackbirds and a bunch of sparrows were all there together, searching and feeding. Then suddenly the scene was over. Off they went, the blackbirds to the trees across the road, the smaller birds in a posse on down the road. They were just passing through.
In Tales of the Hasidim, the philosopher Martin Buber tells the story of a tourist from America visiting a renowned Polish Rabbi, Hofetz Chaim. He was astonished to see that the rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books and furnished with a table and a bench.
“Rabbi, where is your furniture?” asked the tourist.
“Where is yours?” replied Hofetz Chaim.
“Mine?” asked the puzzled tourist. “But I’m only passing through.”
“So am I,” said the rabbi.