Have you heard of a “rookery island” where dozens of birds of several species flock at sunset to find sanctuary for the night? I have found it magical to observe: as one great egret and eight ibis and three cormorants and six pelicans and a couple great blue heron and even more and more soar in from every direction and land side by side on every available branch of a tiny island of mangrove trees as the sun turns a brilliant orange and the light rapidly fades across the water… and the scene is silent.
I described the scene to my uninitiated friends as a Christmas tree fully decorated with ornaments on every bough, or a crowded church were a few more families arrive late and say, “please make room for us.”
When you compare the meaning of “sanctuary” in 12 c. England to 21 c. America, you might wonder about 21 century America under President Donald Trump. This year migrants are cross the American border from Mexico, seeking sanctuary from unsafe conditions, and are met with incarceration and separation from their children. Many of us Americans oppose this policy and wonder what has become of American values, in particularly freedom, individual rights and the pursuit of happiness. With these current events in mind, I was particularly touched by the mercy demonstrated in this tidbit of history from Durham Cathedral.
In 12th century England, criminals could seek sanctuary in Durham Cathedral by knocking on this bronze knocker and hanging on to it until they were admitted. “Fugitives were given 37 days to organize their affairs. They had to decide with to stand trial or to leave the country by the nearest port.” (Quote from a sign on the Cathedral wall.)
Please note, the Cathedral provided sanctuary to criminals, not migrants, but the concept of sanctuary and mercy is cause for reflection.
On a morning walk in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, you never know what lies ahead. One time, a Florida Panther jumped onto this stretch of boardwalk. Other days a Burmese python was sighted just below in the swamp. Most likely, you will see a dozen or more species of birds and some alligators. I was not disappointed as I entered the cypress forest.