Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | March 13, 2020

The Palace of Bird Beaks

The Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon, bearing opulent gifts, and hoping to see if he was as wise as the stories claimed.

“What can I offer in return?” asked Solomon. “Only ask, and it shall be yours.”

The queen had also heard that Solomon spoke the language of the birds, but didn’t believe it. Here was her chance to kill two birds with one stone.  “Build me a palace made entirely of bird beaks,” she said, “if you can.”

“Oh, I can, ” boasted Solomon.  “You shall have it.”

To her amazement, Solomon summoned the birds, from every corner of the earth.

 

They heeded his call…

 

….from the tiniest hummingbird…

 

…to the majestic eagle.

 

“We’re going to make our nation the envy of the world,” he told his gathered flock, to the cheering of the birds.

 “But I need your beaks to build a palace.”  And the birds bowed their heads and wept.

 

“Stop fussing,” said the king.  “Everyone dies sooner or later.  Believe me, I know more about that than anyone else in the world.”   The king scanned his gathered flock as they waited to die.  “Where is the hoopoe bird?  Why isn’t she here?  How dare she defy me?”

 

Breathlessly, the hoopoe swooped in to land at his feet. “Forgive my late arrival, Sire. I’ve come from the ends of the earth, and I’ve seen so much along the way. I’ve even learned three things you don’t know.”

(photo in public domain)

 

“Really?”  King Solomon frowned.  “A lot of people say I’m the smartest king that ever lived.  I know more than anyone, about pretty much everything in the world.  What could you possibly know that I don’t?  Tell me quickly, before I take your beak.”

The other birds trembled, fearful that Hoopoe would upset the king, for they knew that he didn’t like his genius questioned.

 

“Sire,” asked Hoopoe, “do you know who it is that was never born, nor will never die?”

“Of course, I do!  The Lord of the Universe…

IMG_2901

 

…the Creator, who made the sky above us…

IMG_6107

 

…the earth we stand on…

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…every blade of grass…

IMG_4828

 

…every creature that walks…

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…or swims…

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…or crawls.

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King Solomon hesitated.   “Or flies.

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Solomon looked at the birds…

 

…each one magnificent…

 

…each in its own way…

 

…..each one created by the Lord of the Universe…

…who had also made Solomon, and blessed him with wealth, power, and responsibility.

“What’s the second thing?” asked Solomon irritably.

“Sire, do you know what kind of water rises not from the earth nor falls from the sky?”

“Of course, I do!  It’s a tear that falls from the eye, born of sorrow.”

Solomon looked at the birds, their heads bowed, tears flowing, as they waited for him to chop off their beaks.  Might he have acted rashly in agreeing to build a palace of bird beaks?  But the Queen of Sheba, the whole world was watching, and he thought, “A promise is a promise.”

“One last question, Sire,” said the hoopoe.  “Do you know what is so delicate that it can put food into the mouth of a baby, yet is strong enough to bore holes into the hardest wood?”

“Of course, I do.  It’s a bird beak,” said the king.

(Photo by Amanda Lightfoot)

 

“Yes,” he repeated, “a bird beak.  Of course.”

 

The great gathering of birds stretched out before him, their lives and children as precious to them as his own were to him…

 

In his arrogance, he’d promised to build a useless palace to fulfill a selfish whim, and to make his own subjects pay for it, without considering the cost in blood and tears.  And he knew what he must do.

 

“Hoopoe, you’ve demonstrated courage for daring to resist this injustice.  You have shown wisdom in helping me understand that my true power is in resisting my own cruel impulses.  I shall not demonstrate my power by destroying the defenseless.”

King Solomon turned to the Queen of Sheba.  “A wise and worthy leader must never be so proud that he can’t admit his mistakes, or do what he must to right a wrong.  There will be no palace of bird beaks, now or ever.”

The queen smiled and nodded.  “I came here to take the measure of a man, and I believe I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.”

 

Except where noted, all words and images ©2020 Naomi Baltuck

 

 


Responses

  1. Ah, would that all leaders were as wise as Solomon, and as humble. 🙂 I love a good story, and you always deliver, Naomi. How marvelous to have been able to photograph so many glorious birds!

    • Thank you! I have been fortunate with sightings, but could be a lot quicker and more skilled in finding and focusing my camera.

  2. Thank you for that balm.

    • Hi Megan, thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to share your thoughts.

  3. I love this story, Naomi and was racing to find out what happened in the end! (You have photos of so many birds too.) Great ending. Here’s ‘awishing an’ hopin’ and thinkin’ …
    Love Meg

  4. I love this story, Naomi and was racing to find out what happened in the end! (You have photos of so many birds too.) Great ending. Here’s ‘awishin an’ hopin’ and thinkin’ …
    Love Meg

  5. Would that the present day Solomon could hear the Hoopoe.

    • Dear Carol,
      Since that scummy sociopath in the White House seems incapable of accepting responsibility for any of his cruel and criminal acts and idiotic, preventable, disastrous mistakes (many of which will take their toll in human lives), it’s up to us to be Hoopoes, and speak out. Since our modern day Solomon is incapable of compassion and deaf to suffering, we need to mobilize the birds!

  6. Nice to see you great post.

    • Thank you, Eunice. It’s good to hear from you. I understand you have plans to come to Seattle in September. The world is in a state right now, but let’s keep in touch to see how things stand when the time grows closer. I hope you are staying safe and well!

      • I will and am. Stay well and if the trip happens I will be in touch.

  7. wonderful story! you’re right. no one should think of themselves so great or be so proud that they cannot admit their mistakes…keep sending these gems. -linda

    On Thu, Mar 12, 2020, 7:35 PM Writing Between the Lines wrote:

    > Naomi Baltuck posted: “The Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon, bearing > opulent gifts, and hoping to see if he was as wise as the stories claimed. > “What can I offer in return?” asked Solomon. “Only ask, and it shall be > yours.” The queen had also heard that Solomon spoke the l” >

    • Hi Linda,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and kind words. Stay safe and be well!

  8. Thank you, Naomi. Ah, the measure of a man. Of a community. Of a people.

    • Hi Mary, we are truly getting the measure of a man these days, aren’t we. And our communities. And our people. I hope you are well. How is Dorothy and family doing?

  9. Lovely My Sweet! May be all be as brave and wise as the bird, and as humble as the king.

    Just back from London, and frankly, I am embarrassed at having spent so much fossil fuel for pure pleasure, but that said, pure pleasure it was. Traveling during a pandemic is the nuts: -Everyone is aware of sanitation and cleanliness -You get 3 seats across in tourist class on the flights sinne everyone is afraid to fly -Upgrades in very under populated hotels and the opportunity to make friends with the food and drink manage because there is so little for them to do! Raj is a great guy and even drove us to the airport yesterday! -The streets of London were so blissful to negotiate, with about 1/3 the average foot and underground traffic -Great theater seats, with the opportunity to move up to where the rich people usually put their behinds -Zero waits at the most remarkable eateries

    We washed our hands endlessly and tried not to cough on or be cough on by others. How much more can you do? I only wish people were 1/4 as panicked by our destruction of our planetary climate.

    Am now called upon to self quarantine for 2 weeks. How goes this craziness in your neck of the woods? xoxoxo Judith

    >

    • Hi Judith, I’m glad you made it home safely after a good visit. I’ve made it through my two-week self-quarantine after contact with a neighbor who had the coronavirus, but am still maintaining social distance. I hope you stay safe and well!

  10. Good to see another fine story with exquisite photos as ever. Hope you and family are well Naomi.

    • Thank you, Roy! It’s good to hear from you. We are all well, thank you, despite living in one of our nation’s CoVid-19 hotspots. I had contact with a neighbor just before her symptoms showed, and again when I picked up groceries and a prescription for her, but I got through two weeks of self-quarantine, and am now living a quiet life of self-isolation with Thom. Elijah and his husband are working from their home in Seattle, and Bea is self-isolating in Montana, teaching at the university online. Have you had any cases of CoVid-19 on the island?

      I read your March 6th blog post about running or not, but for at least a year, I haven’t been able to ‘like’ a WordPress post–it just won’t let me do it, so I have to find out why, but dread dealing with it. Take care of that knee. There are other ways to stay fit and be social, and you need to keep all your moving parts in order as long as you can!

      May you stay safe and well!
      n

      • Thank you Naomi and pleased to hear you guys are OK. Yeah we’ve got cases though no deaths yet. No complete lockdown yet though the assholes are ensuring that’s only a matter of time. Until that time – and after – I’ll be running (even if not racing) until I physically can’t. Stay safe.

  11. What a great story. And wonderful photos.
    Alison

    • Thank you, Alison! I hope you are staying safe and well.
      Warmly,
      Naomi

  12. Reblogged this on Story Twigs the Imagination!.

    • Dear Meg,
      Thanks so much for sharing!
      Love,
      n

  13. I really enjoyed this wonderful story. Thank you for posting it.


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