July 3, 2022
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
If you’re not familiar with the ‘akepa, they are another of the small birds who live in the ohi’a forest. The males are a vivid orange or orange-red with black feathers on the edge of their wings. The females’ feathers are gray-green, rather close in color to ohi’a leaves. Mostly they eat bugs. And spiders. And caterpillars, which are the early stage of, well, bugs.
They eat a lot of bugs.
From time to time, though, they eat a little bit of ohi’a nectar. The i’iwi sip nectar nearly all of the time. The ‘apapane mostly sip nectar but will also eat some bugs. The ‘amakihi like to mix up their meals, some nectar here, some bugs there, some fruit in some other places. And the ‘akepa… eat bugs.
They eat a lot of bugs.
But they do sip a bit of nectar from time to time, and this is how that came about. The first known sip was an accident. A bright orange ‘akepa was hopping about the tree, poking his beak into clusters of leaves, searching for those tasty little bugs and spiders. A somewhat careless poke with his beak came back with nectar, not a bug.
It was a revelation. It wasn’t a bug – wouldn’t make a meal – but it would be a tasty snack every once in a while.
He decided he needed to share the news with the other ‘akepa. He found the little flock he flew with picking over another tree and shouted, “Hey, idiots! Try sipping the nectar!”
To a bird, they gave him a look that said, “Who are you calling an idiot?” and went back to chasing bugs.
“Are you stupid? Try the nectar!” They ignored him.
He kept this up for quite some time, getting more and more insulting until sunset put an end to his harangue. All the ‘akepa in the little flock went to sleep pretty irritated, in his case with them, and their case with him.
In the morning, before he could get started, one of his friends, a young female, flew over to him. “Are you going to call us idiots all day?” she asked.
“But you are!” he said.
“No, we’re not,” she said. “What we are is insulted. Now if you’ve found something interesting, we might consider it, but not as long as you treat us badly.”
He opened his beak to yell, but something in her look told him that he shouldn’t. He closed his beak. He opened it. He closed it. He sighed.
Then he dipped his beak into a nearby ohi’a blossom and gave it a good, deep sip.
“You might want to try this,” he said. “It’s different. And pretty good.”
She looked at him. He dipped his beak again.
“You’re not playing games with us?”
“No. I’m not.”
After she tried it, other ‘akepa tried it, too. Mostly, Ihave to say, they preferred bugs, and they do to this day. But also to this day, no ‘akepa has liked being called an idiot, and I guess that’s true of a lot of creatures in this world.
by Eric Anderson
Watch the Recorded Story
The story was told live from memory of this manuscript – with all the improvisations and omissions that suggests.
Photo of an ‘akepa by Melissa McMasters from Memphis, TN, United States – Hawaii akepa, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74469703.