Goldeneyes and a Chimney: a Birthday Tale

IMG_1966“Why are there ducks zooming around and around our house?” I asked my husband between bites of pizza.  It was our youngest daughter’s first birthday, and we were celebrating out on the porch.  There was a chocolate cake resting in state on the kitchen counter, awaiting its demise, and the sunshine of a splendid June day was slanting long across the green fields.  She was grinning happily as blueberry-purple-carrot puree dribbled down her chin onto her bib, oblivious to the fact that this was all supposed to be about her.  “It’s almost like they’re playing or something.”

We see plenty of ducks flying around here, but they’re generally zeroing in on the lake–so this was odd.  Around and around they went at top speed, wings whistling, tilting around the tree tops.  I’ve never been to an airshow, but this kind of seemed like one.  I moved my camera setting to Sports and attempted a few flying shots in vain.  I couldn’t even find them in my viewfinder, let alone get a clear photo!

Then, as I stepped off the porch in hopes of a better vantage point, I noticed something else.  Whenever they’d pass the garage, they’d kind of pause and flutter in around the chimney before taking off to resume zooming again.  Not just once but every time.  Now my curiosity was definitely piqued!IMG_1943I began creeping my way across the yard, in hopes of catching a photo during one of these chimney pauses.  And then the plot thickened: as a couple of them were fluttering about, one landed…IMG_1935-1poked its head in the chimney…IMG_1937.JPG…and then disappeared!  What?!

One of the other ducks fluttered confusedly about and then landed on the ridgepole.  It eyed me suspiciously as though to inquire, “What did you do with my friend?”  I took advantage of its distraction to get a good close shot before I ran back to the house.

“I think one of those ducks just went down the garage chimney,” I informed my husband. We both went to investigate. He opened up the chimney pipe and peeked inside.  Nothing.  He shrugged.  I shrugged.  Maybe I had been mistaken.  We waited a few minutes, then turned to leave.

Ka-boom!

Without any warning, one winged body exploded from the chimney pipe, followed by another.  Two ducks!  In the garage!  Bang!  Crash!  Suddenly everyone was ducking and running, yelling in excitement.  A crack in a garage door was all they needed, however, and then they exploded out into freedom.  I watched them settle onto the mirror glass of the sunset lake, shaking their little bodies as though to rid themselves of the memories of claustrophobic chimneys and dark unfamiliar garages.

Well, that was exciting.  And now that we’d had our free entertainment for the evening, it seemed like a good time to break out the chocolate cake and the bird identification books and find out what kind of ducks they were and what they were doing.  Did you know that common goldeneyes (the identification we finally settled on) are some of the few ducks that are considered “arboreal” which means that “much of its nesting is done in cavities found in mature trees”.  Did they think that our garage chimney was a just another hollow tree?  Seems like a reasonable explanation.  But why so many of them interested in it all at once, this late in the season?  This answer was not to be found in the books.  If you know the answer, let me know!

Moral of the story:  Some birthdays might just unexpectedly be for appreciating the sometimes taken-for-granted fact that on the fifth day “God said…”let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created…every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and…let birds multiply on the earth.” (Genesis 1:20-22)

 

 

 

Free Indeed

IMG_2096Freedom is not merely the happy state of a blessed country.  It is also can, should, and far more crucially, be the state of a soul.  And if the souls of the people of a country are not free, can it really be said that such a country is free?

“Jesus said…“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… (John 8:31-32)

“For freedom Christ has set us free…Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:1, 13-15)

The Voice of the Turtle

painted turtle / rejoicing hillsWe like turtles around here.  However, I must say that the biggest turtle enthusiast in our family is my husband.  He’s the one who knows the interesting facts, has found rare turtles species in the wild and knows how to pick up a snapper without getting snapped.  It’s an affinity that began for him in his childhood, and was one of the things I immediately liked about him when we first met—and still do.

If we’re lucky, one will come through our yard at some point around this time of year, looking for that perfect place to lay her eggs, and he’ll take the girls to trail along at a respectful distance to watch in fascination.   He’ll turn our vehicle around when we pass one along the road, and go back to get a closer look.  If said turtle happens to be toiling across the middle of a treacherous highway, he’ll help it the rest of the way across in hopes that it will avoid getting crushed by a car.  Sometimes, if we’re not along, he’ll even bring a particularly interesting one home for the rest of us to see.  I’ll hear him drive up, then call in through the door, “Hey, come on out here girls!” and I’ll know without him saying another word that he has a turtle to show us.  He was totally using his I-found-a-turtle tone of voice.  He’ll show the girls their pretty painted shells or how they can snap a stick in two, and then he tells them stories about the turtles he caught and saw when he was a boy.  (Yep, he’s pretty cool.)

snapping turtle / rejoicing hillsBut me?  While I do have nice childhood memories of watching for turtles sunning around the edge of a pond we passed during family walks, oddly enough, the first memory that comes to mind when I see a turtle is also one of the biggest Biblical disappointments I ever received as a child.  There was a verse my mom would read us in the spring, from the beloved lyrical King James Version we were raised on.  It goes like this:

“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12)

As a child, my imagination was completely captured by the idea that a turtle could have a voice.  The turtles I knew did not make any sounds, so I imagined that the author was referencing some sort of exotic Middle Eastern variety of turtle, or even perhaps a variety of turtle that has since gone extinct.  And since it was described as “heard in our land”, and referenced in poetry, surely that must mean that it was a distinctive and compelling voice.  I imagined it as some cross between the sound of a crocodile and a frog, but a bit more musical.painted turtle shell / rejoicing hillsImagine my disappointment, then, when one day we decided to dig a little deeper into the actual Greek behind the Scripture reference and found out that “turtle” was just an abbreviation for “turtle dove”.  Of course that made more sense, but my childish fancy had been crushed.  I never quite got over the disappointment.

Until—

A few years later, as an adult, I discovered that the Bible did support the idea of talking turtles.

“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)

And just like that my fanciful notion became a future reality, and I went from being charmed by the idea to sort of quaking in my shoes at the awesomeness of it.  One day, the voice of the turtle will be heard in the land, along with an innumerable host of others that are currently voiceless (skunks! salamanders! butterflies! etc!).

Now think about that.

View From a Hammock

IMG_1341There’s a breeze coming in off the lake, this hot afternoon in early June.  There’s blue sky smiling down at me through a lacy frame of green, green leaves.  Summer is in the air, and I am, appropriately, drinking it in from the luxury of an airy vacation hammock.  If the air is full of summer, the views are no less so—and so I offer you these vignettes, all visible, more or less, from my leisurely post.IMG_1467A kayak,

slice of orange against the liquid lake,

dreams of sliding through fleets of miniature maroon lily pads,

suspended on the dainty ropes of their anchored stems,

beneath the deep shadowy green of overhanging trees.IMG_1451A jeweled beetle climbs relentlessly upwards

as small hands tip a stick back and forth

and inquisitive eyes watch in fascination,

filling with tears when it finally loses patience

and flies away.IMG_1208Relentless waves

wash a thousand coiled empty snail shells

all the miles

down the long lake.

They come to rest here,

on this smooth spit of sand suddenly rising to block their path—

and so it becomes their final resting place.

And then, chubby baby hands clutch them tightly,

turning them around and around

and over and over

in sheer enjoyment of the sensory shape.IMG_1318IMG_1475 IMG_1474Bare feet,

sandy,

dripping wet,

run up and down long flights of stairs,

earning the right to ice cream cones and fat slices of watermelon.IMG_1359IMG_1415Ducks dabble along the quiet green edges.

A family of geese tests the calm waters of evening,

with a babysitter in tow, just in case.IMG_1412Great clouds sail sedately by,

swimmers leaning back against the cushion of a swim trampoline,

squinting into the sunshine to watch them mesmerized,

rocked in the cradle of the waves,

laughing at a joke I’m too far away to hear.

And I leave my hammock to go join them.  Because if there’s anything possibly better than celebrating our Father’s good gift of a beautiful day in the stillness of your own soul, it’s celebrating it with others.

“We were like those who dream…then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting…The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.” (Psalm 126:1-3)

“I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.” (Psalm 52:9)

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Thunder Moon and Lunar Links

IMG_1567.JPGThe Thunder Moon doesn’t technically occur until July, but if ever such a name was appropriate for a full moon, it was this one.  It seemed to rest and roll along the tops of this magnificent soaring June thunderhead at sunset, like some whimsical bright ball up there bouncing down cloud stairways.  As I watched from the porch steps, the billowing cloud rumbled faintly and the liquid gulping of a bittern echoed along the lake shore as dusk slowly fell—and I thought about David’s words:

“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.  For you steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.  Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!  Let your glory be over all the earth!” (Psalm 57:9-11)

IMG_1569.JPGAnd, while we’re on the topic of the moon, just for the fun of it, I thought I’d share a few interesting lunar-themed links I’ve happened across recently.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Here’s an interesting article on how each month’s full moon got it’s name.

Read this book by Astronaut James Irwin for a first-hand, uniquely Christian perspective on the first landing on the moon—it’s full of pictures and fascinating!

Actual video clips and audio from that first landing, with some unexpected lightheartedness.  “Hippity hop and over a hill…”

Sometimes I feel like this, too when waiting for the moon to rise.

Moon phases explained, with Oreos.

Once in a blue moon, you should eat a blue moon torte.  But ever wondered where that phrase “once in a blue moon” came from?  Click on the torte photo or here to find out.

If you could read French, this would be a spectacular lunar treat to create.

If you’re as fond of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’, and Horatio Spoffard’s ‘It Is Well With My Soul’ as I am, you should listen to this.

And just in case you missed it, a previous post of mine about the Harvest Moon, and another about the Wolf Moon.

 

 

 

Perfumed Palace

IMG_1019A little farmhouse on a lake is a very nice place to live, but there are a couple times every year when something happens to make it feel pretty much like a palace.  Like when the big old lilac bush out front blooms.  We’re rich in lilacs over here, folks.

Bonus if you have a friendly chipmunk who lives deep inside this marvelous perfumed bush and scurries out to seek handouts at al fresco luncheons.IMG_0827I wonder if he feels as rich as I do when his home is in bloom?

“Praise the LORD!  How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in His commandments… Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.” (Psalm 112:1, 3)

All These Things

IMG_1042IMG_1043This is the story of a search for morel mushrooms.IMG_1055 Twice I went looking…IMG_0883Twice I returned empty-handed.IMG_1052But, in process of closely examining large stretches of forest floor in vain, I did make a lot of other wonderful discoveries.IMG_0880 Once, I sat quietly staring into a stand of fiddleheads so long, a grouse thought I’d left and started drumming his log within ten feet of me.  For just a minute, I thought my heart was palpitating—until I realized that he was really just that close.  Then he exploded suddenly off into the woods when I tried to shift to a spot with a better view, which is, incidentally, when my heart rate did increase.IMG_0891I nearly stepped on the elaborate den of some creature (I’d like to imagine it a fox den, but it more likely belongs to far less charming skunks), and happened upon a wolf track, perfectly dried and preserved in last week’s mud.IMG_0886-01 IMG_1039  I chanced upon a place where jack-in-the-pulpits preached in a woodland meadow to spears of blue flag leaves…IMG_1048…and another where the wild plums were wreathed in clouds of frilly white.IMG_0978I didn’t find what I was looking for—but I did find so much more.

The search for the elusive edible delicacies of the forest will continue.  One day, I’ll find what I’m actually looking for—and we’ll fry them up in butter and eat them—but even after that it will continue, because then they’ll be gone and we’ll want more. It’s one of those kind of searches, never ending, always new, always exciting.  The desire is insatiable.  If you don’t like morel mushrooms, I’m sorry that you won’t be able to identify with this, but if you do, you know what I mean.

And along the way, the search is always guaranteed to be fruitful.

Because, see, regardless of whether I came home with mushrooms or not, I did come home with my head and camera full of spring’s splendor flung glorious across the forest.  (Such riches!)  And I did find information to help me with future searches.  (Now I know where they’re not, sigh.)

It reminded me, in a happy, unexpected sort of way, of another ongoing search I’ve been challenged to, one in which I continually search for one thing of great value and end up with so much more along the way.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

 

 

 

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