It was almost as good as Yellowstone National Park when a bear is sighted along the road.
The cars were lining up. The phone cameras were clicking. People were leaning out their windows, smiling big. Nobody was out of their vehicles snapping closeups while foolishly ignoring the unpredictability of wildlife (aka a protective mama doe), but I won’t deny that I considered it. (But did you see the look in her eyes up there? That was pretty much enough to keep my hand off the car door handle and be satisfied with just rolling the window down.)
And these two tiny fawns, so new they were still wobbly, stood at the edge of the highway bracing their ungainly long legs and staring at their audience in wonder. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the first time they had ever seen cars or humans, let alone been on an outing.
Mama hovered nervously in the woods nearby, snorting, stamping worriedly. They bleated back like tiny lambs as if to say, “Whatchya so worried about, Mom? See? These people like us.”
And it was true. Cause, well, you know, for all the tulips I’ve ever suffered the loss of to other members of their species (it happened again this year, ahem!), how can you not be utterly charmed by a newborn baby fawn—especially when there are two of them staring at you with their big, innocent dark eyes at the same time?
Who cares about tulips, anyway.
“Do you observe the calving of the deer? Can you count the months they fulfill, or do you know the time they give birth? They kneel down, they bring forth their young, they get rid of their labor pains. Their offspring become strong, they grow up in the open field; they leave and do not return to them.” (Job 39:1-4)
It wasn’t a strong or stormy wind. It was a soft, pleasant spring breeze, just stiff enough to ruffle the tops of the big pines we were walking through and cause them to whisper mysteriously together. It rose and fell with drama up above us, compelling enough to get our attention, but not enough to so much as sway the massive trunks rising around us. Sometimes, in the moments between the squeals of little girls discovering spring blossoms along the forest floor and the chattering of squirrels indignant at our intrusion on their private retreat, we’d stop to just listen to it.
There was a kind of music to it, the kind that made me want to lay right down on that thick, soft carpet of pine needles and soak it in while I stared up the towering pillars of tree trunks to the bits of blue sky like a mosaic of stained glass above. Then, as we neared a swamp hollow, the fluted tones of spring peepers harmonized as only nature can, and I had flashbacks to a beautiful wind concert I attended once, performed by talented musicians under the soaring ceilings of a grand lobby. But, I thought to myself, could a wind concert be performed in any grander a place than this remote and silent cathedral of a forest, by the actual wind itself?At that moment, it was hard to believe not. And if you listened closely enough, you could almost hear the words…
“Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel.” (Isaiah 44:23)
It’s the best part of spring, that brief period of time when life begins to reemerge from the bare branches and brown earth. The world is exploding almost visibly with life, and I hardly dare blink lest I miss something. Everywhere I look there are buds bursting open, leaves unfolding, new scenes unfolding and an unending number of discoveries to make.
Across the lake, that first cloudy mist of soft green is enveloping the poplars, contrasted stunningly against the deep evergreen of the pines.
There are the gardens to examine, where I eagerly check to see if my plants survived yet one more winter, greeting the ones who do like long-lost friends. The ones who were just planted last year and have just passed the big test of surviving their very first Minnesota winter create the most excitement. Sometimes, I’m disappointed (never mind, foxgloves, we’ll try again); other times I’m pleasantly surprised (hello, strawberries!).Then, there are the woodsy pilgrimages to make, traditions dating to my childhood, like going in search of the dainty lavender and white hepaticas that are so absolutely quintessential of a Minnesota spring.And, if I’m paying attention and watching my step as I go, there is almost always something new to discover. Something unexpected, like the strange forms of emerging horsetail at the edge of a gravel country road. Or a pair of sandhill cranes, flapping their half-graceful, half-ungainly way out of the maze of last year’s cornstalks. Or a fisher bounding across a lonely, narrow, backwoods road, stopping just long enough to glance back at us curiously.Beauty in the expected and familiar; beauty in the unexpected and unfamiliar. Truly,
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
But I must say that I think this may be especially true in the spring.
It really wouldn’t have been a proper Minnesota April (or May?) without a good snowstorm, now would it have been? Besides, I needed proof that crocuses really do bloom under such circumstances. They seem no worse for the wear for it—and I don’t suppose any of the rest of us are either. But just in case you were struggling with the idea of snow and cold after so long a stretch of warm weather—or even struggling with some other frustration or trial that has nothing to do with snow—consider this admonition of how to live that these brave little flowers model well:
“Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation…” (Romans 12:12)
Or this one:
“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
Just a friendly reminder that “everything” really does mean every thing, and “tribulation” applies to the little things just as well as the big things. Be patient, be grateful—and enjoy the quirks of the season!
“Look, Mommy, it’s an ostrich!” cried my oldest daughter excitedly from the window.
“No, it’s not—that’s an eagle!” my two-year-old contradicted indignantly after running to see.
At that point, curiosity getting the better of him, Papa got up out of his chair to investigate.
“That, little girls,” he said, “is a goose.”
Obviously, a tie-breaking vote was needed, so then I joined everyone at the window.
“Yep, it’s a goose.”
“Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (2 Corinthians 13:1)
Every spring, there’s this short window of time, just before the ice goes out, in which there are little open areas of water around the edges of our lake. All the waterfowl congregates in these puddles and pools to forage for food and paddle around in one great companionable waiting game for the lake to open.The ducks and geese seem to have a mutual agreement that it’s a nice little community event, too, and mingle quite nicely.
The swans, not so much.Such a fuss we had from them, of fiercely territorial wing-flapping, neck-bobbing and trumpet-blasting, particularly when another pair of swans would come in for a landing (on a multi-daily basis). It was all very exciting, and we’re going to rather miss it now that the lake is open and the spring festival is over.
But I must say that I’ve learned something from watching this year’s waterfowl interactions before ice out. Entertaining as it is for us to be the audience to this yearly stiff competition over swan nesting grounds, it’s not exactly peaceful. For all their magnificent beauty, they are surprisingly selfish. And, as God’s Word says, we’d all be much better off emulating the contented little puddle ducks than the regal but contentious swans.
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:16-18)
The night was bright with a million stars, each one pulsating distinct and three-dimensional against deep black velvet of the sky. The aurora was dancing low but visible on the horizon. Across the lake, a monkey owl laughed, and in the distant forest echoed the drum roll of a grouse. Just above the treetops, a slender waxing crescent of reflected sunlight rimmed the lower curve of dark round moon. It dangled, then dropped out of sight. One meteorite fell, and then another. It was a good night to go walking without a flashlight, and so we did.
Then, we heard an odd sound that we couldn’t identify. It was like the sound of tinkling, shattering glass, with a sort of grunting and squeaking. There was also splashing, which narrowed down the location to the lake. But what sort of creature was busy on the lake at this time of the night—and what were they doing?
It remained a mystery, until morning, when daylight revealed the guilty culprits.The otters had been playing not on but in the ice while the northern lights rippled softly green, enjoying the effects of the steadily aging and honeycombing lake ice. I didn’t realize how rotten the ice was until I stood on the shore and watched their game for a good hour. They were literally running all over the lake breaking holes in all the thin places and diving in and out of them, which explained the mysterious tinkling and shattering sounds of the previous night.
And so the mysteries of the darkness were made evident by the light and things that were unknown became known—just as it always must be, even in the case of much deeper things.
“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that not will be made known.“ (Luke 12:2)
“Therefore judge nothing before the proper time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5)