The Season We Are In

“I can’t do this.”

These four words have been rattling around in my head quite a bit lately. As the drops have fallen from the showerhead and my eyes, I have even whispered them aloud. “I. Can’t. Do. This.”

I’m okay. Things are okay. There are people who have more struggles every single day than I do. I don’t take my blessings lightly. And I don’t mean to make light of the very real hard things people around me and around the world are going through.

Still, if I’m keeping it real–and am transparent, I’ve had moments, especially in the past year, month, week, where I feel so blame overwhelmed, I just don’t know how to keep on keepin’ on. To be honest, I keep looking around for the grownup in charge.

Yesterday I decided to go outside and sit on my front steps. My front steps got me through a lot of the days at the beginning of this pandemic. We live on a culdesac, and my porch is surrounded by flora–a loropetalum on one side and a loquat tree on the other–so there is no shortage of sounds, smells, and sights to take in and just sit and be with. During loquat season, I watched one of my feathered friends come over and drink from the fruit and then hop over to another branch and clean his beak on a leaf before flying off. I’m just thankful my tree produces enough fruit for us to enjoy and to share with the squirrels and birds who reside with us in our little corner of our world.

I was taking in the afternoon, breathing in the fresh air and thankful that I could. Suddenly one of our resident bird friends hopped over to the walkway between lorapetalum and loquat. I said hello, and then saw this happen.

This amazing creature who defies logic by taking to the air and FLYING brought her snack over in front of me and proceeded to partake.

Y’all.

She ate a wasp.

A wasp.

And then she turned and looked me straight in the eye before she flew off to continue tending to her business.

I heard you, my winged wonder. I heard you as clearly as I heard the wind gently whispering through the leaves.

“You’ve got this, girl. I promise you this. If I can eat a flippin’ wasp, you’ve got this. It’s okay to be sad or feel overwhelmed, but when it comes down to it, take what you can find in this season and make it work–YOU’VE GOT THIS.”

And then she hopped off.

Because, I mean, she’d had her snack and she had lots more to do before the sun went down. After all, she has the wisdom to get things done while the sun shines and then rest when it doesn’t. Another thing I could learn from her.

It is not lost on me, this message that I so desperately needed to hear. This encouragement that my soul was crying out for. But the messenger is also not lost on me. My Daddy used to sit in his recliner by the window in our living room and watch the birds live out their stories in the arbor vitae along our dirt and gravel driveway. I wonder what lessons and messages he got from them over the years, especially his last one where that window was literally his window to the world as the hospice bed replaced the recliner. I can’t help but wonder if my bird friend was sent by my Daddy, as I have so wished he were here to ask for answers that would guide me and bring me some peace.

Take courage, my friends. As numbers and words and thoughts and opinions tend to divide and separate and cause doubt or pain or uncertainty or loss, know that you’ve got this. There are things out there that might seek to harm us, to sting us and take us down. But it’s important to remember, as the tears threaten to take over or emotions come wave after wave, that sting can be taken down. Literally and figuratively.

If you’re feeling like you can’t do this, know you are not alone. Take heart and remember our feathered friend. It was going to be cold that night. There’s no fruit on the loquat tree for her to munch on–that was a different season. The season we are in right now provided no sweetness for her; instead it offered her a wasp. And instead of giving up, she kept at it until she conquered it and made it work for her.

In this season we are in, let’s do that, y’all. Maybe together it will be easier. The season of sweetness will surely return, but for now, instead let’s take what we can find and make it work. Even that which would harm or divide us can serve a purpose, if only we stand together.

You are not alone. Love to all.

the bird who knew no time

It was 1 a.m. and the dark house was filled with the quiet of the hour.

Only I moved in the house from one room to the next until I sat on the edge of my bed, the side closest to the window my own.

I squinted in the darkened room to see if there was much moonlight outside, and that is when it startled me.

Eerily piercing the darkness, the silence, as though it were noon and not the wee hours of the night, a bird’s melodic offering.

Again and again, over and over, he sang.  No one else joined in, with me as his only audience.

And I wondered why.

Was he practicing for the luring of his love on the morrow?

Was he seeking solace for some sadness he’d suffered earlier in the day?

Was he pontificating about things only he seemed to understand in a language that far too few bother to learn anymore?

Was he cheerily telling the young ones asleep hours ago of stories from his youth?

Was he from out of town and jet lagging like so many when arriving to a new place?

Was he without vision and the darkness could not pierce his spirit?

Did he sense me there on the other side of the bricks, sitting all alone and lonely in the darkness?

I’ll never be quite sure why he sang, but I listened to his offering, unable to sleep.  I wanted to hear his story, to hold it in my hands.  I wanted to know why he had to sing despite everything conventional saying he should not.

Thank you for piercing the darkness with your song and opening my eyes to the light, sweet one.  Your song reminded me of brighter days and evenings lit by lightning bugs.  Your song soared among the clouds and landed on my heart.

Sleep well, little friend.  Until we meet again.

img_1743

that day

well it certainly isn’t like I don’t know that day is coming
soon
but I really admire the ostriches and how they address things such as this
burying their heads,
long necks stretched out at such an angle–
that takes skill and precision too, you know
so it’s not like I’m taking the easy way out
by doing the same and
ignoring the fact
that day
will come

I’d much rather plug my ears and sing the “lalalalalalas” of childhood
the tune that kept out all of the things I didn’t want to hear–
sad, silly, unhappy, secrets, scary stories–
than to listen and think through all the whereupons and what for’s of
that day
which is coming

so if you see me out in the yard, seemingly sunning myself in
a convoluted position, tail feathers to the sky
know that I’m merely holding on to the last remnant of hope
and denial
that maybe that day
won’t come
after all

at least not soon

and now, upon reading, I discover the ostriches’ coping is a myth
they are merely digging holes
with their beaks
to make a nest

I could do that too–
only if I could build it and then stay
there
tucked away from the hard things in life
the brokenness, pain, and heartbreak
sitting there, safe
in a place where
hopefully
that day can never reach me
and change my world forever

"Struthio camelus -Eastern Cape -South Africa-8" by Graham - originally posted to Flickr as IMG_0642. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Struthio_camelus_-Eastern_Cape_-South_Africa-8.jpg#/media/File:Struthio_camelus_-Eastern_Cape_-South_Africa-8.jpg

“Struthio camelus -Eastern Cape -South Africa-8” by Graham – originally posted to Flickr as IMG_0642. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Struthio_camelus_-Eastern_Cape_-South_Africa-8.jpg#/media/File:Struthio_camelus_-Eastern_Cape_-South_Africa-8.jpg

The Bird Who Read the Newspaper

This evening I saw a writing prompt that was one word long.

Newspaper.

An interesting choice of topics, I thought, all while the wheels were turning and one distinct memory came to mind.

Chiefy.

My Mama loved parakeets.  With my sister’s allergies to dogs and cats, we only had them outdoors, and my sister couldn’t really be around them very much.  She fell in love with birds, and so began the parakeet part of our family story.

By Moe Epsilon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Moe Epsilon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The one I remember the most was a beautiful blue and white bird who was named Chief Grey Cloud.  Chief or Chiefy for short.  He had more personality than a little bit.  He thought he was human, and he loved my Mama.  His Mama too, I guess, he would say.  When she went down the hall to her bedroom, he followed her.  Walking and waddling behind her.  He would call for her.  But the funniest thing was he read the newspaper with her.

Mama would sit down in her chair at the end of the table with her glass of tea.  She opened the paper up and started to read.  As happens with newspapers, sometimes there was a lot to read on a double page spread and sometimes very little.  Chiefy would stand there on the paper, waiting for her to turn it.  When she lifted the page, he would chirp and squawk and go running excitedly to the opposite side, eventually stepping off onto the table just in time for the paper to land.  Then he’d hop right back on and wait for her to finish reading that page.  It was their little dance, and it was funny to watch.  She loved reading the paper with him, and the chirps and squawks were of happiness, not fear that he was about to be smothered by the paper.

Silly, precious bird.

Many tears were shed when he left this world.

I’m thankful for the one word prompt that brought back this memory.  I am even more thankful for the picture in my mind and heart of Chiefy chirping happily and waddling/walking very quickly over to Mama to welcome her when she left this world and went on up to The House.  I know that was one happy reunion.  One I have not thought about before.

Mostly I give thanks for the little critters in this life who bring us so much happiness.   What wonderful gifts of laughter and joy they bring.

May you all have someone to call for you and follow you down the hall because they love you.  Love to all.

Bad Storms and Birds’ Nests

This morning as I took Miss Sophie out for her morning constitutional, we came across a bird’s nest laying on the grass.  It was a solid one too.  I turned it over, curious if there were any residents who hadn’t made it out safely, and there were none.  I was thankful for that.

IMG_8945

I could just imagine the little bird family who once lived there being interviewed by channel CHRP newsbirds.

“Yes, well, we’d just gotten our children all loaded up and off to their new homes on their own, so we decided to take a small trip together–just the two of us.  It’s been a while, you know.  So when we got back, bam.  Our house was destroyed.  Blown away by the Big Storm.  We didn’t know what to think.  We were just glad no one was home.”

IMG_8947

Because interviews like that really have happened around here.  A Georgia storm can come up from out of nowhere and pass just as quickly.

We had a pretty powerful storm pass through here yesterday.  Georgia. Where you can wait out a thunderstorm for five minutes and then the sun pops out and the only way you know for sure that it rained is the steam rising from the driveway.  I guess this one lasted longer than five minutes though, because it was pretty severe there for a little bit.  Especially when it knocked that nest out of its tree.

I don’t think I knew enough to be afraid of storms until the big tornado came through here in the early 70’s.  I remember hearing about it less than an hour after it happened, when Daddy took me through the drive-thru at Nu-Way.  And of course, the sun was shining again.  What really stayed with me (and this is the truth my very young self remembers) is something about the tornado going by my great grandparents’ house and being thankful they weren’t home.

Wow.

The tornado almost got people I love.

That’s when I started fearing them.  It probably coincided with me starting school and having tornado drills.  Those were enough to put the fear in me for sure.

I remember asking Daddy about the wisdom of getting in a ditch if I found myself on the road and a tornado came along.

“But Daddy, what if there’s a snake in the ditch?  What do I do then?”

“Well, Tara,” he said, in his slow, distinct way, “I reckon you just figure it’s your time.”

That’s pretty much the same thing he told the assessment nurse who came out to see if their living situation was okay for Daddy to manage after he broke his hip and wasn’t very mobile.  When she asked what they would do if the house were to catch on fire or a tornado were coming or something like that where they needed to evacuate, he told her the same thing.

“I reckon I’ll know it’s my time.”

I guess over the years, I’ve grown to respect storms and not fear them so much.  They are amazing to watch, and then–in a moment–they can be over.  Leaving little to no debris or wrecking entire homes–of birds and people.  Tonight I’m thankful that I was in a safe place with friends with a good cup of coffee when that storm hit yesterday.  I’m also glad that no birds were injured from that little nest, and that they’d all already flown the coop.  Most of all, I’m thankful I can still hear my Daddy’s voice and smile at the memories we have together.  From the worst of storms to the sunniest of days.  As long as I was with him, all was well.

Wishing you all sunny skies and cool breezes.

Love to all.

The One About Finding Just the Right Spot

Yesterday I was in our little laundry room switching a load from the washer to the dryer when something caught my eye through the window.

It was a bird.  Hopping a few “steps” at the time up the tree just a few feet away from the window.  I stopped to watch.  I saw the red crest on his head, and I knew he was a special one.

A woodpecker.

He would hop, and then stop and peck.  He’d tilt his head back, looking at the tree, and then up a few more steps.  He’d try it again, cock his little head, stare for a minute and then move on.  He did this over and over until he reached a spot about two feet from where I’d first seen him.  He tapped with his beak, leaned back, tapped again, and then he went at it full force.  Over and over and over, pecking at that one spot on the tree.

You know, doing what woodpeckers do best.

After I called the littles in to watch, and we all moved on to our own “what comes next,” I started thinking about the tenacity of that little bird.

He kept on moving, he didn’t waste time and energy and his talent and gift on the parts of the tree that weren’t just right.  He kept on until he found that sweet spot.  The spot where he could shine and his efforts could be the most effective.

You go, little bird.

There’s a lesson in that, right?  One I needed this week.  But then I am quite sure it was no coincidence that the little bird and I happened to meet at that tree outside that window at that exact moment.  Sometimes the Creator gets mighty creative in trying to get a message across to me.  (I can be a little hard-headed, but that’s a story for another time.)

Tonight I’m thankful for the reminder to keep on moving, to find the right place to share what gifts I’ve been given–the right thing to pour myself into.

Imagine how tired that little bird would have been if he hadn’t waited to hit just the right spot.  What if he had stopped a foot lower?  Or below that?  All that effort.  To no avail.  Only to end up exhausted.

May we all have the drive to keep on pushing until we find right where we are supposed to be, and may we have the heart to give it our all when we get there, so that we too can make our mark on the world.

Keep on pecking folks, we make things better when we find where we belong and let our light shine there.

Love to all.

The Birds Don’t Have a Weather App

The past couple of days have been unseasonably warm here in Georgia.  I’m not complaining, mind you, but while I enjoyed the warm air and I think my toes might actually have defrosted, I knew better than to trust it.

Sure enough, yesterday just before dark when Miss Sophie and I ventured out, there was a nip in the air again.

*sigh*

I know we haven’t had the snow to deal with like so many in our nation, but I live here for a reason.  (Well for several, but the pertinent one right now is that I don’t do snow.)

I thought I loved it when I was a child.  I think that had to do with how it caused school to be called off.  Just the threat of it sometimes was all it took.  As an adult though, I do not care for it at all.  Sure, it’s pretty, but it’s cold and slushy and just COLD.

This morning when I took Miss Sophie out for her morning constitutional, I opened the door, and the wind and cold took my breath away.

Do what?

Holding the leash in one hand, I immediately used my other one to open up my phone and look at the weather app.  I wanted to KNOW.  I mean I knew it was cold, but I wanted to know “how cold.”  (Because apparently my nose freezing up immediately and my breath coming out in visible puffs and not being able to feel my fingers wasn’t evidence enough.)

39.  Wind chill 34.

See?  I KNEW it was cold.

As we walked and I urged Miss Sophie to tend to her business a little faster, I listened to the birds singing.  I saw the cat Domino.  They didn’t need an app to know it was cold.  They didn’t have an app to prepare them for this cold weather.  They just existed.  I wondered if they were able to read signs that our people once paid close attention to.  I don’t know of many who can read the old weather signs much anymore.  We depend on the News Reports and the weather apps and there’s even that whole channel dedicated to weather and all that goes with it.

For goodness’ sake, I KNEW it was cold, and I still had to double-check the app.

It amazes me how dependent we as a people (okay ME) have become on electronics and the internet and all of these apps.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I do wonder what would have happened if I tried to pull out my phone and tell my Granny what the weather was going to be next week.  I’m thinking I might have gotten an earful.

The thing is today was cold.  Next week (according to the app) it will be warmer.  But I don’t trust it.  I know March 20 is the first day of spring, but I also know that Easter isn’t until April 5.  Granny always said there’d be an Easter cold snap.  That’s why folks who know don’t plant their gardens until Good Friday, two days before Easter.  And every single year, I’ve watched spring tease us and then step back and let that cold snap come right in and take over for a bit.  Granny was right.

Every single time.  Without an app.

Tonight I’m thankful for the birds and the cat (and all the other critters–except the snakes and spiders, I can only be so charitable) who survive and even thrive despite the cold.  I’m thankful for whatever tips them off that it’s going to be cold so they can do what they need to do to be okay.  I’m thankful for the wisdom of the folks from way back–knowing about things like Easter cold snaps–that they passed along the line.  Most of all, I’m thankful that, even though it’s not quite here, there is a light at the end of the frozen tunnel–and its name is spring.

Love and warm wishes to all.

 

Looking Up

This evening as I took Miss Sophie out for her evening constitutional, all was quiet except for the artisans finishing up the bricks on the new house.  (I am intrigued by their artwork and skills–I could stand and watch for hours, but I worry about being labeled a stalker in my own neighborhood, so I refrain.)

As I gazed up, breathing in the cold, crisp air, what I saw took my breath away.

The river of birds at sunset.  I tried to capture it, but this was a good as it got.  The birds are the tiny specks you might think are bits of dust on your screen.  I gave up trying to get a great shot and just watched, soaking it all in.

The river of birds at sunset. I tried to capture it, but this was a good as it got. The birds are the tiny specks you might think are bits of dust on your screen. I gave up trying to get a great shot and just watched, soaking it all in.

Oh bless it.

A river of birds.

Those blackbirds flying over in a pattern that was beautiful.  They waved and wound their way through the skies overhead, their darkness in striking contrast to the brilliance of the soft and lovely sunset.

And I remembered.

I remembered the first time I heard about the river of birds–the first time I’d heard it called that.  Pastor Bill talked about them as he shared stories with all of us at Miss B’s memorial service.

Miss B, our elderly cousin, who passed away two years ago today.  One week after Mama left this world.  Such a gentle soul, who is now dancing in a beautiful bright pink housecoat with no halt in her step and whose speech is now clearer than it’s ever been.  I know this with all my heart; I saw it all in a dream.  And I am thankful.

I am also thankful for this day two years ago, because hope was born.  Again.  Bubba’s new baby was born.  The one so loved and anticipated by us all.  He was born and we all fell in love.  And fell to our knees in thanks.  He had a hard start, but he’s a strong little guy, and he is a delight in our world.

Two years ago today.  A day that began with saying goodbye brought a beautiful hello by the time the sun set.

That’s what life does.  It’s never a straight cut path.  It waves and winds through joy and sorrow, good times and sad.  The most important thing about the journey, just as it is for our feathered friends, are the ones who travel alongside us, helping us to navigate the path.  Staying beside us and moving to lead the way when we need them to.

Tonight I’m thankful for the life of Miss B, who shared her love of beautiful things with us all and didn’t let what she “should” be able to do stop her from trying to defy the odds.  And I give thanks for my nephew, our Deer one.  He’s a sport, and his love and those eyes and when he says, “Oh sure…..”

Good job, God.  Thank You.

And happy birthday, little one!

Love to all.

 

Asking for Directions

I found myself able to etch out an hour or so yesterday evening to make a serious grocery shopping haul.  It’s been a while since I’ve spent that long in a store stocking up.

I made a rookie mistake from the start.  Cart choice.

The cart I chose was too small for all I needed to get.  And the way the wheels rolled were wonky.  Ka-dump, ka-dump, ka-dump.  All the way through the store.

But I persevered nonetheless, and I was about a third of the way through the store when an elderly gentleman walked slowly past me, looking perplexed.  I couldn’t help it–it had probably been twenty minutes since I had talked to anyone, so the side of me that I get from my Mama took over, and I asked him if he was looking for something.

Turns out he was looking for the jelly.  My mind spun around and it took me a minute to get my bearings. And then I remembered.  “Over by the bread,” I told him and gave him the directions to find it.

He smiled and was on his way.

For whatever reason, I came across two others lost, looking for a particular something in the store I’ve come to know pretty well (of course now that I do, they are going to change it all up in the next couple of months)–one was looking for juice and the other for aluminum foil.  I was able to recall locations and give directions both times.   (No small feat–busy store, long list, I was a bit befuddled at best.)

This evening I saw something that never fails to take my breath away.

The river of birds

The river of birds

A river of birds.

When I see them, I always think of our friend Pastor Bill who shared about the river of birds at our cousin’s memorial service almost two years ago.

I was so thankful to see them.  It had been a long and tiring day, and when I lifted my eyes to see them, my spirits lifted a bit as well.  I realized I’d been feeling a little lost today myself.

The birds were all flying together, in one direction.  Sharing the journey.  So that not one got lost on its way.

You know what those soaring wonders, flowing along so gracefully, taught me?

Don’t go it alone.

Tonight I’m thankful for folks who are brave enough to ask for directions when they feel lost and are looking for something.  They remind me to have courage to do the same when I’m searching for something or someone and can’t find my way.  I’m also thankful for the beauty in the journey when it’s taken together–how it makes the work of living a little easier with folks all around you headed on the same path.

May we too learn from the birds, and find ourselves surrounded by folks who can take turns leading and following and guiding us on our way.  May we never be truly alone for long, and when we are, I hope we can all find someone to ask for directions who might be willing to travel alongside us for a bit.

Love to all.

 

 

 

 

A Lesson From the Lyrebird

We are traveling around the world with our homeschool lessons this year.  We’ve been in Australia, and we’re about to move along to China next.  There is so much to learn about each one that it’s hard to decide when to stop and move on to the next country.

One of our favorite parts of our Australian studies has been the folk tales.  We’ve been reading from this book.

http://www.amazon.com/Stories-Billabong-James-Vance-Marshall/dp/1847801242/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406077911&sr=1-1&keywords=stories+from+the+billabong

We found our copy at Amazon.com

 

The littles have asked me to read their favorite stories to them again and again.

One story stood out for me, and I learned about an animal I’d never heard of before.

The Lyrebird.

They are fascinating animals who get their name because the males have tails that resemble the ancient Greek musical instrument, the lyre.  They are simple yet beautiful to me.

Photo by Debra--  https://www.flickr.com/photos/damselfly58/6302167338/in/photolist-aAUfMy-7eTRFh-eCh5QV-2kf66M-9bpNor-kzK5z9-5UFd4k-9AvxYg-9KHRzc-i9sWkS-bcY7Pa-co5bUW-dgMjBz-891SkC-azSEXh-5Ftocb-nEU6yd-8Epepn-burUjR-7GqmpE-9ARvPb-5jtmHq-bzL2BP-nTezgq-7zjbD8-8hBYDS-6pKDBc-9NzLm3-82aie5-fM8bH-85NQPx-4Luxcq-9ANyh8-8WV39C-bGQ8eH-9crjcF-9Nkh7T-7UmTwN-bR2QUF-7BUrQu-7M1SXL-4gExqd-8EFoFM-4Ng4Wy-busn5i-burXQK-8Aa7NQ-6bMzoR-dr8pvK-dr8Uhf/

Photo by Debra– Thanks to https://www.flickr.com/photos/damselfly58/

What is most amazing about these birds is that they can copy the sounds of other birds and the things they hear around them.  Even–the click of a camera and the sound of a chainsaw.

What?!  Yes.  Watch this video.  I have yet to tire of seeing this.

(Is the song “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree” playing in anyone else’s head now? No?  Okay, just checking.)

This bird is captivating, isn’t it?  I mean, that camera shutter and forwarding?  The chainsaws?  The CAR ALARM?

And while the talent of this beautiful Australian bird amazed me, it also made me sad.

Why is this bird of the wild able to imitate such things?  Why is he hearing a car alarm or a chainsaw out in the wild where he lives?

Sad.

And he thinks it’s beautiful as he incorporates it into his mating song.   He doesn’t even know what he’s “singing.”

The lyrebird is a lot like our children.  They listen and hear the things we say and the things said in their presence wherever they go, and they repeat them.  Not knowing what they are saying, only that it’s a part of their world, so it must be okay.

Or not.

That’s the lesson I learned from the lyrebird.  I have a tender spot for these birds now, maybe because in the story he was especially kind and generous.  Or maybe because he is able to sing such beautiful things, and bless him, he thinks the sound of a car alarm is just that.

Either way, the lyrebird reminds me that more are listening than I know.  At any given time, my children and others are watching and listening to find beauty in this world.  May what passes through my lips only add to it.

May your day be graced with sounds of beauty.  Love to all.