Sunday, August 30, 2009

Watching Red

The other day, my brother Wesley sat on his front steps & watched a hummingbird closely eyeing his red car. The tiny bird next keyed in on a red helmet next door, in front of my home. She then moved to a huge red Christmas bow. It is part of one of my son's woodworking projects. He watched as she darted around the corner & out of sight.
I was out back, lounging in the pool & watching when she zoomed into my view. She loves our red cannis, bee balm, trumpet vines, & lilies, among other garden treasures. Now, I understand why the hummingbird feeder section of the stores are full of red items.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Between 2 Worlds

I love what I do with my days! Others would call it, "work" or their "job". For me it is what I have chosen to fill my days with. In college, I bounced between a lot of majors, but ultimately returned to my first goal: to teach middle school art. I love art & I love's a no-brainer. I have a blast watching them grow as artists. I love bringing them new media & techniques through which they can express themselves. I am uplifted by constant wonderment in what they will do & who they will become...When the last bus is gone, I still find it difficult to leave. There is a reflective anticipation in the room. Planning & preparing for what I will bring them next can be remarkably exhilarating.
I have been teaching & discovering middle school artists for nearly 10 years. I have always wrestled with finding a balance between "my 2 lives". Several times this week, I found myself climbing into my van, arms laden with school work only to find it was well past suppertime. Returning home I wondered how I had missed another day with my family...You see, I love both of my worlds: school & home. My National Board mentor modeled for me how to bring continuity to my life by including the kids in my home life. After 8 days back in the classroom, I am already fully entwined in the life I have chosen...& this wrestling. My inspiration & excitement is revived!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


When life's throes become too overwhelming, a good cry is often the best thing for me. More often than not, I just need to give it some time. That way I can gain perspective. It has taken me years to learn that lesson. I had to learn another lesson the hard way. Most people when they, "need to talk" really just need a good listener. I have been trained as a peer counselor as well as a rape companion/advocate. Most of my mental health training has hinged on a key concept: people have their own answers, they simply need a good listener to help them find their own way. People in difficult, vulnerable, or out of control circumstances aren't really helped by someone putting in their own thoughts... They need to take back control of their own lives. I am blessed to have married my best friend & confident, but I have not always known who I could best trust to lean on for support. I tended to be drawn towards those who would tell me what I wanted to hear, rather than those who would listen. A true friend...someone with my best interest at heart, will tell me what I need to hear. I suppose that comes back to the notion of caring enough to confront. I have seen people glob on to folks in need & try to impose their own viewpoint....& it leaves me wondering what their real motive may be.....It is a hard, hard road to watch others go through this.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Choice of Love

My folks gave me these lilies at my request. They are, "something I wouldn't buy for myself" & were sent "all the way from Holland~~on a ship". I enjoyed weeks of anticipation. The great thing about a gift like this is that it is renewed every year. I remember things like that. I have been really into perennials this year as they are such a delight when they return.
I see so many people struggling with relationships, lately. My husband & I have been together since 1985, though we have known each other even longer. We laugh & play together, daily. As in any relationship, we haven't always been "in love"...The real secret to a long-lasting relationship is CHOICE. Every day, we have a choice to make it last or to call it quits. Most of the time, it is without a thought, but there have been times when each of us had to be very deliberate to choose to love one another. I believe THAT is the true secret of a fulfilling & long -lasting relationship.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Times Between

Friends of mine have been out of work for months. It feels like every day I meet someone else who has been laid off or their business has closed. I know folks who are losing their house & others who are wrestling to keep their marriage. The list goes on...
The other night, I stood in line at the viewing of a 14 year old with her identical twin sobbing over the casket. The wait was long...a wonderful tribute to a beautiful life...a wonderful child. As I waited, I thought of all the things that people I know are going through. I kept hearing their voices in my head asking, "Why is all of this happening at the same time?" It occurred to me that if all the bad stuff were spaced out, we would never get a rest from the pain of THIS world....
I don't believe that God causes bad things to happen, but I do believe that He will turn our greatest hurts into His ultimate purpose if we ask Him in. Surely, the hurts help us appreciate the blessings, but suppose the timing of things is a way He intervenes for us?...just a thought.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Little Boy Forts

I can hear them now: “Do you remember the day dad helped us build a fort in the bedroom?”
“Yeah, we spent all day & into the night stapling sheets to the walls and headboard of the train bed!”
“We even had sheets under sheets that made different rooms!”….
How precious are these memories!!!! Worth so much more than 5 minutes of spackling. So many parents get uptight about the little, even out of the ordinary things. I want my son to think outside of the box & find creative solutions…Yes, one day he will help fill the holes & learn the other side of it. That too will help him define “the box”…which I hope he grows to ignore as much as possible.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Hurts Heal Old Wounds

Some years ago, I had a new friend & we were getting pretty close. One evening as we enjoyed the sunset, she shared some deeply intimate stuff. I have no idea what my reaction was...& believe me, I have replayed it in my head for these past years. I just remember I was concerned for her, but I don't recall being judgmental. That's really not my style. The next day, she was very "professional" & has remained so ever since...5 or 6 years. Whenever I asked her what was up, she remained courteous, distant, removed. I have felt confusion, hurt, regret...(for what, I still don't know). Mostly I have been utterly baffled. I had to let it go...
This is the season that I harvest the rich, dark-chocolate colored 4 o'clock seeds. I have done this so often the female hummingbird now joins me. I find myself replaying the confusion of that broken alliance, as well as several more recent hurts. I also find myself thinking of a new & very dear friend ~ a neighbor. I recently admitted to myself how very dear she is to me & then she called to tell me they are moving. Deep within, I thought to myself, "Yup, when you let people in...allow yourself to get close, they leave". Then it struck me: I don't really get together with people much anymore at all....Then, I made a connection! It was more of a revelation....Without even being aware of it, that passive abandonment by a friend had left me changed & I had closed off. I have taken for granted that my neighbor is just around the corner & now she will be across town. The closeness can remain, despite the proximity. I will have to be be more deliberate & intentional. I think I shall do this in many things & with many people.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pinwheels in the Dark

As I sat in a chair amidst the Golden Sea of forest flowers, I reminisced about the docks just below my feet. A week earlier, dear friends (& blog followers through FB) shared in my evening watch. When the 1st bat appeared I recalled that I had told them 3 more would join in. They did so then, just as on this evening. On this night, as the suns’ light waned & my candle lantern seemed to brighten, I could not tear myself away. The lake surface began to calm. Slowly, pink ripples began to appear. They did not seem the usual river current & it was not the typical patterning of schooling fish. I arose to look down on the circles, which were throughout the cove. I was absolutely filled with wonder as I realized they were as underwater pinwheels! Each "spoke" was as the depth of a child's toy pinwheel!It was truly remarkable!!!
I stayed long past dark gazing in wonderment & went to bed still filled with curiosity.
The next morning, I headed down to the landing in the pale light of the half-moon. As my eyes adjusted, I could see the circles were still all over the cove, though fewer in number & often accompanied by a silver flash of a fish. They came as close as the landing on which I sat. As the light grew, the pinwheels faded into circles, once again & there was evidence of schooling.

Notice how mirror-like the water is around this school of fish. The extreme center of the first image is the closest I was able to get to a "pinwheel". They just would not do it in the light. As I so often quote, "Some images are just for the film of the soul."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bird Watching

The other day seemed to be bird day, but from the start it seemed that the birds were all off schedule. Typically, it is the wren that begins the morning praise, but she was delayed & the early hours started with "The Iris Bird" [Oven Bird]. Rather than a flock of swallows soaring high, there was only a pair. They were down low, darting in & out of the tree where usually a pair of young cardinals play. The new hawk did not glide by at her appointed time, nor was there evidence of the kingfisher. I did not hear the familiar coos of the widowed mourning dove, nor even the rooster far off across the lake. Perhaps the best explanation for these oddities was the sound of the crows cawing in the distance.

Our lake is actually a dammed river and Great Blue Herons nest at it's mouth. In the spring & autumn, they make their way downstream, to our cove. On this morning, I saw the male come lumbering around Beaver Point & rest in a tree across the water. He stayed for a long while & when he did leave, he headed down-river.

That afternoon, I lounged in the pool and watched such a colorful variety of red cardinals, yellow goldfinches, green hummingbirds, bluebirds, robin red-breasts & of course, blue-grey tits, & russett wrens ! The red-shouldered hawk, "My Girl", soared overhead & I was able to see her go into a full dive. It was such a treat to see so many brilliant, pure colors in the birdlife !!!! Amazing !!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Wild Turkeys

There are 2 cow fields within a mile of our home. As I passed by the other day, I spied a flock of wild turkeys...Alas, I was without my camera ! I raced home & grabbed it, knowing that turkeys are far too clever & elusive to remain for long. To my surprise, they were still there! As I stopped the van the toms perked right up & the flock began to wander towards the forest. The best image of the group that I got was from my van. As I clicked open my door, their meandering took on more intent. It was a rare treat to catch their image.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Little One

1½ days after our baby wrens had gone, my son ran in exclaiming that one had been injured by a feral cat. "Little One" was fine but she is the runt...the one in the back who didn’t get her full share of nourishment in the nest. Next to the thumb of an 8 yr. old, she looks larger than is true. I told the boys they had to spend all afternoon feeding her. London asked, “Mom…? Do we have to chew them up & spit them into her mouth?” (I had told them this when the babes first arrived). Unable to find grubs, the 2 boys now fed her worms. She did eat them but she would need a more balanced diet.

After consulting with animal rescue, we over-nighted her outdoors. In the predawn hours I sat out & listened for the birds to awake. As they began their song, I gently brought forth Little One. As I held her, she is not much bigger than a golf ball & is nearly weightless. See how tiny she is in the washcloth, next to the petunias.I returned her to the protection of the side flowerbed & she immediately started calling out for her parents. They would feed her & continue her flight training. By mid-day the beds were silent.
In the evening, I could hear her siblings practicing for their adult voices, but not Little One…..As I lounged in the pool, watching the sun set, a hummingbird landed near me. I spoke a soft greeting & heard the familiar cheep of Little One high in a tree. We spoke back & forth a bit. Her dad flew in, chittering warnings & she fell silent. Apparently it is his charge to keep up with her.

When I was a child, my brother over-nighted a mourning dove. She returned to raise her young and would come near him throughout her life. I hope Little One will do the same….

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

& Then There Were 3

The hawk has been circling low over our deck, keenly attentive to the cries of the baby wrens. A Cooper's Hawk, known for feasting on songbirds, has also appeared. We provide what protection we can by keeping the umbrellas up & keeping someone outside.

The babies are beginning to look like wrens now. They are large enough to shake the entire basket of flowers. One in particular has grown to exploring outside of the nest. We kept vigil, knowing "he" would fall out. When he did, he scurried across the rose garden. He flew across the pool from atop a towering wall. Momma & daddy wren are good parents & surrounded him in his meager cries. So strong in the nest, he seemed so tiny & frail in the forest. His cries sounded so vulnerable & helpless, yet he was able to fly into treetops. The sky grew suddenly dark, as a summer storm blew up. As I watched the storm from the carport, I could hear his momma continue to call to him, even in the downpour. We listened out for him throughout the rest of the day, hearing that she had guided him to the denser part of the forest. The 3 remaining babies were curious & confused, though noticeably more comfortable in their tiny space.

Yesterday, my husband asked me what the momma was saying. I replied, "I like to think that tiny bird, with the largest of songs, is singing out praises to our God & King". He listened for a minute & agreed.

This morning I arose to the mommas' glorious song. Venturing out, I hoped to count 4 babies, safely "home".... But they are all gone... only 13 days new. A jumble of feelings courses through me. I am proud of, & frightened for them. In my very being, I have a deep sense of foreshadowing, as my own young one grows so quickly.....

I have grown accustomed to momma wren singing, while their daddy chides & scolds. This morning, they both sing proudly back & forth across the forest area that is filled with 4 tiny voices.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Looking Closer

The saying goes that "some woman" thought kudzu was pretty and it was brought to this country for "erosion control". According to Mr. Cotton, up the street, it can grow three feet in a day.(he measured). It is next to impossible to get rid of. Our little forest beside us is being consumed, despite my husbands' efforts to the contrary.

Nancy Basket is a native American who has learned to capitalize on this free media. Her studio is made of baled & stuccoed kudzu. (Google her & see for yourself how amazing she is!). She taught me how to make paper & baskets out of kudzu. I have woven several baskets of this vine, in the last couple of weeks. Nancy Basket also makes soaps, candies, & jellies from it's flowers...

I have been meaning to write on "seeing what we choose to see". This morning, I think I shall just show a side of kudzu few look close enough to enjoy...the kudzu blossom. It's fragrance is that of grape soda bubbles and it really is a treasure. (I would, however prefer to keep my trees).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Caring Enough To Confront

One of my brothers gave me that sage wisdom when I was in middle you care enough about someone to confront them or just let them go on as usual?....about too much eye-shadow, some character trait, some slight you feel towards or from get the idea.
I talk too much. I have been wrestling with this my entire life, but very intensely over the last couple of years. I chatter away incessantly when I am nervous & want to be liked or accepted. I talk too much when my sleep has been messed up. I cover depression by talking too much....I feel knotted up afterwards...& am always filled with questions I wanted to ask people about themselves....

A couple of years ago, a group of beloved people all but dropped me for reasons that over time, just didn't add up.....All sorts of things have run through my head. I guess, rather than talking to ME about it, they talked to each other about me... I recently learned that it was because I talk too much...Rather than confronting me & "hurting [my] feelings", those people chose to virtually step out of my life...Of course, that wasn't a conscious decision..."Indecision is a decision"...
Perhaps, they were put in my life to be God's voice & give me the answer I so earnestly prayed for..... In the long run, which would have been the kinder thing to do? How many friends & loved ones have I lost over this? Even as I was wrestling with it, myself....

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Different Perspectives

Same time, same place. What a difference a day makes !

Gifts of Gold

Yesterday was my birthday & I set out in the morning with an air of new beginnings. Passing the baby wrens, eyes now open on day 6, I decided to head for the familiar docks below. I haven't been there in over a week. As I hit "The Glade", I was astonished to be met by a buzzing sea of gold !! This area has not been tended due to the neighbors closing off the main access [see April 26 post]. As so often is the case, God brings delight from deceit. He brings glory from amidst our suffering. The flat land between the steep & the shore has erupted into a sensual oasis of golden blossoms amidst delicate mimosa type fronds.

The sound & movement of hundreds of carpenter bees brought it absolutely to life ! Sitting amidst this, with flower stalks easily to my shoulders, it seemed to have no end. I gazed upon the bees, their droning music all around & watched them work, their furry legs already heavily laden with pollen. Awaiting me, too were many other flowers & I had such a time of wonder with my maker. What a great way to start my "new year"!
In the afternoon, I lounged in the pool, watching a pair of goldfinches alight above me. The males' vivid yellow so stark against the black trim was amazing & set against the Carolina blue sky it was almost overwhelming in it's beauty !!

My heart has been heavy for many of you who write to me of your trials. I really do understand how difficult it is to cleave to hope when all around the darkness closes in. Cling to this hope: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalm 30:5)!! Though you feel your faith is deep enough, & your night has been far too long, He knows your limits & He walks the way beside you. I pray for you as I "watch" & throughout my days. Driving around this "growing area", each day I see additional businesses closed & houses in foreclosure...I think of & pray for you. To you & all others who come across this, I offer up this "Sea of Gold", my birthday present to you & yours, as a promise & a hope.

As the adage recalls, "When you reach the end of your rope, you will find the hem of His garment".

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Baby Wrens, Day 5

All 4 babies are sporting wonderful mohawks ! They began to tweet on day 3. Today, the merest shadow over their still closed eyes sets them reaching for momma. They are, howe3ver smart enough that if the nest is turned, they silently recede into their nest. (To get an idea on size, the nest is made of grass, not twigs.)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Steps of Change

There is a dense cloud cover this morning ~the feel of autumn breezes, even as I arose just passed 4. The clouds race by overhead. The miry thick air, is dense with anticipation. No breaks in the cloud masses can be seen anywhere on the horizon. Birds call & sing as I enjoy perhaps, my last dawn on these vacant steps. It is one place I pray for neighborhood issues. I will return to the pond-side bench, or the rock on the edge of my driveway...I've spent countless hours on these steps...praying for those who God would bring to this empty house.
Time has taught me the enormous difference one household can make in the dynamics of a neighborhood. Yes, I have spent many hours here, praying...only to have God lead the family of a co-worker ~ fellow-believers ~ here, to this obscure little piece of the city. Handing over my prayer steps will be a symbol of change & new life....a new beginning for the neighborhood, for friends, for the end of summer & the beginning of a new school year. They shall primarily be a symbol of promise & answered prayers & of God's working everything out for His Mighty purpose. I look over the strife of recent months, things I have shared with you in a vague, generalized sort of way...and I CAN see blessings. I have been blessed with new friends, & support...days together with folks who pitched in helped me, physically & in prayer.
As I face another birthday & a new school year, it really IS time for change. Throughout my life I have said, "I don't do change well". In my journal today, this verse was printed: " He hath made every thing beautiful in His time...." (Ecc. 3:11)...change IS a good thing.