Category Archives: birds

Recklessness, and words thrown away.

Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors,
there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of night.

Lorrie posted that quote from Rainer Maria Rilke on her blog, and I have to agree with her that shrieking has somewhat the wrong tone as a descriptor… Even “reckless” can’t be right, because it’s all in God’s good order, even if it is more than I can fully appreciate with my puny and/or disordered soul.

She titled her post “Every Year is More Beautiful,” and I agree here, too, and that is part of the “problem.” The beauty in my world is magnified year by year, day after day, with over-the-top sweetness not to be compared with anything so flat as a slice of pie.

My garden is full of it, as is the sky above, and the birds’ songs. This week a house finch sang to me from the rooftop, and I realized I’d never heard his announcement before; it sounds like he is being quite emphatic about something. This morning I walked a little earlier than usual and saw and heard several more birds.

But what most occupied me on the path was hundreds of pages of Holy Scripture scattered on the pavement or in the leaves or grass at the side, and even in the creek. The first page was all alone, from the Gospel of Matthew, and as soon as I picked it up I saw another just beyond, and another… then larger parts of a little New Testament that had been ripped out of the sewn binding. I gathered each scrap or sheaf I saw, except for one of the orange covers and whatever parts might have remained inside it that I saw floating in the water below the bridge.

I read a line or two from a few pages, like,

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us,
from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son,
in truth and love.

But mostly I tried to be efficient
in the task of recovering the pages of more words similarly poignant.

It seems impossible for me to get a good picture of the cow parsnip in the creek. The whiteness of its flowers shrieks at my phone’s camera! This is the first year I’ve noticed that plant in our stream… and say, aren’t those some healthy nettles I see next to it?

Down there flitting among the willows and the cow parsnip was an unfamiliar bird. Dark grey, the size of a crow, but not acting like a crow. He flicked his tail frequently, and he had a black head and a vague black stripe down his back. I haven’t found him in the bird guide yet. To provide (so far) two new bird encounters in one week could be thought of as recklessly generous of my Father. How can He expect me to cherish His gifts if He lavishes them continuously?

And the button buds of the pyracantha are darling, not one as large as the head of a hatpin:

My neighbor Richard’s prickly shrubs are always half-dead, but they make white petticoated blossoms with blood-red hearts – so plucky and girly at the same time:

I wanted to read every wrinkled page of the Bible I picked up, because I was sure there were pertinent messages there… but of course I couldn’t, and I just brought them all home for a more honorable disposal. Eventually the evidence added up to three copies of the little orange Gideon New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs that had been torn and tossed.

I’ll type out just one meaningful verse from a photo above, that captures something of the excessive generosity of the Subject of these loosed leaves:

Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
Sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

But wait —
In that modern translation, I’m afraid the syntax doesn’t satisfy, as the end of my post.
So here is another excerpt from those pages, for your edification:

Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good,
And blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.

Amen.

I rest and breathe.

I’m breathing deeply of the cool and clean air that blows off of Lake Michigan, while my friends at home in northern California are wearing masks against the smoke that has filled the skies for a week now. Months ago I’d planned a trip to visit my oldest daughter Pearl and her family in their new home here in Wisconsin, and though I felt it necessary to delay my departure by a couple of days, I was finally glad to get out of town.

Milwaukee River

As soon as I boarded the bus that would take me to the airport, I began to relax, and when I did, and began to drop the burdens I’d been carrying, I felt the ache I’d been unconscious of before, and almost wept from the relief.

My eyes stopped burning as soon as I boarded the airplane, and what peace to sleep in a quiet neighborhood that night, with nothing threatening anywhere.

I’ve been taking walks with Pearl, visiting Port Washington with everyone after church, and in particular enjoying the wind and rain. Today I took a solitary walk and found a convocation of geese assembling by the little lake I can see from my bedroom window.

Of the grandchildren in this family, only Maggie and the Philosopher are still at home these days, both in high school. They introduced me to cheese curds and shared a few hugs already. We played Apples to Apples and laughed and laughed.

Back at my home, housemate Susan has a box of my important papers and things that she will take for me if she has to evacuate; with so many firefighters on task now and no high winds, it seems unlikely for my neighborhood. But four families I know have had their houses burn to the ground, and scores of friends have been evacuated.

Virginia Creeper

The first night in Wisconsin I didn’t sleep too well, but after a walk and a nap, the second night I logged ten hours of deep rest. Then I woke feeling brand new, or like my old self. I’ll be here a few more days, and maybe will write again before the next stage of this journey.

Heralds and singers all day long.

On the church calendar, we are still in Pentecost, that 50-day period between Easter/Pascha and Pentecost. We even take note of Mid-Pentecost, which was last week.

Of course, it’s never inappropriate to remind one another that “Christ is risen!” but during these weeks we make a special point of it and try to remember, instead of “Hello!” to greet one another with those words of joy and hope. For truly His resurrection from the dead, His overcoming of death, shows the power of God to deliver us from our own patches of darkness, no matter how impossibly deep and cold the current “grave” we find ourselves in.

Last night a robin came around to chirp the falling of dusk to me, “my” robin who always seems to be sent as an emissary from the Father – or more precisely, a herald: Gretchen, remember, God is here with you! I forgot to tell you that in my hotel in Atlanta earlier this month, the night when I was staying alone, a robin chirped right outside my ground-floor window just before darkness and a rainstorm.

This morning I woke to birdsong floating in from the garden and the trees. As I made my bed I joined in with them and sang a meditative version of the hymn, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing Life.”

Next week will be the Leave-taking of Pascha, after which we will focus on the Ascension of Christ. At Vespers the evening before, we will sing all those rousing Paschal choruses for the last time liturgically. I know the little sorrows and worries, confusing thoughts and maybe even some big heartaches won’t disappear from my earthly life, and I will want to keep singing these re-orienting melodies of Christ’s transforming Life.

I’m counting on the birds to be my helpers.