Moments that take your breath away.

 

We were sitting out on our big screen porch not doing much of anything, mostly just looking out at the yard, talking over the sweaty work we’d done there during the weekend. We’d spent some time in my much-neglected patio herb/flower garden pulling weeds and transplanting the orphan zinnias–now in the third or fourth year since the first planting, they had scattered their own seeds hither and yon and so brought a rather haphazard appearance to my (originally) well-planned garden. In fact, several danced way beyond the borders, their unbridled enthusiasm contagious if unkempt. I knew I needed to tidy up a bit. (It was getting out of hand.) Still it seems to me a flower that hell-bent on growing deserves every chance at success. Thus, the transplanting.

Anyway, I was sitting back in my white wicker armchair with a chilly Blue Moon when out of nowhere it started to rain. Just a sprinkle, at first, the kind of pitter patter that had us looking at each other saying Where did that come from? And then it came harder, more intense. The sky to the east was dark, a large bank of clouds spreading tree line to lake. To the west, though, was sun, pouring over and into our little portion of the earth like it was the very last chance it’d have to shine.

I’ll bet there’s a rainbow somewhere I said to Tim, loving this time, relishing the ordinary-ness of these moments, grateful there was not a big problem to be discussed or solved or managed. Just us, looking out over this yard, together.

Then just like that a rainbow appeared! Majestic and magical, arching over Bickley’s Pond.

Look at that! I said. And we did, counting the colors in the spectrum.

Then a bright yellow canoe paddled out from behind the trees at the bend in the cove, taking remarkable to extraordinary.

You couldn’t have planned that I said, and Tim agreed, and we sat there, looking at the pond, thinking how gorgeous it is to be alive, to live here on this pond, to be a witness to everyday miracles.

 

rainbow
May 31, 2015 on Bickley’s Pond

 

House Hunters

 

I will not write about the bluebirds in my next post. I’ll share something with a little more depth, more substance. Less obsession.

Promise.

Until then, though, we won’t even consider this a real post. It’s just a bonus weekend update. Because there’s news surrounding the bluebirds’ consideration of the new nest box, and I just have to share.

 

Papa
He’s all about it.

 

He’s been around a lot. Flying in. Flying out. Gazing with interest from the pretty scrollwork bench not four feet away.

 

Mamavisits
Seriously?

 

She–not so much. One or two visits, none convincing in the least.

Who can blame her? It’s been a long Spring, what with two failed nests and the loss of five precious babies, their eyes not even opened yet.

 

inside

 

Still he remains optimistic, even spreading a little straw in the bottom of the box, just to see how it feels.

There has been a lot of investigation. Some discussion.

 

two
She likes the open concept. He’s sold on the million dollar view.

 

And a whole lot of excitement on the part of Big Daddy.

 

Papabuilds

 

I love him.

 

 

 

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This happened.

I thought I was done with the bluebird posts, had finished pouring my constant worries on you, my friend. But a couple of things have happened that complete the story, finish the circle, wrap up the loose ends, if you will.

(I won’t judge if you click away. This bluebird business has gone on for quite a while now.)

First, this.

I took a walk down the steps the day after the killing, the one in which I looked into the box to find four of the babies missing, one still there but dead. I can’t for the life of me explain the timing of my going down to the nest box right then other than The Man Upstairs felt I was owed a complete explanation of the previous day’s sad events, my hypothesis proven. Or perhaps He knew I would go right over, insert my fingers and pull down the big wood door. And that would have been a Big Mistake. Because when I got to the window and looked toward the brick column, this is what I saw.

 

snake-wide
Aha!

 

I couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe it. That snake was in there right then, the evil-doer, his mouth no doubt full and his tale protruding. (Talk about a tell-tale sign.) Then I downloaded the photo to see it was, in fact, his head sticking out. Good lord.

 

closeup-snake

 

Kind and concerned bluebird experts later explained to me that rat snakes (Is that a rat snake? I would really like confirmation!) are excellent climbers that make light work of a brick column in pursuit of baby birds. So it’s a good idea  to take other–extraordinary–protective measures.

And so.

My sweet husband and I rushed to the bird store to investigate options. We decided on a metal pole, snake baffle AND we eagerly made notes about instructions for applying grease to the pole, if necessary. We also bought a brand spanking new bluebird house with cross ventilation AND a very swell peak-a-boo window to allow better photos of a nest in progress. Yea!

We He got it installed in a pretty spot in our yard and then we removed the old nest from the old house. It was a sad and difficult thing to do, but in the interest of science, I carried on.

 

nest
do you see the pretty white feather on the right?

 

It was a majestic double-decker, as we suspected, a new nest built right on top of the old one after its first five little eggs weren’t viable. The photo doesn’t do this next point justice but I believe it to be the most remarkable part of the entire story. Before building the second nest, the parents covered the first eggs with feathers.

 

eggs
another hypothesis confirmed

 

I think that’s lovely.

So now we wait. Chances are highly unlikely my bluebird pair will nest for the third time this late in the season, and to tell you the truth, I’d be happy just to see the female. I haven’t spotted her at all since the massacre and hope hope hope she is still out there, healthy.

 

new-home
home sweet (new) home

 

And so, once again, we wait!

 

 

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the circle

 

It would be light before long.

So as I’ve been doing since reading Maria Fabrizio’s fabulous Cultivating Creativity, I pulled my body from beneath the covers, splashed water on my face and headed to the Keeping Room for a little before-work writing. I fed the dog and made coffee, then I made an impromptu decision to walk down to the studio for a quick minute to say good morning to the bluebirds. They’ve been so kind to me with this brood, indulging me while I take endless photos as they feed and feed and feed the five nestlings.

(Did you know there were five? Did I show you the photo with that surprise?)

 

Yup. Five.
Yup. Five.

 

I’d checked on them one more time last night just before dark. They were sleeping peacefully, their little tummies filled with a grand assortment of creepie-crawlies from our yard.

Might as well take my camera I thought this morning and grabbed the one with the big lens.

I stood for a few minutes looking out the window. The sun was up now, so the light was good for a photo. I’d surely not need to wait more than five or ten minutes for one of the parents to show up with breakfast. I could spare that writing time. They wouldn’t be babies for long, after all.

Ten minutes passed.

I don’t know what’s keeping them I thought. Maybe they don’t feed first thing in the morning? But surely they do. I’ll count to a hundred, and one will show by then and I can get back upstairs to my writing.

Okay, I’ll count to two hundred.

Okay, three–but then I have to go up.

About that time Papa flew to the brick column just across from me, and delighted, I snapped this photo.

 

5.20.15

 

He flew over to the nest box, looked in the hole, looked away, then flew toward our yard’s outer trees, the spider still in his beak.

 

papa 2

papa-3papa-4

That’s curious I thought. The Mama must be in the box with the babies. I’ll wait just a bit and she’ll fly out.

Five more minutes pass.

I don’t hear the babies, I realize. So I open the window closest to the nest box and wait.

Not a peep.

Nothing.

~~~~~

It took all I had to walk over to the box, climb up on the chair and shine my iPhone flashlight into the opening. I could see bare nest, so I immediately knew something was wrong. I unhooked the latch, pulled down the door and saw that four of the babies were missing and one was still there, dead.

The nest was undisturbed.

~~~~~~

I have spent this day thinking of those birds: the miracle of them emerging from those tiny blue eggs; the desperate hunger cries from their big gaping beaks; the devotion of the parents, who nonstop cared for the babies and also watched out for each other.

I think of the predator: the snake (most likely) that was simply doing what snakes do in seeking out this meal; my insistence last summer that we kill the giant one we found lying on the mallard nest eating the eggs (and my worry that snake karma would get me back); the horror and magnitude of the circle of life.

I grieve for them all and worry greatly about the Mama bluebird. I haven’t seen her and can only hope she is somewhere safe.

~~~~~~

At a client event this morning, a local pastor offered a prayer that included a passage from Psalm 118.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Rejoice and be glad, I thought.

Some days this is tougher than others.

 

 

 

Note: I posted a precious, happy video of the babies yesterday before discovering the situation downstairs. After that I didn’t have the heart to put the link on Facebook or Twitter, so if you’d like to see it but didn’t, click here. It’s a nice memorial, I think.)

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the emergency blog post

 

My husband, Tim, says he wouldn’t exactly classify this “an emergency.”

 

5.15.15, 6:03 pm  on bickley's pond
5.15.15, 6:03 pm on bickley’s pond

 

Clearly, he’s not as excited as I am.







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Strawberry Fields Forever (I wish)

Lexington County strawberries
the taste of spring

 

I’ve been doing a little more post-surgery rehab on my shoulder, which means I have a new driving route as part of my routine. At least three times a week I now pass an unassuming little farm stand that sells buckets of just-picked, locally grown strawberries.

How happy I am I took a moment to pull over. What a delightfully sweet week this has been!

BONUS: Just came across this link from one of my faves, @CamilleStyles. Oh, yeah! ! http://camillestyles.com/summer/15-best-summery-strawberry-dessert-recipes/

 

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Toes and Fingers Crossed

 

male and female

I am happy to report the eggs in the Upper Spring Nest seem to be viable and I see the Mama’s sweet little nose stick out of the box from time to time. Meanwhile, I caught this beautiful scene on the bird feeder just a couple of days ago.

Fingers crossed we’ll have some bluebird babies in the next couple of days!

 

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The Here and Now

 

I’m writing a novel.

It’s been 18 months, and it’s something I still can’t say with a straight face.

It’s such a ridiculous notion, is the thing. I mean. Couldn’t I have started with something smaller? A poem? A short story, perhaps? Not me. A novel, right out of the creative writing gate. It’s an undertaking that’s huge, gigantic, epic. There’s plot and pace and rhythm. Character development and dialogue. Narrative. Historical accuracy. Dialect. Conflict.

Resolution. Aaahh, resolution.

But of all of it, the most terrifying thing for me is simply the enormous scope of the book itself.

(It scares the hell out of me just to think about it.)

And so I repeat to myself over and over the words I first heard Anne LaMott say, a quote she credits to D.L. Doctorow:

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

Thank. You. Jesus.

~~~~~~

We’ve been studying Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God in our beautiful, intimate women’s Sunday School class. It’s been a life-changer, this book, with I must remember this forever notes in nearly every chapter. This week’s study, for instance, included this passage I starred five times.

God is the God of right now. He calls us not to be regretful over yesterday or worried about tomorrow. He wants us to focus on what he is saying to us and putting in front of us right now. The enemy’s voice will focus on the past and the future while the voice of God will focus on today. He is the God of right now.

Does that give you the kind of peace it gives me? I mean. I’ve spent a lifetime fretting about things that are so far in front of me there’s no way to see them from this distance, no way to predict now what will happen then. How much stress I’ve created with this simple thought:

What if.

From now on, I’ll try to focus on those next four feet. Instead of trying to see beyond, I’ll just do What’s next. 

It’s a fine way to live, right here, right now. It’s how God has revealed each step anyway.

onestep
Life.

And it’s exactly how my novel is getting written, four feet at a time. I shine my little flashlight to illuminate the darkness, just focusing on This happened. And then this happened. It’s brought me to 70,000 words, and as Doctorow says, I now realize I can make the whole trip that way.

It’s a gorgeous life lesson. And it’s probably the real reason I’ve had to face down the challenge of writing this book.

I am grateful.

 

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