Archive | January 2013

Shadow Trees

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Mid-winter blahs.  I realize one morning that for some time I haven’t been very attentive to the mysteries of life inside and outside my windows.  “But what’s to see?” I ask myself, weary of the sometime snow, the sometime shabby brown grass, and the always winter-drab trees.  And then I see them.

Strong and tall.  The shadows of my backyard trees stretch through my neighbor’s lawn, creep up his house and dance their limbs atop his roof.  Bold and stark and inky in their blackness; yet not the least bit sinister, they weave their way across the grass and fling the artful patterns of their branches here and there and almost everywhere that I can see.  So stately proud these mighty shadow trees!  Yet quietly they bow to winter sun, tilting first to west in early morning, then to north about midday, and finally to east as parting sun murmurs its blessing for another day.

Tomorrow there may be no winter sun; the shadows then will fold in on themselves, and nestled deep inside each tree, they’ll patient wait for sun to call them once again to paint their deep, dark patterns that will slice the grass, the snow, the ice—but always gently, always quietly, always without fanfare, always simply there, guests of the sun beneath the vast-arched sky that kindly wraps them soft beneath its ancient gaze.  A sky that wraps us too.  A sky that holds the hope that every mark and shadow that we cast will be as firm and bold, as gentle and as quiet, as playful, as artistic, as the shadows of those trees.

At the Feeder

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Each day they gather at the table set

especially for them; crowding, shoving,

eager each to claim priority of space, to

snatch the first and finest of the feast.

The cardinal, of course, comes first,

a scarlet burst of swagger as he makes his

regal bow to me and to the world;

and then, in case I didn’t pay

sufficient heed at first, he, pompous,

bows again—before he deigns to take a bite.

The sparrow seldom comes alone;

he comes, instead, with aunts and uncles and with

cousins by the dozens; and they’re not a peaceful

clan!  They brawl and scrap and

snap and push, and, in their frenzy,

spray the deck with seed, which,

happily, the silky mourning dove collects in

humble bows and dips of pastel graciousness.

And then the chickadee, so ever prim and

proper, flies in to sit most daintily, concerned to

manicure her toes, remembering only now and

then to pop a seed into her mouth.  The

titmouse never lingers long—just a hurried

peck before he swoops away into the trees, his

eyes almost as big as he, and ever so forlorn.

Tiny wren avoids the rush, disdains the mob, and

comes alone to sample, taste, and munch, her tiny

tail as ever in-the-high, while silly nuthatch turns her

agile body upside down to grab a bite, as if to say she

thinks the world makes much more sense that way!

I love to watch our birds, and as they gather

day by day, I think of yet another feast, a holy feast

prepared for us—for us, though often we are just as

foolish as the birds, forget the grace that

summoned and instead come thoughtless to the

altar rail, display our cardinal virtues and our

vanities, and try to veil our sparrow scrappiness; cling to

titmouse fears, and feel our lives at times to be as

topsy-turvy as that of nuthatch eating

upside down; yet, broken, needy, we are

welcomed—all—just as we are, to eat and drink a

holy food that sates a hunger never filled by

earthly bread alone.