At the top of the sledding hill, the soft whir of tiny wings and the pleasant songs of chickadees surrounded me. They were dancing among the slender tree branches, up above my head against the deep blue of the afternoon sky, taking turns bobbing in and out of the dangling feeder.The rust-breasted nuthatch didn’t stir from his post on a square of suet as well-bundled sledders shouted their way down the hill, not even when I dared peek around the tree trunk to get a better look at him. In fact, he turned out to be a bit of a show off. Bet you can’t hang upside down while eating a chunk of lard.
You’re probably right, little birdie. But I can still relish a good hollering snow-in-the-face swish down a snowy hill, and that’s something.He looked at me skeptically, so I figured I’d better prove my point. I left him and his feathered friends to their feast, and down I went, small daughter tucked securely between my knees, flying over the bumps on the snowy track in the direction of the cattails. Down at the bottom of the hill, where the sun was laying long shadows across the river bed, there was an explosion of powder as the sled hit previously un-excavated snow. I shouted in triumph. My daughter, with a surprise face full of powder puff snow, was not so impressed. There were tears, then sniffles, then, to my relief, giggles as a generous sled ride up the hill was offered as recompense.
My yells of triumph quickly diminished to belabored frozen puffs of breath and the silence of effort as I shouldered into my yellow twine harness and trudged up the slope. But when I glanced back over my shoulder, I could just see her eyes between the frozen folds of hat and face-warmer, and they were scrunched into an unmistakable smile. She was riding like a queen in her shiny purple sequinned mittens, ensconced in state upon her blaze orange plastic chariot, and I was her trusty stead.
Oh, to be four again, when the troubles of life are so quickly and easily solved! As I paused briefly to catch my breath, I noted that the birds were still bobbing and flitting in and out of the swinging feeders at the top of the hill. In the midst of this long, hard winter, they were obviously grateful for kindness of these and other thoughtful neighbors that make their daily food search easier. I am grateful to the same neighbors for letting us take over their steep back yard for an afternoon. Also grateful for the warmth exertion supplies, coupled with the sunshine that made it seem not quite as cold as the thermometer read.At the top, I gave my older daughter a hearty push for a solo trip down the hill, then opened the screen door for Miss Purple Mittens to head happily indoors to hot chocolate. (Bless you, Martie, for that!) I deliberated over which child to follow—but then a large hairy woodpecker swooped in and made my decision easy. Perhaps the only thing quite fascinating enough to distract me from sledding or a good hot drink is a compelling photo opportunity.
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26)
“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water [or hot chocolate, if you live in northern Minnesota] to one of these little ones…truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:42)