On the Third Day of Summer…

img_9135.jpgIMG_9443.JPGIMG_9384.JPG…my true love gave to me,

Three turtles crossing.

That first mama snapper?  She was big and black and dinosaur-like, but kind of boring.  She lumbered up into the yard one morning, checked out our puddles, bulldozed through my freshly-planted bed of onions, then lumbered back off to the lake, without so much as doing us the courtesy of letting us watch her lay eggs.

The second painted turtle was mostly rather cross about being herded out of the way for departing Wednesday night Bible study traffic.

I’d like you to notice, however, that I switched to the traditional line “true love” for today, because the little snapper in the third photo was, literally, given to me by my true love.  She was handed to me by my husband after being saved from certain doom on a busy highway, because I was in the passenger seat and he was not, and driving a vehicle while holding a snapping turtle is not necessarily recommended in the books.  In hindsight, I’m really not sure why we didn’t just switch places so I could drive while he held the turtle, but he says he thought it would be good for me to brush up on my turtle handling skills, and I suppose he was right.

This was after a failed experiment of containing the creature in the only container we could find in the car, a (breathable) shopping bag, from which she escaped and was temporarily lost under the driver’s seat.  If you’ve never had a snapping turtle loose in your vehicle, you are really missing out, by the way.  It’s very exciting, and you will discover what you always wanted to know, which is how nimble people actually are at tucking their feet up.  It will also leave all occupants vowing to always keep A Proper Turtle Container in the trunk for future such emergencies.

So there was nothing to do but hold her, and I took lots of one-handed photos while she intermittently fought my grip on her shell with her powerful webbed feet, and hung submissively, eyeing me closely.

“She either likes you or she doesn’t,” Zach observed helpfully.  Then, as if to settle the question, she stretched out her neck very long and arched it menacingly back toward my hand, and I raised my eyebrows and said firmly, “DOESN’T,” followed with some urgency by, “Are we there [at a safe turtle launching point] yet?!?!”

“Hold on,” he said encouragingly, “We’re almost there.”  This was true, and I must say that I was relieved to hand her over to his much more capable hands when we arrived. 

But seriously?  Encounters with wildlife, even when they’re just a tiny bit too close for comfort, are one big reason why I love these summer months, right along with the rest of my family.  Each creature, in all the glory of their splendid masterful design, armored shells, powerful beaks, elastic wrinkles, inquisitive intelligent eyes, brings praise to their Creator as they move and breathe and go on that annual search for the perfect place to lay some eggs.

If we can help them out a bit, and get close up looks in the process, we consider it an honor.

“My mouth will declare the praise of the LORD; let every creature bless His holy name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:21)

 

Did you miss the others in this series?  This way to the first day and second day.

Goldeneyes and a Chimney: a Birthday Tale

IMG_1966“Why are there ducks zooming around and around our house?” I asked my husband between bites of pizza.  It was our youngest daughter’s first birthday, and we were celebrating out on the porch.  There was a chocolate cake resting in state on the kitchen counter, awaiting its demise, and the sunshine of a splendid June day was slanting long across the green fields.  She was grinning happily as blueberry-purple-carrot puree dribbled down her chin onto her bib, oblivious to the fact that this was all supposed to be about her.  “It’s almost like they’re playing or something.”

We see plenty of ducks flying around here, but they’re generally zeroing in on the lake–so this was odd.  Around and around they went at top speed, wings whistling, tilting around the tree tops.  I’ve never been to an airshow, but this kind of seemed like one.  I moved my camera setting to Sports and attempted a few flying shots in vain.  I couldn’t even find them in my viewfinder, let alone get a clear photo!

Then, as I stepped off the porch in hopes of a better vantage point, I noticed something else.  Whenever they’d pass the garage, they’d kind of pause and flutter in around the chimney before taking off to resume zooming again.  Not just once but every time.  Now my curiosity was definitely piqued!IMG_1943I began creeping my way across the yard, in hopes of catching a photo during one of these chimney pauses.  And then the plot thickened: as a couple of them were fluttering about, one landed…IMG_1935-1poked its head in the chimney…IMG_1937.JPG…and then disappeared!  What?!

One of the other ducks fluttered confusedly about and then landed on the ridgepole.  It eyed me suspiciously as though to inquire, “What did you do with my friend?”  I took advantage of its distraction to get a good close shot before I ran back to the house.

“I think one of those ducks just went down the garage chimney,” I informed my husband. We both went to investigate. He opened up the chimney pipe and peeked inside.  Nothing.  He shrugged.  I shrugged.  Maybe I had been mistaken.  We waited a few minutes, then turned to leave.

Ka-boom!

Without any warning, one winged body exploded from the chimney pipe, followed by another.  Two ducks!  In the garage!  Bang!  Crash!  Suddenly everyone was ducking and running, yelling in excitement.  A crack in a garage door was all they needed, however, and then they exploded out into freedom.  I watched them settle onto the mirror glass of the sunset lake, shaking their little bodies as though to rid themselves of the memories of claustrophobic chimneys and dark unfamiliar garages.

Well, that was exciting.  And now that we’d had our free entertainment for the evening, it seemed like a good time to break out the chocolate cake and the bird identification books and find out what kind of ducks they were and what they were doing.  Did you know that common goldeneyes (the identification we finally settled on) are some of the few ducks that are considered “arboreal” which means that “much of its nesting is done in cavities found in mature trees”.  Did they think that our garage chimney was a just another hollow tree?  Seems like a reasonable explanation.  But why so many of them interested in it all at once, this late in the season?  This answer was not to be found in the books.  If you know the answer, let me know!

Moral of the story:  Some birthdays might just unexpectedly be for appreciating the sometimes taken-for-granted fact that on the fifth day “God said…”let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created…every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and…let birds multiply on the earth.” (Genesis 1:20-22)

 

 

 

Perfumed Palace

IMG_1019A little farmhouse on a lake is a very nice place to live, but there are a couple times every year when something happens to make it feel pretty much like a palace.  Like when the big old lilac bush out front blooms.  We’re rich in lilacs over here, folks.

Bonus if you have a friendly chipmunk who lives deep inside this marvelous perfumed bush and scurries out to seek handouts at al fresco luncheons.IMG_0827I wonder if he feels as rich as I do when his home is in bloom?

“Praise the LORD!  How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in His commandments… Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.” (Psalm 112:1, 3)

All These Things

IMG_1042IMG_1043This is the story of a search for morel mushrooms.IMG_1055 Twice I went looking…IMG_0883Twice I returned empty-handed.IMG_1052But, in process of closely examining large stretches of forest floor in vain, I did make a lot of other wonderful discoveries.IMG_0880 Once, I sat quietly staring into a stand of fiddleheads so long, a grouse thought I’d left and started drumming his log within ten feet of me.  For just a minute, I thought my heart was palpitating—until I realized that he was really just that close.  Then he exploded suddenly off into the woods when I tried to shift to a spot with a better view, which is, incidentally, when my heart rate did increase.IMG_0891I nearly stepped on the elaborate den of some creature (I’d like to imagine it a fox den, but it more likely belongs to far less charming skunks), and happened upon a wolf track, perfectly dried and preserved in last week’s mud.IMG_0886-01 IMG_1039  I chanced upon a place where jack-in-the-pulpits preached in a woodland meadow to spears of blue flag leaves…IMG_1048…and another where the wild plums were wreathed in clouds of frilly white.IMG_0978I didn’t find what I was looking for—but I did find so much more.

The search for the elusive edible delicacies of the forest will continue.  One day, I’ll find what I’m actually looking for—and we’ll fry them up in butter and eat them—but even after that it will continue, because then they’ll be gone and we’ll want more. It’s one of those kind of searches, never ending, always new, always exciting.  The desire is insatiable.  If you don’t like morel mushrooms, I’m sorry that you won’t be able to identify with this, but if you do, you know what I mean.

And along the way, the search is always guaranteed to be fruitful.

Because, see, regardless of whether I came home with mushrooms or not, I did come home with my head and camera full of spring’s splendor flung glorious across the forest.  (Such riches!)  And I did find information to help me with future searches.  (Now I know where they’re not, sigh.)

It reminded me, in a happy, unexpected sort of way, of another ongoing search I’ve been challenged to, one in which I continually search for one thing of great value and end up with so much more along the way.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

 

 

 

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Bird Identification

IMG_0476.JPG“Look, Mommy, it’s an ostrich!” cried my oldest daughter excitedly from the window.

“No, it’s not—that’s an eagle!” my two-year-old contradicted indignantly after running to see.

At that point, curiosity getting the better of him, Papa got up out of his chair to investigate.

“That, little girls,” he said, “is a goose.”

Obviously, a tie-breaking vote was needed, so then I joined everyone at the window.

“Yep, it’s a goose.”

“Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (2 Corinthians 13:1)

 

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Venturing West: Wildlife

IMG_4168I think what makes the sweeping landscapes of the west the most compelling is that moment when you walk down the winding path from the scenic overlook into the heart of the rugged hills—and find that the valleys are teeming with life.

You find that the lonely plains are not so very lonely after all, but bursting instead with the spring trills of meadowlarks on fence posts and the clucking of brilliant shy pheasants.  IMG_3800A coyote comes out of nowhere, and a prairie dog town bursts into whistles of warning as the sentinels stand motionless, upright and vigilant at the entrances to their burrows.IMG_4037IMG_4052 A pompous tom turkey proudly fans his splendid tail out, dragging wings dramatically along the ground.  A big-eared mule doe lifts her head, whisking her flag tail nervously at the sight of us.  Is there a tiny fawn hiding in that thicket behind her?IMG_4189IMG_3919Wild mares sniff the air cautiously while tiny colts rest peacefully amidst the sage brush.  IMG_4152.JPGIMG_4161Along a bare windswept ridge, a herd of bison move as one together.  One gaunt cow grazes greedily without looking up, as her wee calf wobbles along in front of her, still a little unsteady on his feet.IMG_4121IMG_4158And on and on it went.

Needless to say, we were in awe at the incredible beauty and variety in this world of animals so different from those native to our own neighborhood.  In fact, we saw such an amazing assortment of wildlife in such a short period of time, it kind of felt like some grand orchestral rendition of “All Creatures of Our God and King” should have been playing as the soundtrack of our trip—or at least this Psalm:

“Praise the Lord from the earth, ye…beasts, and all cattle; creeping things and flying fowl…Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.” (Psalm 148:7, 10, 13)

And just imagine—someday we’re actually going to hear these creatures, along with thousands of others, voice their praise to their Creator:

“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.” (Revelation 5:13)

IMG_4193The thought of that absolutely gives me goosebumps.

 

Fatherly Vigil

father swan / rejoicing hillsOn this eve of Father’s Day, may I introduce you to the fiercely territorial and stunningly handsome patriarch of our small lake?  His lovely lady is very capable of expressing herself as well, and they often do so together, the sound of their great wings echoing all over the nearby countryside as they trumpet indignantly at any unwanted visitors to their little realm.  But right now, she’s busy with other things.

Cleverly located so it’s accessible only by water or treacherous swamp, they’ve built a nest and she spends most of her time hidden away there, lovingly incubating a yet-unknown quantity of precious eggs with the heat of her body.  That is her work—and we eagerly anticipate seeing the rewards of her patience soon when they bring their new family out to show off to the neighbors they tolerate (us and the ducks).

But papa has a job, too.  By day, he nervously patrols the area, watching for danger.  At night, he often rests in this perch away from the nest, careful not to draw undue attention to the place he is guarding, yet close enough to be ever watchful and ready to rush to the rescue.  He is the protector—and I have no doubt he would put his life on the line for his offspring should the need arise (though you won’t catch me getting close enough to those powerful wings to find out!).

There are a couple fathers/grandfathers in my life, who I also happen to love very much, who would do the same—and today I wish a Happy Father’s Day to these very special men.  As you protectively love your families you model the infinitely greater love of our Heavenly Father, and we are so grateful!

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.”  (Psalm 103:13)swan / rejoicing hills