10. A Day’s Observations

Puddles large enough for waves and shorelines

Mud deep enough for squishing and sticking

Slush messy enough to splash and to soak

Snowflakes brave enough to keep falling and falling

Tree buds determined enough to poke and to push

Pussy willows demure enough for unassuming adornment and allure

Sun warm enough to foster hope and joy.

Whether welcomed or unwanted,
My day was filled with all things ordinary and extraordinary.

Unfolding

The geese come first. A few random stragglers glide in early, braving late snow and still-frozen lakes, followed by gaggles more, gathering in fields like concert-goers waiting for the show to begin.  

Soon saucy, raucous gulls flash black-tipped white against spring-blue skies.  

The ice begins to recede from puddles, ponds, and lakes, and the ducks quack their way back. The marsh behind my house becomes a constant cacophony of waterfowl-speak.  

As if all previous arrivals were simply the opening act, the majestic and stately swan gracefully soars in, its deep, bass trumpet resonating across the bulrushes.

Robins are the next to trill their way north, filling the early morning sky with their song long before I actually see the familiar red breast. 

One calm evening, the frogs, almost always unseen, add their gurgly, bubbly, throaty croaking, and I wonder again at their ability to survive beneath the ice and cold of winter.

Leaves bud and spread green, first just a light frosting dabbed on tree tops, then a full-blown bright new green that embraces the landscape. And the wind, alternating warm and cold, has something new to play with. Leaves flutter a melody no longer silenced by winter.

After a brief pause, the red-winged blackbirds fill the song spaces with their riffs and rills, spreading wings and strutting red and gold epaulets as they stake out their territory in the marsh.  

Grackles, elegant heads shimmering green-purple-blue in the spring sun, chirp conversationally as they forage for spring food.  

And then, it comes….high in the air, the unmistakable winnowing sound of the snipe. I don’t know why, but I find something comforting about the return of the snipes.

Spring is still unfolding… terns will soon be be performing arial acrobatics around the gulls. The warblers have yet to bring their cheery song and constant flitting to the willows in the back yard. Yellow-headed blackbirds always trail behind the red-wings, as do the orioles with their crystalline call and brilliant orange plumage. Clever little marsh wren hasn’t returned to stuff my birdhouses with sticks – yet. Quiet, unassuming and shy sora will probably return completely unnoticed.

I like tracking the unfolding of spring. In the midst of a world that seems increasingly unpredictable, where so much of what could be counted on as true and right is being upended and distorted, it anchors my soul to be reminded through the gradual process of spring renewal that God’s order still supersedes man’s designs.  

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ ” (Lam. 3:22-24)

If the unfolding of spring is so glorious, how much more the unfolding of the plan of God for our world – for my life.  

Yes, I will wait for Him.

Spring

Spring never comes soon enough or fast enough. It surges forward with assurances of warmth and green but then flounders in fits of cold white and blotches of dreary brown.
Brown that breathes earthy and expectant.
Brown that is caught in that space between relief that winter’s snows have finally abated and impatience that spring’s promises take so long to bud, sprout, and bloom.
Brown that is tolerated only for its transitional role.

I struggled with the expanses of brown this spring. They irritated my restless spirit, perhaps because they seemed to mirror the brown patches of life – those places of transition that move too slowly or seem to stagnate completely. Those places where the hoped-for never seems to blossom, where next-steps loom large and lonely, barren and brown.

Even when spring feels impossible, the inevitable still happens: minute pricks of green form tidy dotted lines along furrows of brown, an aura of green hovers in tree tops. The desolate brown gradually sinks beneath a verdant sea of new life.

I now sit in my back yard, luxuriant with green of all shades and hues, listening to the wind compose a symphony of leaves, with percussion, harmony, and counter-melody provided by the myriad of birds who glide, flit, and flutter through branches and blue sky.  

I am drawn to the lushness surrounding me. It sways and bends, dipping gracefully in and out of snippets of sunshine, full of all the action and movement that bleak, brown transitions seem to lack. But even a mildly observant eye recognizes that beyond the promised and welcomed greenery, brown quietly plays a supporting role – as sturdy tree trunks and reaching branches, as nutrient-rich earth buried beneath spreading roots….and as those spaces of change and transition that undergird all seasons of life. 

Just like grace.

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” (Ann Lamott)

Transition and transformation.

Just like spring.