Archive | May, 2019

Wild About Waxwings

20 May

In the 20-plus years we’ve lived at this house, my husband and I have hosted thousands of birds in our backyard aviary All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet-and-Oasis. We enjoy marking off  the species listed in the Birds of Northern Virginia manual that stop by for a snack and quick chat. Some even repay our seedy hospitality by chirping out a tune or two.

Quite often (and just a few days ago, as a matter of fact), I flip through the manual’s pages, amazed at the many birds we’ve seen. Then I come to the page of that beautiful cedar waxwing and say to my husband, “Just once I’d like to see one of these beauties. Why don’t they ever come here?”

I say all this to bring us to Friday morning, which started as a particularly grumpy day for me. After a sleepless night, I left my bed grudgingly and stomped downstairs, as if the universe owed me something now and I was going to grumble until I got it. Alas, bad moods are less effective when one is alone, but I didn’t let that didn’t hamper my pity party.

There was a text message on my phone from a creditor, thanking me for making my  latest payment.  Bah. As if I had any choice. I stewed for a moment. Rather than be thankful that we made sufficient money this month to pay all bills, I chose to grumble that we had nothing left over.

With a heavy sigh, I made some coffee and settled down with my daily devotional, pretty much daring God to mess with my surliness. So, He did.

I read about God’s unlimited resources—His vast abundance, and His desire to lavish abundance on me.

Naturally, I mumbled under my breath, “Well then, O Mighty Abundant One, how about you lavish me with a little more cash, then? ‘Cause that’s what I’d like to see in abundance.”

God and I have this running gag about my sarcasm. I can’t not serve it up, and He can’t not turn it around. I should know by now.

Since no bag of bills fell in my lap, and still feeling quite sorry for my sleepy self, I trudged upstairs to dress for the day.

For some reason, I felt drawn to open the blinds that covered the bathroom window, which is not something I typically do in the mornings. Outside there seemed to be a to-do in the mulberry tree, so I opened the window . . . to the most unusual concert—a twittering frenzy like nothing I’d never heard before. Without my glasses, however, all I could see was that the mulberry tree appeared to be moving.

Race downstairs for my glasses. Race back upstairs where I can shut the door on the cat so he won’t jump out the bathroom window.

strip1bThe tree was alive with birds! On nearly every branch, twittering and leaping away as they tugged at ripened mulberries.

Race downstairs for my binoculars. Race back up, past a now-disgruntled cat who just knows something is going on.

Cedar waxwings! Not one, but at least 50 or 60, putting away mulberries like they’re going out of style, which, technically they were, because that poor tree was sacrificing all it had. The berries were larger than their beaks, yet they’d tip back their heads and swallow them down in one gulp.

Race downstairs past grumpy kitty to grab the camera and long-range lens. Race back up, fighting to close the door against his protests.

Now I can really get a good look.

They were lovely—smooth gray and cranberry pink feathers with yellow and red tips, pudgy yellow bellies, and that adorable little mask. What’s more, unlike those mean ol’ blue jays that insist on hanging around, they were nice to each other, not pushing to get berries for themselves, but passing them to those without, and they sang the entire time, this sweet, twittering song, as if the work were some sort of treat.

On more than one occasion, I caught two of these precious sweeties passing a berry back and forth, as if to say,

“Please, I insist, you have this” and,

“Oh, I couldn’t,—after you,” then,

“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it. Take it for yourself.”

They’d pass it six or ten times before one would give a, “don’t mind if I do” shrug and tip back his head.

strip3My cup runneth over. It was all I hoped for and more—so much more. I spent the next 30 minutes hanging out the bathroom window snapping photos like a mom at a first-grade recital. I caught myself laughing a few times, and thanking God for this demonstration of—oh, dear—real abundance.

That’s when I got it. A verse from the morning’s reading ran through my head, the second half of John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

It’s not about the money. Sure, I’d love to have something extra at the end of the month, and go out to dinner more often. But this experience, 30 minutes of reveling amid the beauty and the chatter, 30 minutes of pure gratitude and joy, 30 minutes that made me late for work and care not a lick. This was life. Abundant life.

On both Saturday and Sunday mornings, as berries continued to ripen, the waxwings returned. I spent time each day on my deck watching them through binoculars and chatting with God about His creativity. (Those red tips on their wings are actually a wax-like secretion from the berries, so I read.) I find it fascinating that, rather than just give us “a bird,” God chose to make so many variations.

I’m rather certain God never meant for me to have a lot of money. But I’m equally certain He wants me to live in abundance. He wants me to look for Him as the source of my joy. That’s not always easy, but it’s quite rewarding whenever I get it right.

This Monday morning, we’re down to 10 or so waxwings left, as the tree’s resources have nearly been exhausted, but I do believe I enjoyed that gift to the fullest.

It occurs to me, these same birds likely stop by every spring, but until this year I’ve never noticed. How many other wonders are occurring right under my nose that I just never notice? What about you? Is God trying to show you something? Let’s keep our eyes open today and be on the look-out, just in case.

——————————————-

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. –Psalm 16:11

Pining for Something Sweet—Minus the Earworm

6 May

Yesterday, I found myself in Salem, Va., waking along a busy highway called Electric Road. Thanks to ADD, my brain needed only to see one street sign before dredging an oldie but a goodie from the depths of my internal stockpile of washed up hits. I started chanting the first line of an Eddy Grant hit from the early 80s. . . we’re talking from way back, like when MTV played music. You know the same line that I do, I’ll bet:

electricRd2“De dudum rock it, pum pum, Electric Avenue, and then we’ll take it higher!”

Those are all the words I know. And now it’s in your head, too, you’re welcome very much.

So, back to my story. I’d originally intended to walk just around the corner from my hotel, to that coffee shop I noticed nearby on one of my recent trips. No, not one of those high falutin’ Seattle-based coffee shops that make me feel inept as both a customer and decision-maker. I’m talking about the blue-collar shop, the one American runs on, the one found on every New England intersection that is not occupied by a Cumbuhlin’ Fahms. The one that USED to make a syrupy sweet drink called a Coffee Coolatta™.

“It’s just around the corner,” I said to myself. “A walk would do you good.”

Of course, that was just around the driving corner. I wound up trekking more than a mile before I spotted the familiar brown and orange logo. Nobody should ever have to travel that long with an 80s-era earworm lodged in their brain, particularly one to which they’ve retained so few lyrics.  By the time I crossed the store’s threshold, I’d repeated the phrase at least 400 times: “De dudum rock it, pum, pum, Electric Avenue, and then we’ll take it higher!”

Oh, for the love of PETE, help me remember another line!

I asked the apparently bored young man behind the counter for a Coffee Coolatta™ and received a blank stare that nearly made me step back outside to double-check that I wasn’t in the Seattle shop.

“Coolattas™ are fruit flavored,” he said. “Do you want one of those?”

“N-No,” I stammered. “I wanted coffee. Like they make it in New England, you know, a sugary frozen slush?”

“So, a frozen coffee.”

I nodded, unsure. He made me a frozen coffee. It tasted okay, but it wasn’t the same sticky-sweet creamy goodness I remembered. Still, I’d come too far to not enjoy it, so I shrugged and gave him a nod. Yes, I should have just walked away, but remember that I have ADD. I couldn’t resist asking,

“Hey, do people come in here singing Electric Avenue?”

More staring.

“You know, de dudum rock it, pum pum, Electric Avenue . . .”

He pointed at the door. It was more a plea than a command.

I couldn’t NOT finish. “. . . and then we’ll take it higher!” (If you don’t share my earworm by now, I’m clearly not doing it right.)

I de-dudum-rocked it back to the hotel, sipping my coffee-flavored ice throughout another 400 mental repetitions of the now-detestable ditty. Naturally, as soon as I settled into my room and logged onto the world wide web, I typed “Electric Avenue” into a search engine so I could learn the next line. Alas, I learned more than I wanted to. It’s a rather depressing song about 1981 rioting in the UK. On reflection, my brain likely forgot the words on purpose. I should trust my subconscious instincts more often.

So, what have I learned from this experience?

Firstly, Salem, Va. has way fewer intersections than Massachusetts, and even fewer embellished with the standard coffee establishments to which I’ve become accustomed. Translation: next time, drive around the corner.

Secondly, after additional research, I’ve learned the Coffee Coolatta™ has been off the menu since 2017 (which says something about both my craving frequency and the speed of light at which my life is flying past). This delicious concoction has apparently fallen victim to the sugar police state. The current Coolatta™ family is now considered “cosmic,” and consists of sugar-flavored fruit pulp that is no better for consumers than the original. Gotta love the way adding fruit makes everything okay though.

dunkin2

Ahhhhhh, life is good again.

Thirdly, although there’s no going back again, apparently, there’s nothing like an ordinary hot coffee to set things right again ( yes, I gave the joint a second chance in the morning).

Finally, rioting aside, Electric Avenue ranks right up there with John Jacob Jinglehimer Schmidt for earworms that just won’t die.

And I’m quite curious. Which one are you humming right now?

—————————————-

If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it. — Proverbs 25:16