I know where the cardinal goes…
Well… I know where OUR cardinal goes, anyways. I spent a good part of last weekend gazing out of my upstairs bedroom window at the wintry mix of ice and snow. You see things from up there that you might miss, otherwise.
When Old Man Winter makes his appearance, I love to sit there and do my morning work of the soul. I gaze, read, daydream, pray, sing and write in my journal. This post was part of that journal entry, one of those, “How do I know what I think, until I see what I say?” kind of things that just seem to spill out when you get too full. I was pretty full the morning I wrote this.
I’d like to paint you a picture of the scene, or as they say on those envy-inducing Facebook and Instagram posts, “So, this just happened…”
Comfy down-filled armchair, plump with pillows, my favorite scented candle burning aromatically as I look out over our snow-covered 25 acres of rural property, where the deer and the antelope play and seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.
I’d like to paint that picture, but I can’t. It’s a dream.
Nor can I sketch the scene from my previous backyard with its snow-covered arbor and swing, and the field stone bench surrounding the fire pit. That’s a memory. A good, but painful memory.
My current situation is far less romantic. There’s just enough room between my bed and the window to squeeze in a tiny antique chair, originally bought as an accent piece, not meant to actually be used. It’s hard surface is a reminder to me to do the hard work of paying attention.
Daybreak. I glance up from my reading to see what the dawn is saying and and I smile as the sun, hidden for days, lights up a section of the ice-encased trees off to my right. Silver, gold…? Impossible to describe. The trees are alive with light. It won’t last long, so I put my book down to simply stare and receive this gift of a moment, literally frozen in time.
The light shifts and I return to my reading, back to reality, but not before glimpsing the chain link fence separating our 60’s era tumbling-down townhouse from the rental properties in back of us; the tenants are mostly college students who like to party on the weekends. Grills and garbage cans line up next to old-fashioned propane tanks, reminders of the age of these homes.
Then there’s the dog who lives one house over; it seems his sole job in life is to bark non-stop at anything that moves.
To my left is a house with so many parked vehicles you can barely see the yard: cars, vans, work trucks, trailers. An extra storm door is propped up next to the real one, an American flag stands guard over the mildewed patio umbrella.
There are no glittery American dream housing fantasies playing out in this neighborhood; just people doing the best they can.
The biggest hurdle to townhouse living was the lack of privacy. There are still days (and nights) when I long to live in a more isolated situation, secluded from the comings and goings, the cars zipping in and out of the parking lot, the parties, and cell phone conversations that you can’t help but overhear.
We’ve lived here three years. For the most part, I’ve adjusted to community living. Even in this ill-kept communal backyard (maintenance here doesn’t make landscaping a priority) there are things that warm my heart, but I have to look and look hard.
That college boy? He’s now a young working man and every spring I watch him religiously line the fence with tomato plants, even though he clearly doesn’t have a green thumb.
I’ve become friends with Vehicle Man; his name is Clea and it turns out he owns a construction company. Clea does have a knack for growing tomatoes, which he shares with all his garden-less neighbors. In good weather we wave at each other as we sit on our tiny porches, both sipping coffee and reading the Good Book. Sometimes we meet at the fence and talk.
Thanks to the fancy bird feeder we brought from our house (and a birdseed budget that rivals my weekly grocery budget) we have a colorful array of backyard friends. They fuss and fight but mainly ignore each other, much like the majority of my neighbors.
It took a lot of watching but I finally discovered where the cardinal has his home, behind the ivy that covers the back of my neighbor’s shed. He should be poking his head out soon. It’s really cold this morning; I guess the birds like to stay under the covers as long as possible, just like me.
I wouldn’t have chosen this view (though some would argue with that) but I have chosen to (mostly) accept it. That word “accept” comes from a root word related to the word, “capable,” from a word that meant “swallow or gulp down.”
My “current situation” was hard to swallow at first. I gulped down tears of dismay and disappointment. Mainly what I had to swallow was my pride, I guess, and choose to look for the good; look for God in the midst of my situation.
I’ve learned that when I do the liturgy, the hard work of paying attention, I can find His fingerprints nearly everywhere and give thanks. I see a lot from my window perch. It’s like church to me.
Church on a perch.
Oh, look! There’s the cardinal!
And there goes that dang dog.
WINTER HAIKU FOR HAZEL:
Ivy covered shed
Home to the red cardinal
Hidden ‘neath the leaves