Be still…and celebrate life

blogIMG_8582Even though I enjoyed my season of being still and absent from the blogging world, it wasn’t always quiet in my surroundings.

Early this summer, we experienced a sound resonating from the wooded areas, and eventually the trees in our own yard, that lasted all day long for about six weeks or so.

After a 17-year-long absence (now, that’s a long break!!), the song of the cicadas echoed through the air.  Some folks call them locusts but after researching a bit, I found that locusts and cicadas are not really the same critter.

If you’re unfamiliar with these creatures, the Magicicada periodical cicadas, who live in my neck of the words, are a particular kind of insect that stay underground and emerge from their subterranean homes after a long period of time (17 years in our case).

They climb up trees to begin their venture into adulthood and their singing is a prelude to their mating. And sing they do, on and on until you become so accustomed to the continuous din, it becomes like white noise.

Once the cicadas develop their wings, they begin flying through the air. My daughter can attest to that as she felt like she was being dive-bombed by some while mowing her yard one day.

Granddaughter related this tale to me by saying a big bug attacked her mom.

“Oh,” I asked, “was it a locust?”

“No, Nana,” she replied, “It’s not a locust.  I have to remember….”

She paused and thought awhile and then her face lit up with cognizance. “It was a CI-CAAAA-DA!”

This ol’ Nana, who has experienced the songs of the cicadas a few times in her lifetime, was schooled by a four-year-old with proper terminology.

For your viewing enjoyment, I’ve posted a photo of a cicada hanging around on our front porch and for your listening pleasure, click here to hear the song of the cicadas.

I guess we could imagine that the cicadas are celebrating when they sing their incessant songs. Celebrating life. What better thing to celebrate?

“The cicadas, as if they were wired on the same circuit, suddenly filled the garden with a loud burst of celebration.” ~ Peter Carey

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

 

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To stack or not to stack

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Stacked stones in the Arizona desert

You see them almost everywhere. Along a mountain trail. Beside a creek. Or on a rocky beach. Out in the desert.

And if you haven’t seen them in person, you no doubt have noticed photos on social media. Or you can check out hundreds of photos of them on Pinterest.

I’m talking about stacked stones. Stones, and in some cases rocks, are stacked one on top of the other in a balanced sort of column or pyramid.

Why? That’s what I wondered every time I saw them.

Why stack rocks? Because they are there? Because you want to see if you can balance them? Because you think it makes a great photo to post on your Instagram? Or because they truly have some purpose and meaning for you?

I’ve noticed them here in our area of the world, but I’ve read that they are becoming so prolific in the desert and some of our national parks that many conservationists and parks service people are urging folks to stop the stacking.  People stack rocks because they’ve seen other people doing so and now it’s becoming a craze, is disturbing nature, and can cause hikers to confuse trail markers.

Those stacked stones are called cairns – a Scottish Gaelic word that refers to a deliberate pile of stones formed by humans. Stacking stones originally had a purpose. as cairns served as landmarks and even burial monuments. 

It’s believed that they were used for religious purposes as well, acting as altars of a kind. In recent years, I often wondered if they were connected to a New Age beliefs and practices.  

In the past, cairns were also erected to mark trails or routes particularly in areas where one could get lost easily. Papa and I noticed large versions of stacked rocks marking the Appalachian Trail as we rode a train up a mountain on our recent New England trip.  

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A cairn along the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire

But back in February,  I also noticed stacked stones in the desert of Arizona as shown in my photo at the beginning of this post. I even asked my brother-in-law to stop our vehicle on a sight-seeing trip along Route 66 just so I could photograph that small cairn.

I read an article some time ago, and now I can’t remember where I found it, about stacking stones as a Christian spiritual practice. The gist of the article was that it was like building an altar to God to give thanks and in celebration of something God had done for you. Okay, I can see that.

The author encouraged readers to place only three stones (I suppose to symbolize the Trinity) and assign a specific meaning for each stone. Then use that visual reminder to pray and give thanks to God.

I can understand stacked stones used in that fashion could serve as a way to remember to give God glory and thanks, but I think it would work best if you placed your personal cairn on your personal property.

I recently saw a photo online of a once beautiful scenic nature view now marred by hundreds of stacked rocks. One article I read compared it to spreading graffiti in the wilderness.  I agree with that plus I do wonder if it’s disturbing some little critters’ homes when folks move rocks and stones in their natural surroundings. 

I imagine that true nature lovers really don’t care to see your version of a cairn in God’s handiwork.  The wondrous views in nature that the Rock of Ages provides for us stands alone. 

“On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.” ~ Psalm 62:7

I find I don’t need a pile of stacked stones to remind myself to give thanks for the beauty of this earth. And those stacked stones draw my attention away from the glorious sights the Creator has given to us.

“Art is man’s nature; nature is God’s art.”Phillip James Bailey 

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Dandelion thoughts

blogIMG_7831 (2)They are everywhere.

Dotting the expanse of our 2.25 acre yard with their sunny dispositions, there is a plethora of them. But they don’t stay long. 

For a few days their perky little blooms speckle our lawn breaking up the monotonous spread of grass green, but then they transform into wisps of white fluff seeds which the breezy wind lifts up into the air carrying them far and wide.

Yep, I’m writing about dandelions. If you live in the suburbs and desire a picture perfect plush lawn with no weeds, you eradicate them as best you can.  But when you live in the country like I do, these little bursts of sunshine yellow crop up everywhere.

And you know what? I like them. It actually makes my heart happy to sit on my front porch swing and view our bumper crop of dandelions (and we do have a bumper crop this year!). I think they are just…well…dandy.

Dandelions remind me of childhood. 

Of picking them and fashioning bouquets to take to my mother.

Of making dandelion chains to wear as necklaces, bracelets, or crowns.

Of plucking the white puffy seed balls left behind after they bloom and blowing gently on them while making wishes.

Of lying in the cool grassy cushion of the earth and watching those wisps float and flit against the blue sky of warm weather. 

So what some folks perceive as a weed, I think of as a sweet little reminder of days gone by and nostalgic thoughts. 

I recently read a quote that said “When you look at a field of dandelions, you can either see a hundred weeds or a thousand wishes.” (unknown source)

How true. It’s all in how we look at things, isn’t it? Do we only see what we consider to be annoying or negative or can we look beyond and see something pleasant and positive?

So dandelion thoughts can apply to life. When plans go awry, when troubles and trials come my way, those aspects of life can wear me down. Make me feel as useless as weeds appear to be. But doesn’t everything have a purpose? Even those trials we face in life?

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.”

So if a weed like a dandelion has an undiscovered  ‘virtue,’ then surely there exists an equally unrealized purpose for those hard times we encounter in life.

Difficult circumstances cause me to grow in my faith and actually compel me to become a stronger person. If life was simple and easy and always turning out exactly the way I wanted, from where would I gather any strength? I’d be as delicate as those dandelion seeds floating in the wind, tossed here and there without any direction.

So I will glance out my window or perch on my porch swing and give thanks to the Lord, Creator of all things, for dandelions and also for dandelion thoughts. And just maybe I’ll grow like a weed. 

“Be a weed! A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.” ~ Doug Larson

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Hawk eye

blogIMG_7585 (5)You know what they say.  Hindsight is always 20/20. If you could have seen then what you see now, things would be different. How many of us have thought that, said that, believed that?

Something outside my kitchen window one morning recently reminded me hindsight truly is like that.  If I had just noticed something in the past, I realize the present may be entirely changed.

I always start my mornings with a hot cup of tea. As I filled my teakettle at the kitchen sink one morning, I did what I usually do, scanned the horizon outside the window above the sink. 

The landscape I view from there includes our back yard and a tree line of overgrown brush that separates our property from the farmer’s field directly behind us.

That’s when I noticed it.  Something rather large perched in one of the trees.  I pulled the binoculars out of the coat closet, held them up to my eyes, zoned in on the tree, and focused.

And there he sat. Just sat. Watching over the brush, our yard, and most likely the right of way passage of overgrown grasses between our house and our neighbor’s.  No doubt, he was in search of his next victim.  His prey. Those little critters hiding out in the tall grass.

He watched like a hawk.  Because, well, he was one.  I grabbed my camera, fitted the telephoto zoom lens on it, and stepped out into my back yard to try to capture this creature’s image. 

I managed a couple of shots, then proceeded to minimize the distance between that hawk and me even further by walking slowly – ever so slowly – towards the back edge of our property and towards the hawk. 

But ol’ hawkeye spied me, decided I was getting way too close for comfort, and off he flew before I could even lift the camera back up to my eye. I guess as I was keeping my eye on him, he was watching me like …well…a hawk.

And that made me think. If you watch people more closely – watch them like a hawk – could you avert certain situations? 

If you scrutinize them, their attitudes, their characters, their actions, their good points and their not-so-good points, would you be able to discern that a person who seemed to be a decent, upstanding sort of human being, might just turn around and do something that would cause you great harm or distress?

I’ve often thought that I was a good judge of character because I do observe people, how they talk, how they act, and more importantly, how they treat others.  But I seriously doubt my ability anymore because I have been flamboozled by folks that have just boggled my mind with their actions. 

What did I miss?  What major red flags did I just not see that should have warned me the person wasn’t all he/she claimed to be? Were there signs along the way that I just didn’t notice?

Of course, that leads me to think I need to be more hawk-like – engage in fervent watching people like a hawk – to keep away those who may hurt my loved ones or me.  

It’s a conundrum though. 

My head warns me to be hawk-like and pounce upon the misdoings and faults of others especially if those actions might affect my loved ones adversely.  But my heart…my heart…it implores me to be more like a dove.

But then my thoughts turn to the book of Matthew in the New Testament, Chapter 10.  In verse 16, Jesus tells His disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  He continues by cautioning His followers to “Be on guard.”

I believe Jesus meant that we must take a balanced view when we are out in the world. 

As a Christ follower, I shouldn’t fall into wrong doing myself because of what’s been done to my loved ones or me.  In that respect, I should attempt to remain innocent as a dove and listen to my heart.  

But I live in a world of wolves (many who are dressed in sheep clothing) and in that case, I must be shrewd (sharp, discerning, perceptive) as a snake…or perhaps a hawk.

And yes, I need to be on guard at all times. Ever watchful. Ever vigilant. Just like that hawk perched in that tree.

You can just call me Hawk Eye.

“If we had great distant vision like a hawk, we could avoid most disasters, altering our future.” ~ Unknown

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com