When a stranger planted spring in my heart

It was one of those days when Spring just burst forth in all five of my senses.

Sight:  The sky turned brilliantly blue, dotted with fluffy pillows of clouds.  Trees, which once stood stark and bare, blossomed profusely.  Outside surroundings revealed overwhelming evidence of color’s rebirth in hues of green, pink, yellow, purple, and red.

Hearing: When you stepped outside, a symphony of song birds’ musical masterpieces greeted your ears.  Folks ventured outdoors chatting happily with neighbors, lawn mowers buzzed, and the sound of children’s laughter while playing reverberated through the air.

Touch:  You could feel the sun’s enveloping warmth kiss your upturned face while a gentle breeze caressed you and tickled your skin.

Smell:  As you inhaled, you caught the fragrant aroma of freshly mowed grass and the distinct flowery scents of blooming daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths.

Taste: The air seemed so clean and so clear after a long winter’s season spent mostly indoors, that when you opened your mouth to gulp in the fresh air, you could literally taste spring.

It was a spring day like so many others before and so many more to come.  But driving through my hometown after work the other day, my sense of spring transported me back into time…to a similar spring day over 40 years ago.

My hometown sits nestled among hills alongside a rolling river, which meanders its way to our nearest city where it joins another river and forms yet another.  For as long as I can remember, a riverfront park, complete with friendly park benches to perch on, lovely trees to offer shade, and a sidewalk upon which to stroll has existed in my little town.

A number of years ago, the park received a major renovation.  Quaint gazebos and small pavilions were added and an amphitheater was erected with seats looking out to the flowing water.  Concerts and other events are held here and it truly is a lovely park.

One of the main streets of our town, aptly named Water Street, runs parallel to the park and serves as a divider between it and store fronts and houses.  Driving along that street on my way out of town, I headed to the old-fashioned bridge which spans the river.  I welcomed the sun’s balmy light as it radiated through the windshield warming my face while cool air rushed in from my open car window.

Trees in the park, boasting their blooms, waved their white and pink robes of color in the light breeze.  And that’s when I caught a whiff of that irresistible and comforting aroma – freshly cut grass. I glanced at the park and spied municipal workers seated on lawn tractors accomplishing that first cutting of the season.

Immediately, the memory of another spring day literally jumped into my thoughts and provided yet another lofty lift in my spirit.

I was just a teenage girl attending junior high school.  Laden down with the drama of such days, fretting over friends and prospective boyfriends (or at least one boy I wished was my boyfriend), a stack of textbooks weighing down my arms (we didn’t have backpacks), and the weariness of a school day finally over, I trudged outside the school building and down the steps at day’s end.  I’m certain my head was down, my shoulders drooped, and my heart sank in some kind of misery.

I heard a familiar voice call my name loudly and looked up.  My two older, married sisters waited in my brother-in-law’s pickup truck parked at the curb behind the line of school buses.  They were downtown on errands and finding themselves nearby as school dismissed, they decided to offer me a ride home.

Ordinarily, getting home without riding the school bus would have made me happy.   But that day, something troubled me.  No doubt, it must have been trifling because for the life of me, I don’t recall what rendered me unhappy or upset.

I’m not sure if I did poorly on a test, I was angry at someone, or I just had a really bad day at school, or it was just the moodiness of puberty, but I felt down in the dumps.  Obviously, some kind of teenage angst had me in its grasp.

My oldest sister slid over from the passenger seat, making room for me to climb in, so I occupied the seat by the open truck window.  The day was beautiful. Warm. Sunny. Flowers gaily nodded their heads each time the wind blew a little breath.   But I didn’t seem to notice, too preoccupied with my gloomy disposition.

We drove down Water Street beside the riverfront park.   Trees lined the park in a profusion of budding blooms and the scent of mowed grass wafted through the air.  But I didn’t really notice.

The traffic signal at the bridge turned red and we paused in a long line of cars waiting for our turn to cross the bridge and leave town behind.  Sitting in that truck on a glorious spring day, I must have appeared glum, forlorn, and melancholy.  Suddenly, a young man stood beside my open window, saying to me, “Here, this is for you!”

Startled, I incredulously looked at this guy holding a twig loaded with flowering tree buds out to me.  He wasn’t someone I knew.  He wasn’t from my school.  He was older than me, but not one of the high school guys either.  He must have been a college student attending the state university’s branch campus in my hometown probably just relishing fresh air and a splendid spring day while strolling through the park.

And he presented a sprig of spring to me, a complete stranger – a scrawny 14-year-old girl who wasn’t happy with her life at that moment.  He must have recognized that winter still lurked in my heart and mind when he offered that blooming branch to me.  I reached out and accepted his gift, managed to mumble a surprised thank you as the light changed, and we drove onward.

I stared at the pink blossoms in my hand, wondered what just happened, and smiled happily all the way home.  My sisters had plenty of questions.  Does that guy like you?  Who was that?  Do you know him?  Why do you think he gave that to you? Are you sure you’ve never seen him before?

I did not have any answers.  But I have never forgotten that day.  The way the sunshine warmed my face.  The way cool air blew my hair into my eyes.  The way the park looked so inviting with flowering trees and sun glistening on the water.  The scent of grass and delicate blooms.  The kind and thoughtful gift granted to me brightening that particular moment in time.   The feel of that small tree branch in my hand.  And the joy that flooded my soul due to the random act of one kindhearted stranger.

I kept that little branch in my room until the blossoms dried up and fell off the twig.  I never saw the college student again and eventually I forgot what he even looked like.  But I have never forgotten the feeling he gave me that day.  And I don’t believe I ever will.

I moved back to my homeland almost 14 years ago, and every spring since then, I remember this caring gesture from long ago when I drive through my little town, along the river, by the park with those blossoming trees.

Yes, today in my book called Opportunity, I pleasantly recall that balmy day so many years ago when a thoughtful young college boy caused a smile to spread across my face and my heart to sing when he bestowed a special gift upon me – the gift of paying attention to spring, a gift of hope and joy and rejuvenation.

“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.” ~Harriet Ann Jacobs

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Finding faith from a fawn

Image source unknown

I spotted another harbinger of spring recently, reminding me this is the season of rebirth, but also of something more profound.

White-tail deer inundate the area near our country home.    We’ve had our fair share of run-ins with these cute creatures turned dangerous when they slam into cars driving down our highways.

Road kill’s a natural occurrence here and it’s almost unusual not to see dead deer lying on the side of the road.  The damage they inflict on our vehicles is unbelievable.  So when I spot deer nearby while I’m driving,  I’ve learned to slow down considerably.  Sometimes I lay on the horn repeatedly to frighten the critters away so they don’t ram into my car.

The other day, while driving home from work, I decided to travel a two-lane bi-way instead of the four-lane highway.  As I was rounding a bend notorious for deer crossing, a doe scurried across the road in front of my car.

I immediately braked and quickly glanced in the direction she had come expecting to see another doe or maybe even a buck following her because once I saw the largest buck I’ve ever seen in my entire life at this exact spot.  Instead, I spied a tiny, trembling spotted fawn standing at the top of an embankment, reminding me that deer give birth to their babies in the spring.

That adorable little baby deer appeared so startled by what was transpiring that he just buckled his stick-like legs under his polka-dotted  body and lay down on the bank by the side of the road.   He looked exactly like the picture accompanying this post.

Why don’t I carry my camera with me at all times?  He would have made an adorable picture.  Seeing that fragile fawn warmed my heart but also made me fear for his safety.  I hope he stayed on the bank until his mommy came back for him and didn’t wander out onto the road.

All of this reminded me that sometimes, especially when we’re fearful about what lies ahead of us, we just hunker down like that little fawn.  We wait to see what will happen or we become paralyzed with fear, hoping to be rescued much like I imagine that spotted baby deer expected from his mother.

And that’s not always a bad thing.  Sometimes, we just need to wait…..and wait…..and wait until God shows us what He wants us to do.

I must admit that often I feel like that scared fawn on the side of the road.  I feel fragile and wobbly when I can’t figure out what’s going on in my life and what I’m supposed to do.   But that’s when my rescuer lets me sense His presence.

Recently, I’ve allowed myself to feel exactly like a frightened fawn trembling beside a busy highway of life.  One morning at a very early hour,  I awakened abruptly  because I heard someone loudly calling my name.  I was certain my husband had already arisen and for some reason had called out to me.

My eyes opened in a flash, my heart pounded,  and I expected to see hubby standing near me.  He wasn’t.  I looked around our bedroom and then realized he was still sound asleep next to me.

Who called my name?  I pondered.   I waited and listened.  Nothing.  Puzzled, I drifted back to sleep.  The strange experience stayed in the forefront of my mind that day, and I related it to my co-workers.

My boss smiled and shared that she once had the same experience after a particularly stressful day.  She added that she liked to think it was God calling her name, just to let her know that He saw her and knew what she needed.

I love that idea.  It actually gives me great comfort because I do believe the God of the universe, all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present,  knows my name.   He’s always known my name.

He knows my troubles and He knows my afflictions just like He knows my joys and my elation.   He knows what I need, when I need Him the most, and when I need Him to guide me.

He has always carried me through trials and tough times, even when my doctor stated the dreaded ‘C word’ (cancer) six years ago.  I’ve never felt abandoned or forgotten because I know my God sees me and hears my prayers (even when He doesn’t answer them the way that I would like!).

And sometimes, He just wants me to wait and know that He is God and He is in control and that He knows my name.  I don’t have to fear that God will forsake me because He never will.  I can count on Him to take care of me on this 11th page of Chapter 5 in my book called Opportunity and every day…and so can you.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Ahhhh…breathe it in

Image source unknown

Take a deep breath.  Inhale and savor the sweet aroma of the first grass cutting of the season.

For me, nothing smells more like spring and summer than the scent of blooming flowers and a freshly cut lawn.

For one day last week, we experienced lovely weather here at Mama’s Empty Nest – temperatures in the mid-to-high 70’s and abundant sunshine.  It served to revive both my spirit and the landscape outside our country home.

Flowers awakened from their long winter naps and burst forth in color.  Yellow happy daffodils, white daffodils with bright sunshiny centers, pretty in pink and purple hyacinths, ruby red tulips and deep purple grape hyacinths greeted me with their coats of color and their endearing scents.  Just a couple days of warmth and sunshine coaxed our rhododendron bushes around our front porch to spontaneously burst into an array of color as well.

Our yard is a good two and one half acres of green.   Interspersed here and there a few trees stand, but they are still fairly small, so the lawn is a wide expanse of grass. (Okay, I’ll be honest – there are lots of weeds in there too, but hey, they’re green!)  With the outrageous amounts of rain we’ve endured this spring, our lawn had grown quite high, so it was time for the first mowing of the season.

Middle daughter and I set forth for an afternoon on the wedding plan quest.  When we left the house, hubby was maneuvering the trusty John Deere lawn tractor back and forth as he mowed the acreage.

Upon our arrival back home, it was dusk.  The sun was setting and providing its usual spectacular view from our surroundings.  We stepped out of daughter’s car and that’s when it engulfed us.

The aroma.   Oh, so lovely.  There’s something about the scent of freshly mowed grass that just makes you audibly sigh and know that all is right with the world.  I believe it is just another of God’s gifts to us.

That aroma heightens the senses, brightens the mood and brings yester-year memories of spring days and summer evenings to mind.   Both daughter and I actually voiced “ahh” simultaneously as the scent entered our noses.

Image via wikipedia

And then we heard the sounds that also accompany spring and summer here in the country.  The peepers.

Spring peepers, a chorus of tiny little frogs who live in the marsh behind our property,  serenade us with their peeping songs.

These little guys usher spring into our area and we hear them throughout the summer as well.  They remind me of  tiny trumpeters heralding the season’s change.

We just stood there in the driveway for a couple of minutes absorbing the scent and sound, so refreshing after a frustrating day in search of wedding gowns.

We looked at each other and smiled.  And I remarked to my daughter, one of the dearest loves of my life, “You can’t experience this in the city.”

As I recall the bliss of that moment in my book of Opportunity, I’m so grateful for my home in the country on this fourth page of Chapter Five.

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Welcome as flowers in May

Image via freefoto.com

It’s May Day, but I didn’t find a basket of flowers on my doorstep.  Instead I found a very wet porch!

As a young girl, I always fancied dancing and singing around a May Pole on May 1st but never actually did that.  I do remember filling a paper basket, which I made at school, with flowers from my mother’s garden and placing it on my neighbor’s porch one year.  It was one of those sweet, simple spring traditions of yesteryear that I wonder if children even learn about today.

Spring time always makes me hope for the best.  And that reminds me of this quote I once read by Susan J. Bissonette:  “An optimist is the human personification of spring.”

Come May, the optimist in me always expects days filled with cheerful sunshine and warmth, but reality often delivers the exact opposite especially this early in the month.   And today is no exception since it is yet another chilly, rainy day with more of the same forecast according to the Weather Channel.

I’m employed by a non-profit organization and every year in early May we hold a walk-a-thon type fundraiser in our hometown riverfront park.  Today we held it in the rain just like we did last year and again we were forced to switch to Plan B.

blog031Plan A is to begin the walk in our park’s amphitheater, which this year is still covered with flooding river water.  Plan B is to hold registration at a local church, then walk in the rain.  We always appreciate the loyal few who help us, rain or shine.

Spring has proven fickle again this year yielding lovely, balmy weather one day followed up with a chilly, dreary one.

Yesterday I took advantage of sunshine and nicer temperatures to stroll around our country home yard and notice signs that indeed spring is here, even if the weather isn’t exactly cooperating.

blog034Let me share a few of the tell-tale signs I observed.   Suddenly, our lawn has sprouted bursts of yellow everywhere.

Dandelions!  These hearty plants are weeds and most people try to eradicate them from their expanse of green, but out here in the country, that’s a battle we can’t win.

Dandelion seeds lift up into the air and twirl and sway through the breeze and land in our yard continually.

But there’s something about these happy-faced spots of perky color that makes me smile.  They remind me of my childhood when each spring I would pick dandelion nosegays to bring inside and present to my mother.  Mom would place them in a glass of water as if they were the most prized flowers in her garden, and she had plenty of those.

Next on my walk, I spied little glimpses of purple and as I leaned over closer to the ground, I saw one of my favorite tiny flowers – violets.  Another reminder of childhood.  My mother taught me a different name for these delicate little flowers; she called them johnny jump-ups.

blog032I can only assume it’s because quite suddenly they seem to jump up out of the ground.  They don’t last long, so you have to really search for them.  In my yard, there are only a few areas where they appear.

“When April steps aside for May,

Like diamonds all the rain-drops glisten;

Fresh violets open every day:

To some new bird each hour we listen.” ~ Lucy Larcom

Soon one of the bushes in our back yard will produce one of my favorite scents – lilac.  I absolutely go giddy with glee when blooms on the lilac bush open up and I can cut huge bouquets of those delicate lavender delights to brighten up my kitchen table.  Their fragrance is so sweet, I can hardly wait to smell them.

blog022Mark Twain once said, “It’s spring fever…. You don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”

Yes, I definitely have spring fever on this first page in Chapter 5 of my Opportunity book, but unlike Twain, I know what I want – sunshine and warmer temperatures!  Plus I’m overly anxious for those beautiful May flowers that April showers promise.

And that thought reminds me – because my blog was recently Freshly Pressed by WordPress, I’ve gained some new subscribers.

I am excited to have you join me here at Mama’s Empty Nest!  My prayer is you will find something here to reflect upon, or something to inspire you, or maybe just cause you to smile.

So welcome to you, new readers!   “You are as welcome as the flowers in May.” ~ Charles Macklin

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

When nature shows no mercy

Image via science.howstuffworks.com

Hubby and I used to live in “Tornado Alley” first in Oklahoma for a few years and then several more residing in the Midwest.

In both areas, tornado watches and warnings are common occurrences in the spring.  Middle daughter is still a little fearful of violent storms because of it.

So the recent rash of relentless twisters that ripped their way through the south brought those memories back to me today.  Our oldest daughter lives in one of the states hardest hit by a tornado resulting in much destruction and the loss of human life.

A twister touched down in her city a few miles from her.  Hubby and I were relieved to get her text message last evening announcing she and her roommate were safe and sound in their apartment, without power and for a while no cell phone service, but safe!

What a relief!  But yet this morning, I still felt the edge of anxiety and concern over her well-being and again was reassured when I spoke with her by phone at her place of work.

She had witnessed some debris raining from the sky into her apartment complex parking lot and she and roomie headed to the inside bathroom (the safest place in your home during a tornado if you have no basement or storm cellar) wearing their bike helmets. They are smart young women.

So many others were not as fortunate.  As hubby and I perused photos online of the devastation and read about the death toll, tears welled up in my eyes.   My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones and also to those who lost their homes and everything in it.

I can imagine their grief because I’ve witnessed first-hand the damage ferocious tornadoes wreak and those sights I saw are permanently etched into my mind – sights I will never forget as long as I live.

When hubby and I were a young married couple, we lived in Oklahoma where he served in the military.  There I actually experienced a twister’s fury.  Since then, I often can feel the air’s ripeness for a tornado.  There’s something about the air density, pressure and  stillness I sense just before a fierce funnel cloud twirls through.

I don’t know all the scientific data about that, but I can tell when a tornado watch is looming.   I often amazed friends in the Midwest when I would suddenly announce, “We’re going to have a tornado watch/warning today” and sure enough, the TV weatherman would verify what I felt.

But back to my Oklahoma story – I had no clue what a tornado’s fury was like back then.  That strange day in April, I drove home from work through a wild thunder/hail storm and my car radio warned me there were funnel clouds sighted and evidently touching down in the Texas town across the border.  And they were headed in our direction.

I scurried into our apartment, scared and worried because hubby was scheduled for all night duty at the military post and would not be home that night.   Turning on the TV, I  learned the funnel cloud definitely was heading towards our end of town.  Our apartment faced south – from where the tornado was coming!

I opened the windows a little because I had heard that windows implode inward on you from the force of the twister.   And when the TV person shouted to take cover immediately, I found sanctuary in my walk-in closet.  Our cat refused to stay with me,  instead she perched on the window sill facing south.

In a flash, she jumped off the sill and darted into the closet with me.  And that’s when I heard it – a deafening roar like I have never heard before.  The windows shook and I buried my head in a pile of laundry believing my life was coming to an end.  I prayed that God might spare me or if I died my body would be found quickly in the rubble and my husband and parents would be comforted.

And then there was silence.  I was afraid to move, so I just sat in the closet, clinging to my cat and waited.  How long I do not remember.  But I was safe and others were not.  TV news reported that three people lost their lives in our area, but the real devastation was in the Texas town where three funnel clouds joined together to form a monster tornado which cut a mile wide path many miles long.

I worked at a daily newspaper, not as a ‘hard news’ reporter but one of the ‘fluff’ people –reporting human interest type stories.   The next day at work, I was shocked when a tenant at my complex, who had been brave enough (or stupid) to take a picture of the twister, brought it to the paper in hopes of getting it printed.

The funnel cloud had sped across the wheat field adjacent to our apartment dropping debris as it went.  My home was in its direct path and that photo showed the tornado lifting up into the air over our apartment building (and over me).

Later, I traveled with my fellow news reporters and photographers to the Texas town demolished by the furious twister.  It looked like a war zone.  I cried the entire time in that car full of reporters who were shocked into silence as we drove through areas where emergency workers allowed us.

Where once tree-lined housing subdivisions had been, there was nothing left.  Nothing.  In some areas, a lonely toilet stood but absolutely nothing else.  In other areas, mangled, twisted hunks of unidentifiable materials – pieces of cars, trucks, buildings – were strewn everywhere.

I read hand written signs, fashioned out of a piece of wall or whatever was left and propped up where once a home stood, declaring, “We’re ok!”  “Lost everything, but alive!”  “Please call [number] if you’ve seen [person’s name].”

I have never, ever forgotten neither those sights nor the grief I felt that day for all those people who lost everything.

We take so much for granted and in one moment, it can all be blown away with the wind.  Today is Page 28, Chapter 4, in my book of Opportunity and I pray fervently for those who suffered such loss because of this violent weather system.  And I am full of gratitude that my loved one was kept safe from its fierce wrath.

P.S.  For those of you who would like to help tornado victims in need, I highly recommend donating to Samaritan’s Purse – http://www.samaritanspurse.org

© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Will Spring ever spring?

No time for deep thinking today or even putting my thoughts (such as they are) into words.   It’s just another dreary, bleary, depressing day of constant rain, fog and general dullness.   Spring is slow in arriving in our area this year.  So I’m trying to think happy thoughts of the season by viewing  some of my old photos from springs gone by.

Hope they brighten your day as well!

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©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com