The Quints

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The geese have quints.  After several weeks on the nest, mom now sits under her babies, who love to nestle in the fold between her wing and back.  It makes her less than nimble as she tries to get up to answer the warning call of her mate, who has detected an intruder on the pond. But, after shaking the little balls of yellow fluff off her back, and then helping them get upright in the soft mud, she was able to lead them into the channel between our backyard ponds, where her mate landed to be their protection.

Witness to Miracles

Witness to Miracles

If you’ve been married as long as I have, sometimes you have to go through some tough times to be reminded why you love your spouse so much.

Living in Minnesota is the same thing. Two weeks ago, we had 8 inches of new snow and I was ready to pack my bags and leave. Today, our backyard looks like this. I am madly, incredibly, heart-throbbingly in love again.

Minnesota Spring is nothing short of a host of miracles. One day, the trees begin to bud. The next day, full-on bloom. Sometimes the speed at which our view of the pond changes is so fast it leaves me breathless. Amazing!

And the sounds: From the silence of a winter snow to the symphony of new life. Canada geese on the pond, honking a raucous warning as they protect their nests from approaching dogs and children, and others of their own kind. A chorus of happy goldfinches every morning, the sweet song of the cardinals at dawn and dusk. The whir of a hummingbird as he comes inches from my head. The high cheep-cheep of baby robins, pink and bald and all-beaks, just fresh from their glistening blue eggs. The cacophony of spring peepers, bullfrogs and tree toads; lasting long after the moon has risen over the pond.

Then last night: The tiny munching sound of a chipmunk under our pallet garden, enjoying a snack of purloined sunflower seeds from the gazebo. Maybe the greatest miracle is that I didn’t go get a live trap and introduce him to a new home miles away.

Dang chipmunks! Without them, Minnesota Spring and I would have a perfect relationship!

Beauty in the Wind

ImageCancer surgeries and the lousy weather have curtailed outdoor activities for me this winter.  What little time I am outdoors is usually either shoveling or quick jogs to get the mail, take out the trash or shake out my rugs and linens. 

It was the latter activity that had me out on the deck overlooking the pond on Sunday after dinner. I was grumbling. I had spent the better part of the day in the kitchen, cooking and then cleaning, while my family enjoyed their Sabbath rest.  As I stepped outside, the wind was brisk and the air was pregnant with the promise of at least one more Monday morning snowstorm.  Sighing, I lowered my head and kicked at the ice on the deck. (Didn’t I just chop that all away a few days ago?) Spring was a long time away.

I heard them before I saw them. “Honk!  Honk!” and the rush of wings on the wind.  They cast a shadow across the deck as they came in low; maybe checking the pond behind our house for a landing spot?   Muttering “Crazy geese, your nesting spots are still all frozen,” I looked skyward. 

A long, black beak, beautiful white body; the incomparable nasal horn-like call.  They weren’t Canada geese at all, but a trio of stunningly beautiful trumpeter swans. Their cries echoed across the frozen water as they rose above the trees and turned to the northwest, into the wind and the approaching late winter storm.

Up With the Sun

My dear husband and I headed to the airport before daylight for his business flight. Light was just breaking as we said our goodbyes. I got in the van and headed east toward morning and home.

In order to go east from the airport, you make a wide swing west and then loop around to the east, the highway running through the Minnesota River Valley nature preserve. As I rounded the curve that directed me due east, dawn broke forth with such a display. The velvety aqua sky was streaked with pink and gold clouds. Serving as a sentinel at the doorway between day and night, a magnificent bald eagle was perched on the top of a dead tree on the edge of the river bank.

I could hear God, sounding amazingly like the chirping voice of our little granddaughter Emma when we stay at her house. “Good morning! It’s good to see you today! I am happy you are here.” I smiled, thankful for the encouragement of the new day as seen through the eyes of this sweet little one.

As my van continued east toward home, day began to age and change from the gentleness of early light. The aqua gave way to a deeper turquoise and the pink and gold to hot pink and blazing orange. Darkness was gone; the sun was now in charge, reminding me that sleep was no longer a good or logical choice. I was wide awake, up with the sun and ready for whatever my day would bring.

OK, God, I’m up! Thank you for the beauty of the morning. Now, what will You and I do with this wonderful day?

Poop happens!

Our park-like backyard is a wildlife sanctuary today.  After many days of rain (about 6 inches in May and it’s only the 10th of the month), the sun is shining and the butterflies are flitting through the azaleas.  The cardinals are calling, the turtles are sunning on the trunk of the downed aspen in the pond, the frogs are croaking in the marsh and our resident toad is answering back from under the hot tub cover.  The female hooded merganser just swam by with 8 little balls of brown and yellow fluff and a great blue heron is dining on minnows.

While I was planting my geraniums, I was overjoyed to see a Canada goose, his gander and 16 (yes, 16!) babies were helping me trim the lawn.  I grabbed my camera and they let me get quite close for a photo, and that’s what I relearned something I forget every spring until it’s too late.

When there are geese around, poop happens.  Lots and lots of poop with 16 little ones.

I contemplated a poop scoop party until I remembered it is supposed to rain tomorrow. The other thing I have learned about geese poop is that it is not very durable.  A good rain will wash it away.

So, today we’ll thank God for the sunshine and for our gaggle of goslings and brood of mergansers.

Tomorrow, we will thank God for the rain.  Even when it comes in over-abundance.

A Place for Peeps

Peeps are proof that even useless things (99% sugar, 1% whimsy) can become something of substance!

Peeps have always been much maligned at our house.  My kids hated them, even when their friends were eating them by the fistfuls. My son had a special distaste for them that continues to this day. He visibly shuddered at the word Peep!  As for the new Peeps store at the Mall of America?  All we can say is: Really??? 

I was amused when several years ago our local newspaper started a Peeps diorama contest. Now that is something  I can sink my teeth into!  Each year they receive hundreds of entries from all over the U.S. We have enjoyed OlymPeeps. Peeps at the Oscars.  Occupy Minnesota Peeps. The contest has now been copied by the Washington Post and other newspapers around the country.  At least these Peeps make me smile!  And that’s not all bad!  Repurposed Peeps! 

Then today, Pinterest reached out to me (while I was minding my own business, I swear!) through a friend.  Peeps incorporated into floral arrangements. Pink bunnies on skewers in a bouquet of pink and peach gerberas.  Yellow bunny peeps around the inside of a glass vase, inset with a vase full of bright yellow and orange tulips.  How adorable! 

The lowly Peeps have been rediscovered!  There just might be hope for the rest of us mostly useless, bad-for-you “peeps.”  We, too, can be repurposed — surely someone believes in us enough to give us a second chance at being much more than we can imagine.

Happy Easter everyone!

From the Chickadees

I have an important decision to make.  It is which doctor (actually which hospital) to choose for surgery. 

I was awake half the night weighing my options in the darkness.  I got up this morning and did a little more research.  I posted a note on Caring Bridge to see if people weighed in.  I started writing a pros-and-cons list for each doctor, each facility. This may surprise some who know me (or not), but I am an indecisive person.  I waffle, I waver, I hem and haw, decide, change my mind, decide again.  Make a final decision and then second-guess myself.

It’s not just human nature.

A pair of chickadees are making their nest in our yard. They have been pulling fibers out of a rug I left on the deck railing to dry. They have been flitting so close to my family-room window to gather lint out of the dryer vent that I thought they were going to fly into the window.  

Two days ago, they had chosen my newest birdhouse — a swank pale yellow house swagged in pearls and discarded earrings.  It is a stunner — what real estate agents would say has great “curb appeal.”  

Yesterday, I could hear the trill of the chickadees and followed the sound.  There they were,  he  on a fencepost, she a few feet away on the roof of the house, looking down the fence at the rest of the real estate in the neighborhood.

A wren house, a woven hanging basket type, was just too rustic for their refined tastes.  A couple of others too big.  One, its entryway beak-carved and chiseled out, has been remodeled by a much larger bird.     

Ah, the duplex.  Two stories of jewel-toned wonder.  Simple, yet stylish, and very functional.  He sat in silence as she flew past the row of larger houses made for much larger birds, past the wren house, and landed on the perch outside the duplex. 

I could just imagine her saying, as she trilled:  “Look honey!  This is so much more practical.  It is the perfect size.  And I love the color.  And an extra bedroom.  Maybe next year the kids will come back and stay with us.”

Second guesses.  Even after all that work. 

And so the move was on. They have abandoned their original selection, moving bed and bedding.  And, except for several thousand trips back and forth to the bird feeder, they have stopped most of their activity. 

I think they have settled on the duplex. Good for them. 

Now I can get back to my decision.  I have two good doctors to choose from.  One of them is especially good looking and comes with a fabulous pedigree and great patient reviews. The other is a competent and compassionate doctor who did surgery on my daughter last year. 

As He so often does, God has provided.  Twice!  I have been looking for signs from God as to which one to choose.  Do I take my cue from the chickadees?