Sunday, December 26, 2010

Stopping to Listen

I seldom go for a walk without first choosing a soundtrack and putting in my earbuds. Today, however, I started out the door with headphones in my pocket but no music playing. Walking to a park near my childhood home, I enjoyed the crunchy sound of the gravel path beneath my sneakers. Suddenly, an incessant squawking broke into my thoughts. I do not normally stop to look up in trees while walking (perhaps I should), but this particular squawking caught my attention, and I began searching the branches for its source. I had to laugh when I spotted the creature, because it was one of my significant little friends - the bluejay (see first post for significance). I was a little surprised at the sound of this bird's tone. I would expect a bird with such beautiful colors to have a beautiful song, but it was literally squawking, the same thing, over and over and over again.

Whenever a bluejay crosses my path, it is my custom to observe it closely until it flies out of sight. So I watched this little guy from beneath the branches, watched as its white underbelly puffed up and ruffled with earnest. What is he saying? I wish I could know. He would speak, then wait for two seconds, and then say the same thing again. This went on for several minutes, and then he changed branches. Then he went to another tree. What or who is he looking for? Several seconds before he flew away, I thought I started to hear a bird answering him. He would speak, then the other bird would speak, back and forth until my bluejay flew away. Where is he going? Is he going to find the other bird?

As I moved away from the tree and my feet resumed crunching, I tried to make some applicable analogy of my experience. I like applicable analogies, so here it is...

Sometimes I feel like I'm saying the same things over and over again - crying the same things - to God. Somehow, though, I don't think He gets tired of hearing them, even if I get tired of hearing myself. They are not always pretty songs I have to offer Him. Sometimes it's just a cry, and it's all I've got. The same things, the same basic sources of longing and grieving and hoping. Even if it sounds like He's a long way off, I can start to hear Him answer. If I want to, I can ask a few more times just to be sure, before leaving the comfort of my perch - the one I've been crying from for so long - and flying off towards the source, towards the answer.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Texas and Cat Castles

Driving on open roads across the dry, flat terrain of Oklahoma and Texas, I couldn't help but feel my love of New England reaffirmed. I said to my sister, "Maybe it's because I'm an artist, but I feel like I need to live somewhere that I feel inspired by beauty around me. This does not really inspire me." A couple more hours of driving, and our surroundings started to change -- green trees, hills, rocks. "Green trees!" I exclaimed. "Now this is kind of pretty." "Yeah, we call these the mountains," said Amanda. Another hour or so passed, and we were back to utter flatness, with the sky stretching out on all sides. Then the colors started creeping in. Pinks and purples offset with orange and yellow. It was beautiful. Okay, the Texas landscape has its charms, but I still prefer the climbing hills, tall evergreens and rocky beaches of New England.

Texas is trying really hard to keep up with the changing of seasons, and it looks a little like Fall right now. Three out of the four trees in our backyard have some color, and leaves are falling as I type looking out of our "garden room" windows. This garden room, added on to our house when my grandmother started living with us, is the best room in the house. Five floor-length windows look out toward the back yard and garden, the centerpiece of which is the bird bath and bird feeder which attract birds from every species in Texas. We have found ourselves wondering what we did before we had this room with all of its bird-watching capabilities. Other rooms of the house where we used to spend our time have become obsolete -- I suggested that they rent these rooms out to other tenants. We live life in the garden room.

Last Spring, my parents adopted two kittens -- Zoey and Ziggy. These kittens, now full-grown cats, have the garden room as their domain. They have, in typical cat fashion, taken over the best room in the house. Unknowingly, my parents have been their pawns -- covering the couch, setting up a cat tower in front of the two main windows -- giving the cats the best seats and the best view in the best room of the house. I think the cats knew this would happen all along. All they had to do was play with whatever toys were placed in front of them, and they would win over any human with a leather couch and a great view of birds. Now they sit at the top of their cat castle peering down on us with slitted eyes as if they know the power with which they have claimed their kingdom.

Whenever they do something naughty, however, like try to eat human food or put a scratch in the leather couch, they get an abrupt squirt of water to the face by a human standing by with a spray bottle. That has got to be humiliating when you are the king and queen of Garden Room Kingdom and all the birds in Texas are watching.