Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Every once in a while, when we start thinking that this place where we live belongs to us, 
we are reminded that our opinion is not universal.

eastern wild turkey gobblers

Most mornings lately, four Eastern Wild Turkey gobblers have been gathering on our back patio.

eastern wild turkey gobbler in birdbath

They like the convenience of fresh water (or sometimes ice) in the birdbath, a chance to admire their reflections in the window glass, and the exceptional acoustics. If volume had anything to do with ownership, when they gobble, they would have the deed to the house in their feathery back pocket. The turkeys retreat a little when we pass by the windows, but seem only mildly inconvenienced by the other occupants of this place, namely us. Their forebears, after all, were here long before ours were.
Before dawn yesterday morning, Don watched a skunk saunter away from the back of the house, while a fat raccoon sat in the bird feeder, eating a bedtime snack. We've been wondering why the bird feed disappeared so fast, and now we know that it's been going to two more residents.

mother raccoon with kits
In the summer, a mother raccoon and her two kits would come in the evenings to eat... 

raccoon kit in oak tree

...before climbing up to their nursery in a large oak tree behind the house. 
In the nighttime, the place belonged to them.

button buck

Deer have always been occupants of our woods. 
Of the seven we see regularly, one button buck has taken to the dog kennel, and helps himself to fallen acorns. 

white-tailed buck

We see the larger bucks less frequently, but in the shelter of the darkness, they may consider this place their own, too.

barley golden retriever

Barley is the only four-legged creature with a key to the house.

So far.

golden retriever postage stamp

Barley just got his 15 minutes of fame with this custom stamp on Zazzle.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Morning Fog

trees in fog

Morning fog alters the atmosphere, washing out the background, and painting the foreground in simple shapes.

fall dogwood tree in fog

Not even a falling leaf makes a sound on the dampened earth.

Eastern White-tailed doe in fog

A young doe stands at attention and listens...

Eastern White-tailed buck in fog

...while a buck sniffs the air, depending on non-visual cues.

The ancient oak seems to listen, too, leaning into the fog.
What does he hear?

Linking with Saturday's Critters

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Everlasting Arms

young boy kneeling in prayer by Elizabeth Orton Jones

A family in our church hosted a fish fry last night. When we drove through the countryside to their hilltop place, so tantalizing was the aroma that we probably could have found it blindfolded. After we were satiated with delicious food, the musicians pulled out their instruments, and we gathered our chairs around and sang until the stars came out.

A lot of the songs were old, familiar hymns: "I'll Fly Away", "Amazing Grace", "Farther Along", and one that always stirs my memory, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms".

When I was four, and my sister, Jan, was eleven, she gave me her favorite book, Small Rain, which I still treasure. Now long out of print, it has verses of Scripture, beautifully illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones. The last two pages illustrate a verse from Deuteronomy:

The Lord is thy keeper.
The eternal God is thy refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Deut 33:27

I remember my Mother reading to me from that book at bedtime. In the daytime, her voice often filled our home with melody, and the song that came from that verse, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms", was often on her lips.

The night mom died, her family gathered around her bedside and sang hymns, much like we did last night. We held her thin hands and sang into the night, searching our memory for her favorites. With faltering breath, she lingered, and I wonder now if she was waiting for one more song, one last message of comfort that she could leave with us. There was one more, of course. It was the same song we sang last night, about the God whose Everlasting Arms shelter His children. When we sang it, my dear mother flew away to heaven.

When she left, the peace in the room was so pervasive it was almost tangible. Those Arms that held my mother, were also holding us.

Girl sleeping under stars illustration by Elizabeth Orton Jones

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Morning Metamorphosis

monarch chrysalis on geranium

It had been about eight days since two monarch caterpillars had attached to the geranium in a pot on our front porch and formed chrysalises. I checked them first thing every morning, and Monday, in the dim predawn light, one of them had changed from its lima bean green to black as my cell phone. Little by little, the unique black and orange wing pattern became visible through the translucent case.

monarch butterfly on chrysalis

By mid-morning, a new female butterfly was suspended on an empty chrysalis, her wings not fully extended. 

She climbed on uncertain legs to a nearby stem, where she hung to dry.

A couple of hours later, she was ready. She climbed to the top of a leaf, pumped her wings, and flew off, high above the trees.

That day, there was a bonus. 
All week, I had searched the geranium in vain for other chrysalises, but there, hanging out to dry, was another new butterfly.

monarch butterfly on red geranium

She perched on a blossom brighter than a stoplight in the city. 
The sisters are headed for Mexico, and we hope they'll be back next spring. 
We'll keep the light on for them. 

Linking with Saturday's Critters