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Musings: A New Visitor

About three weeks ago I was sitting in my lanai enjoying my God time and breakfast.  I was so aware of the presence of God through His creation.  Squirrels were scampering in the trees and enjoying breakfast at their feeders.  Birds were calling out to their mates or calling out for prospective mates and swooping in to the feeders on the back fence of the garden.  The trees and plants were budding out and everything had that lush look about it.  The bare threads of winter were fast being replaced.

I was very familiar with many of the birds, those I could see and those I could hear.  The sweet Titmice and many Sparrows jostled for spots on the feeders until the Cardinal appeared and claimed his place as “numero uno” in the pecking order!  Some Bluebirds and Blue Jays flew across the garden creating magnificent flashes of blue.  Occasionally a Blue Jay would drop onto the back fence, wait for the other birds to finish and leave, before hopping down to pick a seed or two, bang it open on the fence top, and then fly off.

Mocking Birds were aggressively buzzing the back yard and each other.  I saw quite a bit of spring rivalry as one male chased another away from his prospective mate.  Then he began courting the female but she was playing hard-to-get.  And in between whiles, the first Humming Birds were starting to visit their feeders on a more regular basis.

High up in the trees, Crows would sit, each one claiming the pinnacle of a pine tree as his particular castle, and then would begin a cacophony of sound as they started their orchestral system of communication.  Joining them from time to time could be heard the piercing shrieks of the Red Shouldered Hawk as he flew from tree to tree crying out for a mate to join him.  From somewhere deep inside the small pinewood out back I could here the drilling of a Woodpecker on a tree trunk. And then a small, chunky House Wren decided to join my garden group and sang out his rich morning song; such a loud voice for such a small bird.

Then suddenly, from quite close by, I heard an unusual, never-before-heard, loud dry chatter. I looked up and around.  The noise had seemed to come from my Bottle Brush tree which now stands about twelve to fifteen foot high.  It was aflame with spring blooms and rich with new spring growth foliage.  Then I heard the chatter again and caught a glimpse of something large and yellowish.  The bird was definitely as big as a mature Cardinal but seemed slimmer, more elongated.  But he was operating deep inside the tree and I could only catch occasional glimpses of flashing gold movement.

The next day, amid the same lively performance from all the usual birds, I again heard the loud dry chatter.  This time I was prepared with binoculars close at hand, but my new visitor was more elusive than the day before.  He seemed to bury himself even deeper into the tree and only at the last moment, as he lifted up in flight to leave, did I catch a quick sighting, a magnificent flash of rich deep gold as he flew up and away.  This was way too tantalizing.  I searched through my Kenn Kaufman bird book and thought perhaps it might be a female Summer Tanager.

The next day I heard the now familiar chatter and, after some minutes scrutinizing the tree, I got my first real clear sighting.  He had come out on a branch on my side of the tree.  This placed him in plain sight and also put him in the slightly shadowed part of the tree which meant there was no sun shining directly on him.  And there he was in all his glory.  From just under the beak area he was a rich golden reddish orange that went all the way down under his belly getting slightly paler in shade as it disappeared between his legs and back towards his under tail.  His whole face and continuing over the crown of his head, down his back to his upper tail was black, while his wings had a touch of light gold at the shoulders but were black with distinct white markings.


He was a beauty, about 8-9  inches long.  I began frantically flipping pages in the Kaufman.  Triumphantly I came across a page full of Orioles, and there was my visitor.  And visitor he was; a rarely-seen-in-the-south Baltimore Oriole. The picture was a perfect match and the description of his call note was exactly what I had been hearing – a dry chatter.  I was so thrilled to have identified him, and so happy that he had chosen my Bottle Brush as his breakfast spot.

He came every day for about two and a half weeks and my husband was able to get some good photos of him.  Then, just as suddenly as he appeared, he seems to have disappeared.  Today is the fourth day that I have not heard his chatter nor seen his regal flash of gold.  Even as I feel somewhat sad, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to make his acquaintance.  But, in the meantime, as though in recompense, I have been treated to another new sighting.  But that’s fodder for another blog.

Return To My Spiritual Sanctuary

Much as I loved and enjoyed my trip to San Antonio, I am so grateful to be back in the spiritual sanctuary that is my garden.  I try very hard to keep my small personal routine on schedule when I travel but it is never quite the same.  Perhaps if I had lots of money and could stay in the kind of places where I could be guaranteed a quiet terrace, garden, or patio where I would not be disturbed by anyone or anything except God’s incredible creation, then it might be a little different.

The joy of sitting in my lanai fairly early in the morning, surrounded by hummingbirds, butterflies, cardinals, titmice, and mourning doves, as well as the flowers that bloom in my garden and the pine woods out back, is indescribable.  The quiet and the beauty restore my soul and fill my heart with happiness.

In my solitude here each morning there is a peacefulness that fills my whole being, a tranquility that I am blessed with, that allows me the perfect start to each day.  My meditation books are there within easy reach and I am called to a place of quiet communion with my Creator that sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Here I can bare my soul to the One who loves me always, no matter what.  Here I can tell Him my concerns, share my joys with Him, and make any specific requests that I may have.  I read recently that, “Faith functions in connection with prayer and persistence.  Persistence cultivates the belief that prayer will be answered.  A person with a persistent spirit will be blessed.” (The Power of Prayer by E.M. Bounds) 

And so I continue in my prayers for special causes that I have, for the many people who have asked me to pray for them, and for all those who have no one to pray for them.  And in my praying I am drawn closer to my God.  In my praying I go deeper on my spiritual path.  And in my praying for others I am released of the bondage of self-importance and of self-centeredness.

I am immensely grateful for my sanctuary.  For my special place where I can retreat from the chaos of the outside world.  For the quiet that offers me the time to recharge and regenerate to face whatever challenges the day may bring.  For the time each day that I am blessed with to nurture my soul. Amen!!    

My Garden: God’s Creation

What an amazing way to start the day; such nourishment for the soul!!  This morning I was sitting in my lanai by 6.45am.  It was going to be another day full of brilliant sunshine and very low humidity and I was ready for it.  I love the subtle yet clear light and the silence of the early morning.

Within moments of being there it was as though someone had pushed a button.  For the next 30 minutes I was treated to my own High-Def, surround sound, 3-D, wide screen live show.  And through it all the sun rose higher and the light got rosier.

The Hummingbirds came out in full force.  Within minutes there were at least four couples buzzing in and out and over the yard.  I know they were couples because each set of two sported one ruby-throated male.  It seemed as though there were bright red diamonds flashing about the garden.

The couples dived and rose together in perfect unison, twisting this way and that.  Suddenly, they would come to an abrupt hovering halt, facing each other.  For a few moments they hung quivering in space about six inches apart and then it seemed as though they leaned in to each other in two or three darting movements, as if exchanging quick kisses.  Then off they zoomed for some more madly ecstatic flight.

Meanwhile, in the background, at the birdfeeder on the back fence, Mamma and Papa Cardinal were taking turns at having breakfast.  The male, in all his glorious scarlet beauty, would eat then hop up onto the fence and stand guard while his mate had her fill.  When she flew back into the tree behind the fence, he would go again to the feeder and eat some more.  As she flew down again, he resumed his spot on the fence and gallantly awaited until she finished.

While all this was going on, several Titmice were playing at catch-me-if-you-can in and out of the wrought iron work of the old gazebo.  I was sure they were just marking time and waiting for the Cardinals to finish feeding.  And in fact, as soon as they flew off, the Titmice descended on the feeder and took their turn.

I had one more unexpected treat in store. After the Titmice had finished at the feeder and the Hummingbirds were taking a well-earned rest from their tactical maneuvers, I went inside to make some tea.  As I stepped back out into the lanai I noticed a large black bird on the feeder.  It was a very “glistening” black, almost like a raven.  Its beak was also black. 

He was about the size of a Cardinal,  but sleeker, slimmer.  It was definitely not as large as a crow.  I began ruffling the pages of my “Birds Of North America” by Kenn Kaufman but could not find a match.  Then suddenly the bird moved around on the feeder and I was looking at his profile.  There on the side of his breast where the wing met his body, was a flash of vivid red underscored by a slash of white.

Once again I checked my book and I believe I found my answer.  There amongst the Blackbirds was a species called the Red-winged Blackbird.  It was obviously a male which still had not completely acquired his full summer plumage, hence the slash of white.  Although the book indicated that these are “abundant and familiar” birds throughout Northern America, this was the first time I had seen one.

By the time my new visitor had left the feeder, everyone else had retired to the trees or moved on to greener pastures.  With the exception of a couple of butterflies who went their merry way, dancing from bloom to bloom.  What a wonderful gift God has given us with His creation and what a blessing to have so much of it in my small patch of the world.