Tag Archives: Suzanne

An Eclipse and a Hurricane

The rain is sluicing down, inches every hour, in Texas. Hurricane Harvey is one that will go down in history. Like Camille and Andrew and Katrina. Stories of devastation fill our television news. A mother in her car caught in the flood and drowned but her baby saved. A woman going into labor and birthing her baby in a rescue shelter. Family after family escaping by boat, often with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Dismal scenes of houses under water, automobiles floating, boats carrying huddled groups of people down streets they once drove.

But just last week the news was all about the sun, the eclipse of the sun viewable by folks from Oregon to South Carolina.

What a spectacular show of God’s handiwork it was, last Monday, August 21. We don’t live where we could see the total eclipse but we donned our solar glasses and watched what we could see. In a few minutes’ time (which had been precisely predicted) the moon went from a sliver on the face of the sun to a fat sideways dark smiley. The sun, that wonderful, powerful light of our days, was tremendously bright even when only maybe 15 percent of the disc was showing. We’d been told the maximum coverage would be visible at 2:42, I think, and that it would be hazy around us. We watched and shared our glasses with others, the timing exactly as expected. And the sunlight did get slightly less bright taking on a sepia kind of glow like old photographs. But we didn’t experience the darkness as our folks in North Georgia did.

My family in North Georgia gave me their reports. There, in Habersham County, the total eclipse could be seen. Charlie said about forty people came to Stone Gables to have lunch and then view the wonder from the lawn. There were a lot of children there who’d been excused from school for the occasion. He said for a minute and a half it became dark as night. He saw the stars, Mars and the Milky Way. He said the crickets began chirping. In a nearby pasture cows who had been peacefully grazing were observed lying down.

People traveled long distances to see this celestial show. Habersham County was one of the many good places in the corridor of viewing from the northeast USA to the southeast. Days before the event huge numbers descended on the area. My sister Suzanne told me how amazing it was to see the usually fairly quiet roads lined with cars, “like during leaf time in the fall.” She also was amazed at the empty shelves in the grocery stores.

The weather news prepared us days ahead for the big day. There was no rain expected in our area so we should have a good view, they said. As we did. My thanks to all those in news media, newspapers, and individuals who gave us a heads up about this phenomenal event. I would have been so sorry to miss it. And how easy that would have been! No bells rang to say “Look up!” There was no thunderous roar. We don’t go about watching the sun. If I’d been one of those cows I’d have thought it was night too!

It was noted on the national newscasts the night after as something that drew people of all races, ages, and political views, a real equalizer. We saw a picture of hundreds of people wearing the solar glasses and looking up.

Yes, the eclipse was amazing. It made me consider our amazing God, the One Who set the sun and moon and planets in place so precisely their orbits can be perfectly predicted by scientists. He’s also the God Who forms rainbows, plate-size hibiscus blooms, and babies who coo. He’s the same God Who made the funny platypus, Niagara Falls, and melons with those perfect seam-like grooves and peculiar skin patterns.

He is our God Who is a “very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). And we call on Him now for the thousands in trouble in Texas, devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

Oh God of power and might, thank You for the sun and the wind and the rain. In your unconditional mercy intervene, we pray, for the people in the line of Hurricane Harvey. Show us how we can help. Please, Lord. Amen.

If you would like to contribute to help the people in Hurricane Harvey you can click on samaritanspurse.org-Samaritan’s Purse- Hurricane Harvey Relief.

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Discovering Birds’ Nests

When Jared, my grandson-in-law, told me about the mourning dove’s nest built under an eave of a house he and his brother Rusty are building, I was intrigued and asked him to send me a picture. (Look below) Jared and Rusty are trying to avoid that part of the building until the mourning dove finishes raising her brood. That may turn out to be difficult since the bird is on her fourth set of eggs this year. She’s already mothered three sets of hatchlings and seen them fly away! Jared’s report and picture have made me remember birds’ nest discoveries of years ago and not so long ago.

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I can still remember the surge of excitement whenever, as a little girl, I discovered a birds’ nest. All ten of us children entered into the friendly fun of seeing who could find the most nests each spring and summer. No one won a prize or even had their name on a poster or had a special announcement made at suppertime. The joy was in the accomplishment.

I think our all-time favorite nest to find, partly because it was hidden so well, was a Carolina wren’s nest. The ones I remember were tucked down under low huckleberry bushes. The best way to find this nest is to be leaning far down picking the wonderfully sweet tiny huckleberries. The nest is built on its side like a neat cave. One can almost step on it and crush it before noticing it, except that the little mama in her muted colors gets nervous when someone’s nearby and begins chirping an trying to lead you in another direction, often feigning a broken wing for sympathy. Her anxiety gives her away. When you find the nest, you must get all the way down on your knees in the soft accumulation of leaves to peer inside and see the perfect clutch of three or four eggs. All our adult lives my sisters and I have compared any wonderful find to “like discovering a Carolina wren’s nest.”

Another nest that was a wonderful find when we were kids was a vireo’s nest. Suspended from a forked twig, this little nest would be tightly woven of very small materials like bits of moss and dead leaves and milkweed cotton. It was like a soft velvety-lined cup just the right size for a little vireo whose song we heard much more than we ever saw her. I can remember being held up by strong brotherly arms to see inside the tiny nest, and maybe once when I was older, trying in vain to climb to a position where I could see in one. These birds are very shy and we don’t seem to hear about them any more. But that could be because we’re not in the woods climbing trees!

Now house wrens are not into seclusion and remoteness. They build in friendly proximity to the human touch. My sister Suzanne has one right now in a bucket hanging on her porch. One year a wren built her nest in a door decoration at our South Broad house. The “wreath” sported a false bird house front and I guess it fooled that poor little bird! She managed to squeeze her weaving of pine straw, a piece of plastic bag, some bits of grass and leaves, even a little girl’s hair ribbon, into a sweet little nest between the door and that wooden decoration. If one of us forgot and opened the front door, she’d fly away in a flutter of startled wings.

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Suzanne’s wren’s nest on her porch

 

Almost everyone, I guess, has found at one time or another, a wren or sparrow’s nest in a boot, on the back of a mailbox, or perched precariously over the top of a screen door. But the best one I’ve heard of was the find of Mr. Julian Roddenbery. For some reason his car wasn’t moved for several days and then when he went out to drive to town he discovered a little brown bird had built a nest in his car’s grill or in the edge of the hood. He began walking to town, wouldn’t move his car until that bird was all done with her nest. What a gentle man!

It takes a very sharp eye to spot a hummingbird’s nest. They like to build high in a tree and their nests are, of course, so tiny. Still, my alert brothers and my dad found hummingbird nests. Then, about twenty years ago, several of us were astonished when a hummingbird built her nest only feet above our heads in a maple tree near Mamma’s room. Mamma was very sick that year, not able to get out much. But she could see that tiny, thimble-sized nest attached to a twig and it brought many smiles to her face. She enjoyed hearing about the Canada goose family living at her pond that year, and she could take joy from seeing the birds at feeders outside her window. But the gift of that hummingbird’s nest so close by seemed like an acknowledgement from God that He cared about her so much and was watching over her.

Our two oldest brothers, I believe, were always the winners of the birds’ nest finding contest as long as they were at home. They each got credit for finding over one hundred nests in a given summer. After they left, others of us were winners, though I know I never did win. I have no idea now what my highest score was. We had some rather loose rules. We could count nests already found by someone else as long as we could honestly say we hadn’t known about them before our own discovery. We could not remove a nest from its place unless the birds were obviously done with it. Our tallies were according to the honor system for we had no cameras to prove our discoveries.

I have come close to having my eyes pecked by angry brown thrashers who thought I was getting too close to their nest in a camellia bush. They seem to grow the most anxious about the security of their homes. But then there are mockingbirds who turn ferocious if a cat even strolls by, and robins who go into frenzies when someone gets too close.

To take to the sky, what an awesome sight is an osprey’s nest, all lonely in a dead cypress, silhouetted against a Florida sky. Or a crow’s nest high in a pine tree. And have you ever “found” an eagle’s nest. No matter how many other people have already discovered it and even if a guide has to point it out to you, what a wonderful sight that is!

It is a healthy thing to watch birds “at work” and to discover their houses so cleverly constructed. The more I learn about them, the more in awe I am of the One Who created them!

 

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Cicada Concert

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Do you hear them? I was sitting on my porch in South Georgia talking on the phone to my sister Suzanne in North Georgia when she said, “The cicadas are here today.” And I could hear them in our yard too making music in waves of summer sound. That was probably about the first of August. But the summer sound lasts through September so I’m still enjoying the daily rhythm of music in the trees. It’s a background sound to whatever else is going on, a sound which makes me feel with Browning, “God’s in His heaven All’s right with the world.” (Though Browning was listening to a lark instead.)

But is it really cicadas or locusts or katydids or crickets we hear?

Kaison, three years old, who plays with me on Tuesdays, asked enough questions about the “bugs” that I set out to settle some facts about them.

 First, he found the empty skin of what I used to call a locust clinging to a pine tree where the transformed creature left it. He held that skin tenderly in his hand and asked if he were okay. “He’s gone,” I explained. “No, I have to take care of him.” He examined his eye places, his funny prickly feet and, of course the split in the back where the fellow crawled out and flew away. He babied that skin for two hours before something else got his attention.

 In a week or two, Kaison found the dead body of a winged creature lying by our back door. He picked him up too. It had beautiful transparent wings, some green and black on its body, no signs of why he had died. I told Kaison this was one of the cicadas that had come out of a skin like the one he had found. He was baffled and amazed. Again, he cradled that “bug” in his hand for an hour until I finally persuaded him to lay it gently in the low fork of a susquina tree.

 As I told Kaison his “bug” was a cicada, I wondered if it were a locust instead. And what exactly was a katydid? I decided to do the up-to-date encyclopedia search, in other words “Google” it. I wanted to be sure I didn’t lead this little boy astray!

 So here it is, the truth about the hoppers, Flyers, leg-rubbing, vibrating fascinating percussionists of summer.

 Crickets live in the grass and chirp as they hop about. Any pond fisherman knows crickets. They don’t live in the trees. So when you hear their little songs in the grass, you’ll know it’s crickets. They don’t form bands, either, like katydids and cicadas. Crickets are more ensemble and solo singers. Like “The Cricket on the Hearth” by Charles Dickens.

 Katydids sing at night, that is, they rub their legs together to make their fascinating waves of sound. They look more like a grasshopper than a cicada though their raspy sound is similar. Just know when you sit on your porch watching the stars come out it’s the katydids saying “Katy did, she didn’t, she did.”

Locusts are bad boys. They eat whole crops, take away the livelihood of farmers. Locusts were one of the plagues God sent on Egypt when Pharaoh wouldn’t let his people go. And I think the sounds you hear are the sounds of a million wings buzzing and an eerie chomping sound. At least that’s the way I’ve read about them in western pioneer novels. No peaceful rhythmic orchestra sound. But they do have a cousinly resemblance to cicadas in appearance.

Which leads us back to the cicada. There are, of course, many kinds including the ones you may have heard about this year called the seventeen year cicada. Those have an amazing life cycle. It goes from tiny larvae in the ground for seventeen years, to brown beetles crawling out on God’s time table and climbing trees, to the great transformation, the summer concerts, the mating, and then eggs falling out of the trees to the ground where they wiggle down and do their seventeen year thing again, not sleeping but drinking juice from tree roots. Cicadas, unlike locusts, do not eat foliage. They just drink sap which usually doesn’t hurt anything.

There’s also a thirteen year cicada and then just the regular annual ones which we know. In states where the seventeen year cicada came out in droves people were warned to beware that their pets not make themselves sick eating too many, or get choked on their wings. People do actually eat them too, prepared in many ways–fried, chocolate covered, pickled, you name it. 

When I was a kid my brothers loved to sneak up behind me and place a brown prickly cicada skin in my hair. One of us girls ended up going to church decorated thus, causing muffled snickers in the pew behind. I don’t plan to tell Kaison about that. 

I’ll just tell him again that the sound he hears high in the pines on a hot day are those cicadas with beautiful wings making music for their girls. They have special built-in instruments that vibrate with great vigor. So listen to them as they “sing” tonight. They’ll be gone very soon

What amazing creatures! Do you think God created them to make us smile?

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