Don’t worry…there are still three more weeks of summer, until the autumnal equinox on Wednesday, September 23.
In memory of Mr. Phil
Love affairs are bittersweet. There’s the shock and initial giddy rush of attraction that takes you someplace wonderful that you’ve never been or felt before. You overlook your beloved’s peccadilloes, their appearance, their annoying parents. Their beauty grows in your eyes. You rush to their defense, to maintain the miracle of their presence at your own peril.
And then, it’s over. They need their freedom. They fly the nest. Your sojourn together is too brief. One day, they’re gazing upon you with their soulful eyes, tucked in a nest of love, and the next, stretching their wings and borne on the wind, they’re off to find the next fragrant blossom.
Yes, the hummingbirds are getting ready to go, and I am prematurely desolate. Seduced and abandoned. I knew their departure was imminent this morning when I climbed the stepladder in my nightgown to photograph them (blessedly, the Shrew was still asleep). They just looked at me with their unblinking eyes, stuffed into their mother’s love nest with their beaks and tails hanging over the edges. Their heads have grown significantly in the past few days, so that their eyes are no longer dominant. The larger of the two is the size of its mother, so I know it’s time, and I’m just not ready. She is just starting to let me watch her feed them, a miracle all by itself. Too soon, it’s too soon, for me, if not for them.
“Oh, please, please, please don’t go yet!” I begged. “You’re my miracle in the crappiness of my life. You’re my heart. You’re my hope.”
They were silent. Not a peep out of them.
“I love you so!” The nest swayed in the breeze, but they remained steadfast on their branch.
“Oh, for God’s sake! What are you doing out here in our nightgown?” The Shrew had roused herself. “Are you conscious enough to be on that ladder?”
“Not yet, they aren’t.”
“But probably today or tomorrow.”
“I don’t know why you’re surprised,” she yawned. “It’s August, you know. They have to prepare to migrate before the weather gets cold.”
“Is summer over already?”
“Not quite. We have another two months or so of decent weather.” The Shrew was surprisingly gentle. “You know better than most people how life works.”
Over the weekend, a dear friend lost one of the longest battles with cancer of anyone that I know. Mr. Phil and I were the long-tolerant spouses of avian veterinarians, but he partnered his with much more grace and patience than I partnered mine. My heart was broken from the loss of his smile and laughter and his cool ties and sharp hats. It was also broken for his wife, whose plaintive tribute to him brought back memories of my own loss, brightened by her request that his friends have a Champagne toast in his memory.
“Let’s go in the house,” the Shrew whispered. “The breeze is going up this nightgown, and we’re shivering.”
I fed the BFF and made my morning cup of strong black tea, sweetened and doused with milk (fat free, of course), put her meds in her marshmallow, and settled down to the morning news and my email, which held a delightful surprise for a woman who really doesn’t do mornings.
In the evening, after a frustrating day, I climbed the ladder to see if they were still there. They were, and my breathing slowed for the first time in hours. “All will be well and all will be well…”
Suddenly, I’ve been thinking about faith, hope, and love in a new light. God tirelessly redeems and redeems and redeems so, who am I to complain? Life is good (mostly). Soli Deo Gloria!
So…I’m sitting on my deck on the first sunny day in a good long while, when I hear an occasional buzzing near my head. I sit up and look for horseflies or wasps or bumblebees. Nothing. I sit back and return to my book.
Thirty seconds later, the buzzing returns. Still, no flying insects.
“Hmmm,” I say to My BFF, “Sounds like a hummingbird.” I’m perplexed, because I don’t have a hummingbird feeder, and there are no blooming plants. Must be a large hornet of some kind. I look up into the dogwood branch hanging over my head, and there it is, a small hive-shaped nest.
“Uh-oh.” I put the BFF in the house and carefully examine the nest, when, suddenly, something rushes past my head. A dull-colored hummingbird.
I am beside myself with happiness and rush into the house for a stepladder. How incredible is it, that there could be a hummingbird nest on my deck? The BFF watches as I drag the ladder outside. I can tell by the look on her face that she thinks I’m losing it. I set up the ladder and climb it with my cellphone, because I won’t be tall enough to see inside the nest — if it is a nest — but, with my arm extended, the cellphone will have a clear shot at it. I take the first blurry shot, and there they are, two little hummingbird eggs. My eyes tear up. So serene. So perfect.
And then The Shrew in my head pipes up, “Are you crazy? Do you know how you’re going to look to the EMTs when they find your lifeless body on the deck when you fall off this ladder? Your lifeless, 63-year old body wearing a black bikini? Have you no shame?”
“I need a shot that isn’t blurry,” is what I’m thinking.
I move the ladder to the other side and shoot again. This time, the picture is in focus, as is my headless torso, the deck, the ladder, and my chair. I get down and sit back on my chair. The little hummingbird flits back and forth but doesn’t come back to the branch. When it rests, it sits on a wire of my television antenna and looks down at me. We are both a little dumbfounded. The hummingbird by the scary woman. The woman by life. If I were an ordinary, sane, rational woman, I might be amused and check the little nest daily until the chicks hatch and fly away.
I, on the other hand, am plagued by “The Meaning of Life.” What does it mean that a hummingbird nest has appeared to me? Is that routine? Does everyone have a hummingbird nest hanging over their decks? Or, in the lunacy that is my life, does it just remind me that, as the medieval mystic, Julian of Norwich, said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well”?
It also begs the question, why would I be so stupid as to post a picture on the internet of my headless 63-year old torso wearing a bikini? That one’s easy. It’s a great shot of the nest, and the photo is taken at such an odd angle that my body is completely distorted.
What have I learned? I’ve learned that the key to a good swimsuit photo is, apparently, to stand on a ladder with your arm extended three feet over your head, thereby elongating the torso, removing folds, wrinkles, and stretching the skin as good as a plastic surgeon would.
God made me smile today, so, who am I to complain? Life is good (mostly). Soli Deo Gloria!
Yesterday, Punxsutawney Phil and his family of groundhogs saw their shadows, and at least one, in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, took a chunk out of the mayor’s ear. On Wisconsin! I don’t blame them. I also have a tendency to snap at the ears of anyone who wakes me up in the middle of a deep sleep for no apparent reason. You can understand that the groundhogs would be grouchy, because they don’t have much longer to hibernate before they awaken to chew on grass and start dodging cars and lawnmowers. If it’s any consolation, by my calculations, there are six and a half more weeks until the spring equinox, so that’s four fewer days of winter. Not a boon, not a calamity. On the brighter side (pun intended), the days are already longer, and daylight savings time starts again on March 8.
My maternal ancestors settled eastern Kentucky, so you would think my grandmother would have been a wealth of folklore about animals, but her expertise was more in folk medicine, along the lines of “If you swallow gum, it will stick to your ribs.” Here are my anecdotal observations about the true nature of winter:
If my forsythia bloom on a rare, warm day in December, they will also bloom in February and March. Forsythia are like weeds, not deterred by anything, and those yellow flowers are really pretty when covered by layers of ice.
If my snowdrops bloom in February, there will be a snowstorm blanketing them, and I won’t see them until it thaws, and they have died. Indeed, they have just broken their little heads above-ground, and while I fear for their safety, it means that spring is on its way.
If a snow event fails to materialize on a Friday or Monday, schools will close anyway, and every kid will be at the mall.
If I am away in the winter, the deer will take over my yard and eat everything green in sight. I lost some azaleas last week, while their nemesis, My BFF, was boarding, and I, so irresponsible, was frolicking in the tropics.
If I top-off my windshield washer fluid on January 1, it will disappear by February, when I really need it.
If I keep a shovel and a bucket of sand and salt in my trunk, my steep lane won’t freeze all winter, but I will curse every time I try to load groceries.
If I wear my dress shoes to church, there will be unavoidable ice somewhere between my car and the door to the sanctuary.
If you put out a squirrel-proof bird feeder, you’re only providing entertainment for the squirrels. They already socked away a million acorns last fall and don’t need the seed. I stopped using a particular feeder, after I saw the squirrels learn to sit on top of it and smack the release lever with their paws to drop seed to their little squirrel friends on the ground. After a few minutes, they would switch places. The birds just sat nearby watching the circus. At least, everyone was entertained.
Valentine’s Day is imminent, so there must be some serious pheromones being carried by all of these blizzards. I have been inundated with “winks,” “interesteds,” and emails. Where do I start with this week’s dating prospects? The atheist? The 33-year old from Connecticut? The 83-year old from Ohio?
Let’s start with Mr. “Hey, Ms. Fallston, Read my profile. I think you will get a good lush hot two. [signed] The Prince of. [local housing development].”
If “lush hot two” is something pornographic, I apologize, but that’s an expression that I’ve neither heard nor can decipher with my superb command of the English language. This was his second email. His first asked if I had ever been dancing at a local, somewhat disreputable, establishment. I was a little taken aback, so I ignored it, per online dating custom. The second email was so pathetic that I just clicked “Not interested” and blocked him, which I have only done twice before. Shouting at me does not a good first impression make, and he’s the first guy I thought might feel compelled to continue the diatribe.
Then, there was this email, “How Can I Become your ‘Undercover’ Cuddle Buddy and More!!” [sic] from a 46-year old man in northern Virginia with a zany photo reminiscent of a 1950s Vegas comedian. He was commenting on the photo of me in a straw hat and sunglasses that was taken on my vacation (see last week’s blog post). I hope he means “undercover,” as in a disguise. The Daughter assured me that it was a tasteful, ladylike photo, but maybe there’s too much cleavage. Uh-oh. Maybe that’s responsible for the uptick in contacts. False advertising. Not the cleavage, by the way. What the cleavage may imply.
I received an “Interested” from a man who just moved to the area and has an interesting job. I returned to him an “Interested.” He’s divorced with “no baggage, never argue, criticize or condemn. Am totally supportive and never sarcastic.” Oh, come on. Everyone has some sort of baggage. Mine tends to be lightweight and expensive. I certainly never condemn and was always very supportive of most every inane thing that The Veterinarian ever did. “Argue and criticize?” Only when I’m 100% absolutely, certainly, clearly, definitely, and undoubtedly right. OK, we probably don’t have chemistry, but I’m fascinated by his job and may just email him about it.
I emailed a self-described “Christ-centered” guy, aged 60, looking for women 38-54, who said he worked for the government in “health” and “nature” with a “graduate degree.” He posted a photo of himself expertly holding a raptor, so I asked if interacting with Great Horned Owls was part of his job (seeing as how I know a boatload of stuff about raptors and medicine, thanks to The Veterinarian). I realize that I am two years older than he is, and eight years older than his ideal, but, still, I thought we might have something in common. My profile shows my serious commitment to Christian Formation, but perhaps I missed Christ’s admonition on dating outside of your ideal age range. (Sorry for the sarcasm.)
My stated “ideal age” is 55-68, but I’ve corresponded with 72 year olds, because, after all, Paul McCartney and Harrison Ford are 72. If they’re much older, they’re too close to my parents’ generation. If they’re younger than 55, well, that’s flattering, but I’m no cougar, and George Clooney went off the market last fall. I would consider a younger man with bad eyesight, because my dilemma is that I can no longer dress or undress in the dark and probably wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny in the harsh light of day or those new compact fluorescent bulbs. I know that my neck won’t.
My bigger fear is that I am “geographically undesirable.” I’m not close enough to a major city. The really interesting guys all seem to live in the DC area, about 40 miles away, which is probably not a deterrent, if you live in the vastness of Texas or own a car and know how to drive. (In one of my profile incarnations, I said that I own a car and know how to use it and am not navigationally impaired.) I’m regularly contacted by men from 33-83 from Maryland to California. Beyond 100 miles, I wouldn’t even respond to them, because they are, most likely, either fakes or psycho killers.
Of course, My Mother fears that they’re all psycho killers because she watches all the real-life crime dramas on Friday and Saturday nights. I watch Dr. Phil and have learned to spot the fakes a mile away. I always have hope. After all, despite what cranky groundhogs say, spring is on its way! So, who am I to complain? Life is good (mostly). Soli Deo Gloria!
We need a little hope, right this very minute. This morning’s media reports (print, broadcast, and you, my friends on social media) ran the emotional gamut from despair (Robin Williams) to generosity (the Ice Bucket Challenge to benefit ALS research). Since I claim that this blog is “about hope,” I jettisoned my originally scheduled post on my love/hate relationship with dogs for the brand of hope that has floated my boat through the crises of my life.
Turn away now, if discussions of faith offend you. Stay with me, if you’re curious.
In his letter to the believers (and non-believers) in Rome, St. Paul writes “…And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” [Romans 5:2c-5]
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got today. Life is a struggle. You’ve had yours. I’ve got mine. It’s not a contest, but, in the length of a life, it seems like a marathon. Married too young at 20, but I persevered. Hysterectomy at 24, clinical depression at 25, but I persevered. My father’s death from ALS when I was 33 (and he was just 58), but I persevered. Adoptive mother at 47, but I persevered. Suddenly a widow at 59 beset by legal problems, but I persevered. And, now, at 62, I persevere because God’s promise to redeem all the “problems” in my life is revealed continually.
Elsewhere, the news is grim. Ebola kills. Racism kills. Greed kills. Fear kills. Despair kills. Thus it has ever been for humankind, since recorded history began. Check out cave paintings and Gilgamesh and the Bible and the great writers of every civilization on every point of land on Earth. The Mesopotamia flooded, and typhoons and tornadoes, earthquakes and blizzards threatened creation every year. Plagues and insects killed creation every year. Feudal, tribal, and personal disputes killed, maimed, and injured creation every year. No amount of rationalization or evolution or legislation changed it.
Still, humans search for solutions and, in the process, tend the sick, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, and pity the afflicted (to paraphrase a prayer from the Episcopal Church’s Order for Compline). Whether I need to say something to God or not, I talk to God every day; whether things are going great or if I’m dealing with my own fears or those of others. There is hope every day, as God provides the answers for the problems that seem insurmountable. They rarely are the answers that I anticipate, but I am moving forward. So, who am I to complain? Life is good (mostly.) Soli Deo Gloria!
Prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
 New Revised Standard Version