Heartspoken’s View from the Bench series
I began this series of posts in late June, 2014, with a goal of teaching myself how to be more observant by exploring a small piece of the world right outside my door at different times of the year.
You can do this yourself, whether you live in a country home or a city high rise. I’m stepping outside to sit on the Trex bench right underneath my kitchen window for no more than 10 to 20 minutes—equipped only with my cell phone’s camera, a pair of binoculars, pen, and pad of paper—and report my observations: sights, sounds, smells, sensations. Call it a micro-exploration, but I have loved watching the changes throughout the year. I may not discover anything earth-shattering, but I’m sure by this time next year, I’ll have trained myself to pay just a little closer attention to the tiny wonders all around me. To find all the posts in this series, click HERE.
It’s the end of May as I write this, and I’ve come outside at 8am with a cup of coffee to sit on the kitchen bench and see what’s going on. Come sit down beside me.
It’s 65 degrees—clear and cool—not at all humid.
As I settle down, I first notice the cacophony of bird calls. Cardinals, crows, robins, and finches are ones I recognize (but there are many more I don’t recognize), and they are clearly calling back and forth from different treetops.
A tiny frog, no more than half an inch long, jumps from brick to brick near my feet—perhaps searching for a warm spot to soak up the sun on this cool morning. He’d make a tasty morsel for a hungry bird or reptile.
30 feet away, under the silver maple, a squirrel stands sentry—sniffing and erect—checking for dangers nearby. That’s a good practice, because there is a Cooper’s Hawk nest in a tree not more than 25 yards away. The parents are always foraging for food to bring their ravenous chicks.
There seems to be no breeze, but the lazy revolution of the wind sculpture tells me there is air stirring. Sure enough, as I pay attention, I feel its caress on my cheek. A whiff of honeysuckle fills the air with its lovely perfume.
An eensy-weensy spider skitters along the bricks and a large fly buzzes past. Keep going, please…
Birds, birds, birds
The male goldfinches—vibrant yellow and exquisite—enjoy the two tube feeders filled with Nyjer seed, perching three or four at a time on a single feeder. The females are more wary—they swoop in but don’t stay. One male sings out a call I’m not familiar with and I hope I remember it. It’s more of a scree, scree, scree instead of its usual chirpy sounds.
I’ve taken a chance on leaving the finch feeders up. I’m told the bears aren’t attracted to this kind of food and are unlikely to knock them down. A plop of scat on the patio could be bear, though—definitely not deer or dog, my most common visitors. My hummingbird feeders are more at risk, but so far, so good.
A sudden flutter of wings causes me to look up from my notebook and see two male goldfinches in a swirling ball of apparent confrontation—facing each other and spiraling higher and higher until they finally separate and fly off.
A shadow in the periphery of my vision makes me turn and see the Cooper’s hawk fly into her nest. She stays only a few seconds. With my binoculars, I can see two youngsters sitting up and looking around, probably close to fledging. This picture is fuzzy because it’s so far away, but you can see the large nest and its occupants.
The view has changed
My view is distinctly different than it was just a month ago, because we had to finally cut down the all-but-dead apple tree near the water hydrant and straight ahead of me as I sit on the bench. I put the tree removal off for so long, loathe to remove the birds’ popular staging area. But it was getting dangerous and I’m actually delighted how much it opens up the view to the pine woods and front field. The birds have other nearby trees they can use. There’s a lesson in this, I’m sure—change is hard but it often has a silver lining.
We’ve just gotten some bad news about the devastating pine bark beetle and we’ve been told we will lose all of our loblolly pines that make our pine woods. Clear cutting has been recommended and the idea makes my heart heavy. If we have to do that, at least it will open up a better view of the Massanutten Mountain range. That will have to be my silver lining.
My beloved Catalpa tree is in full bloom—breathtaking in its glorious adornment. In just a day or two, the blossoms will be a carpet under the tree, but today they rival any royal attire. If you’re interested in learning more about this tree, I’ve written about it before HERE.
The drone of an airplane tells me there’s a local pilot out enjoying the morning sights of the Shenandoah Valley. I always think of Dad when I see a small plane and visualize the photo, taken before I was born, of Dad in his WWII uniform, a fighter pilot hero.
Teresa’s rooster has decided to let his presence be known, the cock-a-doodle-doo reverberating across the valley.
The chestnut tree is full and spreading, its tassled blooms will soon be making the musty scent I don’t like, but today they are feathery and lovely in the morning sunlight. But I see a huge dying branch dropping at an unnatural angle, undoubtedly a victim of last week’s wind storm. We had to spend hours picking up debris before John could mow again.
I end my time on the bench in quiet gratitude for the beauty of the natural world around me and the spiritual nourishment that fills my heart and soul. God’s fingerprints are everywhere.
Is there a life-giving place outdoors for you? I’d love to hear about it.