Thursday, May 31, 2012

With Real Tomato Taste

“With Real Tomato Taste”; that’s what the sticker on the tomato said. I guess there are so many fake tomatoes in our grocery stores that we need assurance that we’re purchasing a real tomato.

“But it looks like a tomato, so shouldn’t it taste like a tomato?”

When is a tomato not a tomato? Is it when it doesn’t taste like a tomato? If a tomato tasted like a banana would it be a tomato or a banana? If a banana tasted like an orange would it be an orange or a banana?

Does this make any sense? It makes about as much sense as a sticker on a tomato telling me that it tastes like a tomato – well, maybe not – for there sure are a lot of tomatoes in grocery stores that don’t taste like tomatoes – the problem is, they don’t taste like anything, not like bananas or oranges or even rhubarb. At least if a tomato tasted like rhubarb one could make a pie.

Do you wonder what we’re really eating?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Birds: Joy, Sadness, and Hope

We love birds, even “bad” birds like hawks when they stay out of our yard. Hawks elsewhere are magnificent but when they are preying on our Bluebirds and Cardinals and Chickadees…well…then the hawks need to go elsewhere. When a hawk swoops down in our backyard amidst the feeders the other birds and squirrels and chipmunks make like the population of London during the Blitz and disappear…only venturing out again when the “all clear” is sounded.

Sitting on the screened-in porch in the evening and watching birds at the feeders, listening to their songs and calls, is as soothing an hour or two as there is on this planet. The rub is that investment in life is also investment in tragedy and death.

We had a decorative bird house that was purchased from Costco years ago, it was about a foot high with a high round opening, and this year we put it on a little wood table that is part of our outdoor furniture setting. No bird family had ever taken up residence in this birdhouse, that is until this year. The delight we had in watching Mr. & Mrs. Chickadee going to and fro from this birdhouse, carrying nesting material was only surpassed by the cheeps of little chicks. Once the chicks broke through the eggs we watched day after day as the parents mimicked the Berlin Airlift by ferrying food back and forth to their brood.

Mr. & Mrs. Chickadee, food in beak, would approach the birdhouse cautiously, eyes and head darting right and left and up and down, making sure that it was safe to enter the house. If we were in close proximity, or if one of the dogs was nearby, the parent took extra time to ensure that we posed no threat to its young.    

“I don’t hear the little birds.”

“I wonder if they left the nest?”

“I haven’t seen them.”

“Let me open the top of the birdhouse and see what’s going on.”

They were dead. So sad. All that joy and delight and life gone – gone from Mr. & Mrs. Chickadee and gone from Bob and Vickie.

I’m not sure why they died; there are various possibilities – chicks die in the nest for a number of reasons. But here’s what I think after reading up on chicks and nests – I think the opening was too high for the little ones to get out and I think the sides of the house were too slick for them to climb. And that makes me even sadder because I think I should have known; if I was going to invite a bird family to use a house rent free I should have known. I put the little dead chicks in a place in the woods where hopefully they wouldn’t be disturbed, and I put the birdhouse in the trash.

Yesterday Lily and Lina were barking, it was the “cat” bark – the cat was somewhere near. As Vickie investigated she discovered that the cat had attacked a fledging Robin. Before the cat could pounce again Vickie scared the cat off and ran in the house to get me. The little Robin, feathers missing and blood on its back, was in the rose garden.

After I got a cardboard box from the garage we managed to catch the bird and put it in the box. Then I called a wildlife rescue hotline and waited for a call back.

Since the box was tall I didn’t close the top, thinking that the Robin was in no condition to escape – that shows you what I know about birds. It was soon out of the box and hopping down the driveway. Lily and Lina looked at the poor thing but didn’t approach it. Vickie and I tried to corner the bird and cover it with a towel, but as soon as we’d get a foot or two near it off it would hop in another direction. Finally the little guy (girl?) hopped into a 3 x 3 patch of ivy at the base of a lamppost by our entrance walk. Surely we had it now.

Five minutes, ten minutes, carefully probing the ivy with our fingers so as not to hurt the injured fledging – where could it have gone? Finally I saw it, burrowed in the dirt, hunkered down to escape notice; I carefully cupped my hands around it and lifted it up for the trip back to the box; the little rascal biting my finger during the entire trip – good thing I had gloves on.

Throughout all of this I was talking to wildlife rehab volunteers at various times. There was the first lady from Northern Virginia, who gave me three numbers in the Richmond area. Then there was Linda, Lynn, Chris, Melinda, and Theresa. Since the bird had been attacked by a cat it was important to get it to a rehabber who had antibiotics.

Down to the Chester – Hopewell area I went with the fledging to Theresa’s – Theresa and her fellow area volunteers are members of ARK – Area Rehabbers Klub. I felt hope when Theresa looked into the box and said, “Its wings look good, and it looks like it’s been eating since it’s been out of the nest, I think we have a good chance with this one. I have a couple more inside who haven’t been eating, I’m hoping when they see this one eat that they’ll start eating too.”

As she was talking to me two men got out of a pickup with their own box, curled up in which was a tiny deer; since it was almost an albino it may have been abandoned by its mother. Theresa’s husband took the deer into their barn and Theresa took our Robin into her house to administer antibiotics. What a great group of people, volunteering their time and talent to help creation.

I blew it with the Chickadees, maybe thanks to Theresa and her friends we saved a Robin.

This afternoon Vickie and I sat on the front porch with Lina and Lily, listening to the songs and calls of birds. A couple of weeks ago, commenting on the sweet honeysuckle fragrance of spring, Vickie said, “I think heaven is going to smell like this.”

I think Vic is probably right. I also have an idea that we’ll hear some bird songs – only our Father could arrange such orchestration and create such instruments.

Excuse, it’s time to go check the feeders and hear evensong.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I took these photos a couple of weeks ago. Can it be that the whole bee-flower thing is accidental?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Won't They Come?

Davey took these pictures of one of his cats:

Hear the kitty say, "Oh little birds, I mean you no harm. I'm just taking a rest here in the cool of the morning. You have nothing to fear from me. How could anything as cute and contemplative as me ever hurt such beautiful creatures as you? Please come and visit and let's chat a spell, I'm sure we have much in common."

Little birds that pay attention to their parents will be okay - not sure about the others.

"Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck." Proverbs 1:8-9.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mr. & Mrs. Towhee

Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Nick and Nora Charles, George and Marian Kirby, Robin and Marian Locksley; well here is one of my favorite couples, Mr. & Mrs. Towhee:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Turtle Time

Okay, granted these turtles can't compare with the eagle photos, but I've always enjoyed turtles - been fascinated by them since a kid. These guys and gals were at the Norfolk Botanical Garden sunning themselves while their friends were taking a dip. 

I don't know about you but I could use a little more turtle time, that is down time; or as the Bible calls it, "Sabbath". I make most of my poor decisions when I'm tired. On those days at work when I don't take a lunch break my afternoons are usually not the best times to make decisions, engage in critical financial calculations, or write sensitive memos.

The Bible teaches that Jesus is our Sabbath. When we come into a relationship with Christ we can quit trying to "make it happen", to be king of the hill, or the Energizer Bunny. Jesus teaches that we are to abide in Him - that we can only bear fruit as we live in Him and allow Him to live in and through us. In a world that operates on anxiety a person can feel pretty alone when she or he isn't plugged into the power grid of busyness, hyperactivity, and racing heart beats. It's like actually driving the speed limit on an Interstate - you are totally out of sync with everyone else. 

While going with the flow of Interstate traffic can be a prudent thing to do, going with the flow of our anxiety-ridden culture is a dangerous thing to do; this world's rhythms are toxic - they rob us of equilibrium, rest, peace, and perspective. Plus, when we are hopping and jumping and otherwise reacting to society's cacophony we can't be a source of peace and rest for others, we can't be a shelter for those around us. 

When is the last time you had some quality turtle time?


Monday, May 7, 2012

The Birth of Eagles

The eagles of Norfolk Botanical Garden (see previous post) have not yet mated, so there are no little eaglets. Eagle watchers want the male eagle to choose a mate so she can move into the nest and get a family started. The Garden has an “eagle cam”; there are similar webcams in other locations in the country – nature lovers want to see the birth and development of eagles. As I thought about this yesterday I considered the miracle of new birth in Christ – what a wonder it is when a man or a woman or a child takes those first breaths of Divine life; it is not always as observable as the birth of an eagle, at least not by humans – but I understand that angels throw quite a party when a newborn comes into the Kingdom of God.

Last night, after considering the above, I read the following by Archibald Alexander in his book, Thoughts on Religious Affections, (Archibald’s father William was a brother to my grandfather of a few generations ago, Robert Alexander):

“There is no more important event which occurs in our world than the new birth of an immortal soul. Heirs to title and estates, to kingdoms and empires, are frequently born, and such events are blazoned with imposing pomp, and celebrated by poets and orators; but what are all these honours and possessions but the gewgaws of children, when compared with the inheritance and glory to which every child of God is born an heir! But this being a birth from above, and all the blessings and privileges of the young heir, of a hidden and spiritual nature, the world around cannot be expected to take a lively interest in the event…The night on which He [Jesus] was born, there was a great crowd of the descendants of David, collected from every part of the Holy Land, where they were scattered abroad; but none of all these knew that a Saviour was born that night. Yet the angels celebrated the event in a truly celestial hymn, and announced the glad tidings to a company of simple shepherds…”

The sons and daughters of God are eagles, for they have been called to soar in the heavens in Christ. So sad that they are often taught to think as earth dwellers, taught that they do not really have wings, taught to walk on the earth, discouraged from experiencing the glorious liberty of the children of God. It is as if when God’s eagles are born that their wings are clipped by religious tradition, by legalistic mentalities, by the idea that holiness is optional. The identity of an eagle is exchanged for the identity of a chicken that cannot fly, cannot soar. Chickens have their cages, their prisons, and ultimately a trip in a semi-truck to a slaughter house – God’s children are not chickens, they are eagles – most of them do not know this.

“…where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit,” 2 Corinthians 3:17b – 18.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Watching Eagles

Today we visited Norfolk Botanical Garden; while we went to see the roses, we were also treated to an eagle. The area surrounding the eagle's nest is roped off so as not to disturb the eagles - though there were crows who apparently can't read because they were harassing the female eagle.