Swans on a Lonely Lake

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A quartet of swans stopped by our little lake this morning. They came with no pointe shoes and no concert suite composed by Tchaikovsky. But they did move across the watery stage nearly as graceful as ballerinas.

At first sight of them, I dashed down to the dock with my camera in hopes of capturing a few pictures of my favorite water fowl. When I made it down to the water’s edge, I could not see them and feared I had somehow frightened them away. Feeling confused, I headed back up the hill towards the house. But then part of the way back, I turned and caught of glimpse of them gliding away from the reeds and cattails and toward the middle of the lake.

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By the time I reached the lake, the swans were in clear view and coming toward me. I snapped a few pictures and then sat down at the end of the dock. The swans kept coming closer, trumpeting to each other.

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I kept clicking the shutter release button, and each bird kept posing as if to say, “Why yes, of course you should photograph me. Don’t I look stunning on this beautiful May morning?”

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“The sky,” he wrote on his slate, “is my living room. The woods are my parlor. The lonely lake is my bath. I can’t remain behind a fence all my life…”

― Louis the swan writing to the Head Man in charge of the birds at the Philadelphia Zoo in E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan

 

Also Bloomin’ in My Yard

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Besides the lovely blooming lilac, a Mother’s Day gift of that we planted outside my kitchen window, our yard boasts several other blooming beauties this week.

These tiny blue lobelias make me think of Mama because she adored this shade of blue and also greatly appreciated any hanging basket cascading with flowers.

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Elsewhere in our yard, this sweet bleeding heart continues bloom.

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And the rhododendron bush is suddenly blooming, too!

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Coming soon are the peonies — another favorite scent. This year I am particularly looking forward to the peonies because last fall a friend split hers and gave me half a dozen new ones to grow in our front flower beds. I can hardly wait to smell them!

I Give You My Sprig of Lilac

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In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash’d palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
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With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle—and from this bush in the dooryard,
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With delicate-color’d blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.
…I give you my sprig of lilac.
from the poem “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” by Walt Whitman
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A dear friend gave me this gorgeous bouquet of lilac sprigs this weekend. Oh, what a heaven-sent heavenly scent! Lilacs always remind me of my mama, who has been in heaven for 23 years now. And the bouquet reminded me how much I’ve missed having a common lilac bush the last three years since we moved into this house. And so, because it was Mother’s Day, we headed off to the farm supply store and found a lovely, blooming lilac bush all ready to plant.

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Into the ground it went, just outside the kitchen window where I can see it and remember to set my mind on things above, not on earthly things, as I wash the dirty dishes.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” -Colossians 3:1-4 NIV

Thank You, God, for the lovely lilacs, for my dear friend who knew I needed them on Mother’s Day, and for the hope of heaven. Help me set my heart and mind on things above.

Beauty to Behold

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“I do believe that deeply rooted in every human heart is a longing for beauty. Why do we go to the Grand Canyon, the Boundary Waters, art exhibits, gardens? Why do we plant trees and flower beds? …Is it not because we long to behold and be a part of beauty? We crave to be moved by some rare glimpse of greatness. We yearn for a vision of glory.” -John Piper 

Looking for beauty to behold, we made another trip to the arboretum last week. The big sister came along this time and had a turn capturing the gardens with the camera.

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It was the tulips’ turn to shine.

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This orange one was simply radiant in the spring sunshine.

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Tulips long have been a favorite of mine because my mom grew a few of them along the front porch of the house where I grew up.

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Also in bloom were the delicate bleeding hearts. These are another one of my favorites because they remind me of a garden my aunt once had.

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And, speaking of memories, the delightful redbud trees reminded me of the tree my brother and I climbed frequently with the neighbor boys. When playing cops and robbers on our bikes, we pretended the redbud tree was the bank and every leaf was a dollar bill!

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The captivating crabapples are almost blooming, and I’m looking forward to smelling the lilacs soon, too. Isn’t spring like a little glimpse of heaven?

“We should live every day of our life promoting the glory of God.” -John Calvin

Rhodies

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Behold the purple rhododendron!

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Sorry, we have no flower poems today. And yes, I really want to call these azaleas because azalea just sounds so much more lovely and floral-like. But according to the botany folks on Wikipedia, azaleas have only five anthers per flower, and these clearly have too many.

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On this trip, my 10-year-old daughter discovered the joy of seeing the Arboretum close up through the lens of a digital SLR camera. Magical! She didn’t even have to share the camera because her sister was busy elsewhere. It was so fun to hear her say, “Oh, Mommy! I have to get a picture of these!”

Unfortunately, the pictures she took are still on that camera, waiting to be downloaded. Such is the problem with juggling two cameras. Someday, I’ll try to share them with you. But for now, here’s one more of my rhodie shots.

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Fly, Butterfly, Fly!

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When the little package arrived in the mailbox that sunny afternoon in May, I was not sure what to expect inside. My two daughters were busy playing in the backyard, so I was alone when I cut open the cardboard box and found the five tiny caterpillars inside a little cup. It was just what I had ordered. The cup had a thick layer of gooey brown food on the bottom and a nice tight lid on top. This project was to be the highlight of our homeschool unit on butterflies, but I secretly feared these caterpillars were dead upon arrival. I could not detect any movement whatsoever.

Continue reading over here at The End in Mind.

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Behold the Peony

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“The fattest and most scrumptious of all flowers, a rare fusion of fluff and majesty, the peony is now coming into bloom.” –Henry Mitchell, American writer (1923-93)

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I consider it no small grace that, in His wisdom, God ordained only a few days between the lovely lilacs losing their luster and the puffy pink peonies popping open and pouring out their powerful perfume. Glory!

Meet Peep

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Sometimes as birdwatchers, we find that the tables turn and we are actually being watched by the birds instead!

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Peep is a male American goldfinch who especially likes people watching.

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He shows up at our windows, sometimes knocking on the glass with his beak. Then he just stares at us, making me feel guilty about not keeping the windows cleaner.

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After a minute, he moves on to a different window and stares some more. If he weren’t so cute and yellow, he might come across as creepy!

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Eventually, Peep gets hungry and joins his darling little wife at the feeder. They make such a cute couple all dressed in bright yellow feathers.

Oh, and if you want to share the love of birdwatching with a small person or two in your life, check out this great list of 10 picture books about birds over at House Full of Bookworms. I found many of these are available at our library and will be perfect for summer reading.

Happy reading, happy summer and happy birdwatching!

 

 

 

Backyard Birdwatching

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” -Matthew 6:26

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female grosbeak

 

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downy woodpecker

One of our family’s favorite hobbies is birdwatching. And since we have a variety of birds that visit our backyard, we hang several feeders on our deck. These feeders are easy for us to see from the windows in our dining area, and it’s delightful to watch the birds eat while we sit together as a family. We usually keep our binoculars and a bird identification book right on the windowsill.

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pileated woodpecker

Whether they are woodpeckers, orioles, hummingbirds, grosbeaks, red-winged blackbirds, goldfinches, or something else, they all seem to appreciate the food. As we watch them eat, it is entertaining to imagine what each bird might be saying or thinking about his meal, his feathers or that day’s weather.

This rose breasted grosbeak looked rather dapper in his red tie. He ate first while his beautiful wife perched nearby.

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male rose breasted grosbeak

Isn’t she lovely?

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female rose breasted grosbeak

Certainly the way to any bird’s heart is through its stomach, and nearly all of our bird friends love this particular suet feeder.

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suet feeder – raccoons keep out!

 

We usually don’t see robins eat from our feeders — they find plenty to eat chasing worms in the grass. But one day I caught a brave robin trying to eat the suet. He kept flapping his wings madly — pretending to be a hummingbird, I think — as he attempted to hover near the feeder and stick his beak into the suet to steal a bite. He’d often watched the woodpeckers and red-winged blackbirds do it and was feeling left out, I suppose. It wasn’t easy, but he did manage to get a few bites and then afterward he perched on the deck long enough for me to capture his picture.

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American robin

 

Do you see the bit of food still on his beak? He really needed a napkin.

Coming up next is a story about people watching — and it might not be what you think!