Sound of Summer

I get excited every time I hear the ice cream truck playing its endless song throughout our neighborhood. There’s the rush of anticipation, then the scramble for my purse while I mentally weigh the merits of a Klondike Bar vs a Nutty Buddy vs an ice cream sandwich. I rue the occasional irritation I used to feel when the ice cream truck turned down our street at dinnertime or bedtime. I hope my kids remember me saying yes more than I said no.

These days the truck comes down our street once a week or so. I always say yes.  Life is short. Sometimes ice cream for dinner is just the ticket. With ice cream for dessert as well! Choco Taco, anyone?



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A Cardinal Gift

Last time I wrote about coming across a bird that had fallen from its nest onto the sidewalk below. It was barely breathing. Its eyes were closed.  There was nothing I could do to save it. I shielded it with a piece of bark and acknowledged its life, however brief.

A few weeks ago, I stood at my bedroom window giving thanks for the new day.  I looked out and not six feet from the pane, nestled on a pine branch was a nest.  And in that nest there was a bird.  The tiniest bird that you ever did see.  Featherless, smeared with yolk and exhaustion, sightless, it had just emerged from its shell. Stunning. What timing! I felt as if God had spun a wheel and the arrow landed on, “Show Debra a miracle this morning.” I was spellbound watching a new life unfurl before me.

Over the next two weeks I watched the family care for their hatchling. The mother would sit atop the bird and an as yet unhatched egg. Sometimes she’d leave and the baby bird, its feathers growing in and its eyes now open, curled around its younger sibling still in ovo. One morning I woke up to the sound of the mother calling to the father,”Come on already! I’m hungry. The baby’s squawking. Put on your wingtips and get over here with some chow!” The male showed up moments later. He fed the female from his beak. She performed some sort of avian culinary magic and placed something that looked like a tiny white lentil into the baby’s waiting mouth.  The male sat on a branch nearby, a bright red sentry on alert for danger. I swooned in amazement and wonder. A day or so later, the nest was empty, save for the unhatched egg. A day or so later, it too was gone.  

Kids notice things: tiny things, big things, curious things that we big folks let pass without notice.  Kids at Heart get the best of both worlds: conscious witness to wonder.

P.S. You have to look very closely to see the baby bird. Its beak is open.

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What We Don’t know We Need

One of the prayers in our morning liturgy gives gratitude for the renewal of each day. Among the fourteen phrases thanking God for our numerous blessings, one thanks the Divine for “providing for all my needs.” Whenever I recited this blessing, I would get to that line and acknowledge that my basic needs are met and so much more.

One of my teachers opened my eyes a bit wider by suggesting “all our needs” includes the stuff of life we say we need like a “hole in the head.” In other words those frustrations, accidents and devestations that befall us that we certainly don’t ask for and would never in a million years say we needed.

I acknowledge this is dicey philosophical territory. Does someone actually need a cancer diagnosis? A viscious frenemy or relative? Or, God forbid, the loss of a loved one? No. No. No. But really horrible stuff happens — to all of us. Six plus decades playing this game called Life and I recognize the painful experiences that have surely formed me and demanded of me growth and healing. I’ve railed at God plenty for “giving” me what I not only didn’t ask for but said up front I did not need in the least. Guess what? I got some of those too. Accepting them has brought insight and ultimately understanding.

The verse “who provides for all my needs” is followed by “who guides us on our path.” Perhaps this is intentional. When we’re shunted onto a painful path a little Divine guidance just might light the way.

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Not Just For Kids!

I love swings.  I can’t swing as high as I used to but I still love that swoopy feeling of trying to reach the sky with my feet. Put me on a swing and I feel the years falling away.

We were in Chicago over Mother’s Day weekend and went to a new park near the kids’ apartment. Maybe swing makers are getting wise to the fact that Boomer grandparents also like swings. When it was my turn I hopped on and let my kid at heart have her fill!


photo credit: Martin Darvick

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Spring Treasures

With a slight apology to Cole Porter:
I love nature in the springtime.
I love nature, why oh why do I love nature,
because of all the treasures to be found. 

Well, I was going to write about the childish delight that still arises when I find bird feathers and egg shells on our walks. I’ve been known to carry a yolk-shellacked shell home, saving it to share with my granddaughters.

I have learned it is illegal to do this. Ditto fallen feathers of US migratory birds, including those of crows, cardinals, blue jays and every North American bird that might frequent your feeder. The law is draconianly rigid, understandable given the species that were hunted into extinction and the plight of present-day birds as human expansion destroys habitat after habitat. 

There is one feather I found that I can still enjoy guilt-free. Peacocks are not native to North America. I found this feather on the ground at the zoo and took it home. I am not a destroyer of Nature. I take spiders outside when I find them in our house. I taught my children to return sidewalk-stranded worms back into the grass after a rainstorm. My granddaughters and I will release our spring treasures back into the wild once we have studied and delighted in them. Except this one:


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