Jan 052013

Two Japanese maples grace a small courtyard in front of our house. This morning when I opened the blinds, huge drops of water clung to the spidery, bare tree limbs.  The drops were not quite frozen, but light enough to jiggle in suspension, making the trees nearly shimmer.

I noticed movement; a dozen cardinals fluttered from branch to branch.

Huge, healthy birds so perfect they might have been painted by John James Audubon. Audubon was a 19th century painter and naturalist known for his precise, beautiful paintings of birds, flowers, and animals. He did much of his bird watching in the sloughs near Henderson, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from where I live.

This morning, I did what I usually do not. I guess the cliché is “I stopped and smelled the roses.”  Blooming roses are months away, but the red birds were just as striking as American beauty roses in June.

I stood at the window and quietly watched the tableau for fifteen minutes.

Hard to tell, but it appeared that the cardinals stayed with their mates. The male with his brilliant dark red feathers was the vigilant sentinel, checking for whatever bird threats and travesties abound. His mate, usually ample and brown, was not far behind.

Why is it that we so often fail to see incredible beauty right in front of us?

That is a rhetorical question, but I’m attempting an answer.

We are so tied up in the problems or minutia of normal life that we gaze beyond the obvious beauty.

I’m reminded of a Florida vacation several years ago. We often visited Seagrove, a sleepy community between the busy towns of Destin and Panama City.

The beaches along the Panhandle of Florida are magnificent—sugary white sand and the warm, translucent blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. For me, there is no more relaxing spot than a Gulf beach, especially when I have my silly pink beach hat, a comfortable chair with an umbrella, and a good book.

I love to read, and then stop and stare into the water, into the endless forever waves that flow gently upon the sands.

On our last trip, I was interrupted in this quiet place, by people to the left and right of me yammering on cell phones.

I’m not anti-technology, but I’m not a fan of the constant check-in. Before cell phones, if we wanted an extra towel, we walked back to our room and got it. Now we just call and then waste minutes talking about Honey Boo Boo or the issue of the moment.

This is not an anti-technology rant, rather a assertion that we discover our surroundings, and take a quiet moment to ponder what we see.

On a frosty, gloomy morning, a dozen beautiful birds reminded me of the words of Albert Camus, “In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”

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