Seen and Unseen
Jack Clive Staples, our wonder dog, let me know in no uncertain terms that his water bowl was empty. I took it to the sink and glanced out the kitchen window as it filled. I was surprised by a large red-tailed hawk sitting on the back of our garden bench. It looked like it was enjoying a day in the park. I called for Tim to come see.
Tim was getting the camera when the hawk flew away. When he returned, I told him the bird flew off low and toward the vegetable garden. I lost sight of it in the trees after that. Tim quietly stepped outside and then, I saw him chuckle.
My husband motioned for me to join him. The hawk hadn’t gone far. It was sitting on the head of my garden scarecrow! We took a few photos proving just how well the scarecrow didn’t scare! Later, I wondered how much goes on in the yard that we don’t see.
The segment of the Appalachian Trail which passes through New Hampshire is particularly rugged. My backpacking partner and I were at the end of our week-long hike with dozens of miles behind us and a steep climb waiting ahead. I was taking a turn leading with my friend following a few hundred feet behind. Backpacking inevitably becomes a solitary experience regardless of the presence of companions.
The breathtaking vistas, fern-carpeted forest floors, and old-growth trees no longer inspired my thoughts. I was focused on my boot tips and the next tiring step up the steep ridge. Suddenly, I was aware that I had unknowingly unleashed the ire of something just ahead. A large turkey, which the grandmother in a Norman Rockwell painting would have been proud to serve, was blocking the narrow trail. By trail, I mean the overgrown space between the trees through which a backpack could just be squeezed.
The body language of the big bird looming before me communicated: “You shall not pass!” just as Gandalf brandishing his staff in The Lord of the Rings. Now, it may seem amusing to be challenged to a duel by a crazed turkey in the forests of New England, but it was less amusing to me. We were miles from roads and towns in the days before the ubiquitous cell phone. I knew enough about turkeys to realize the razor sharp spurs on its legs could do some damage. If I had been paying attention to my surroundings, instead of admiring my boots, I could have passed well around him and warned my friend off the trail.
Instead, I backed slowly away and tried to get around it. This only infuriated him more. As he closed the ground between us in a frenzy of tail feathers and talons, my friend arrived on the scene. In its confusion over which one of us to slash to ribbons, the big tom stalked away in frustrated fury.
After my buddy ridiculed me for being stopped in my tracks by a “little bird”, we continued on our way. I mumbled that the homicidal turkey was a “little bird” like a pterodactyl was a “little bird” when we suddenly stopped. We had entered a surreal scene. Before us lay giant moss-covered boulders gathered together like a herd of wooly mammoths at rest! The desire to push on and sacrifice the journey for the destination quickly left us. We took off our packs, sat down on the soft mossy backs of the mammoth boulders, and rested among the marvels of the moment.
Donna and I share and nurture that appreciation for the marvels of the moment. We laugh at ourselves and say that we are easily amused. It takes effort and resolution to find the good, true, and beautiful in our imperfect world and fallen natures, though. There is nothing easy about that. However, there is something wonderful about collecting a lifetime of those moments.
I sometimes wonder if, at the end, we will be judged by our too many sins or by our too few moments of thanksgiving.