Looking out from our back porch, a visitor to our new home once lamented, “Too bad they left those trees to spoil your view.” She was referring to a stand of three pines left as remnants of the thick foliage that once covered our lot.
Now, this is the view.
Plenty to take in. It is marvelous, show-stopping, in fact. And by my account, it is not at all spoiled by the trees. Actually, it’s enhanced by the them. Yes, because they add color, texture and dimension, but also because they form a frame for my daily animation. They provide branches for the bluebirds to perch on and peck at, a stage from which the cardinals often sing, a scurrying course for the squirrels at play and even an occasional roost for a resting heron.
Yes, very far from spoiling our view, the trees enhance it. No, I don’t have an unobstructed view of the lake and its backdrop, but I do have a close-up look at the natural world that’s before me. As if I am part of it as it proceeds. Not just a viewer, but a participant.
I confess that I did wonder whether there would come a time when I would pass by the view of the lake with little thought, as if it were simply a painting hanging in my hallway, just a thing to be shown off to visitors when they came over.
Perhaps, if it were just a view. But its more than just a view; it’s a scene. And more than just a scene, it’s a setting for the characters which take the stage each day in my backyard. For goodness sake, it’s live theater! …with an unseen crew who regularly adjusts lighting and weather conditions, not to mention welcoming seasonal color changes in delightful hues.
My view is so much more than something to look at. It’s a marvel to appreciate. The shimmer of sun off the still water. Quivering reflections after the wind disturbs the surface. The overlapping V’s in the wake of happy mallards paddling smartly along and suddenly the startling splash of a diving osprey and then the wriggle of its prey as it carries it away.
Yes, animation calls to me. It insists I attend to it. Not just to see it, but to watch it unfold. The mind wanders and the imagination is piqued. What will happen next? It holds my interest in a way that no suspended moment ever has, however glorious. The view is constantly changing, and as I pay attention, so do I.
Isn’t it odd, this human tendency to seek the perfect, unobstructed view? To hurry past stragglers, shoving our way to the front to witness the spectacle everyone else says is worth seeing? And then to snap a photo in order to “capture the moment” forever.
But we can’t capture moments. We live them and, if we’re lucky, we live through them. As tempting as it may be to stay and enjoy the view, that’s not how the world works. Day follows day and we move with it.
We are not props on the day’s stage, but actors in the current scene in the performance of our lives. Our Creator is directing the play. This is such good news. In spite of our predilection for still life and snapshots, they don’t tell our whole story. They can’t as long as our view keeps changing.
How grateful I am for those pines that stand tall and proud and “in the way.” Instead of spoiling my view, they’ve expanded it.
There was a blind beggar sitting by the roadside, or so the story goes, when Jesus and his disciples were passing by on their way out of Jericho. Of course, the blind man did not know who was passing by, only that there was a commotion. But when he heard that the stir was about Jesus of Nazareth he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Perhaps it was the plaintiveness of this man’s voice or the sincerity and desperation in his tone that got Jesus’ attention. Or maybe it was the man’s perseverance and increasing volume as he shouted to be heard that gave Jesus pause. Possibly it was simply the potential and possibility Jesus saw in the life of this man that inclined Jesus to ask that the man be called upon.
The story leaves no doubt about the delight that filled that moment. Throwing his cloak aside the man jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.
“I want to see.”
The circumstances in our world and particularly in our nation today, leave no doubt that I am that blind man. I’m that beggar. I am Bartimaeus, son of the unclean. Lord, have mercy on me.
Help me to see where my place of privilege has kept me in the dark. Show me where my teaching has been sparse and my learning was filtered and faulty. Hear my pleading, my sincerity and my determination to come face to face with the truth — a truth I have seen but not recognized, a truth I have heard but not responded to, a truth so ugly I have turned away from it in disgust and disbelief, even as it has been shared by trustworthy friends.
Today it is clear that the truth doesn’t disappear just because it remains unacknowledged. Truth stands its ground, waiting to speak. It waits for us to address and set aside the falsehoods, biases and preconceived notions which currently cloud our vision. It waits patiently for each of us to respond to the question Jesus asks: what do you want me to do for you?
I want to see.
Lord, heal these eyes and expand my vision. Grant me the courage to look at what’s hard to see and to listen to what’s hard to hear, so I can walk closely with you and with those who bear the weight of injustices leveled by me and by those like me.
Lord, have mercy, as we learn to walk by faith into new sight.
I guess you could call it a sign of the times.
It all started with sidewalk chalk, well actually not. But that was the idea we had. Hopscotch and curlicues drawn along the sidewalk, encouraging passersby to kick up their heels and play.
But this wasn’t what was in the package when our order arrived. Our new chalk was not of the sidewalk variety, it was of the chalkboard variety. “Dustless chalk!” it proclaimed, being of the modern day kind. One box: rainbow, one box: white; perfect for restaurants announcing daily specials to hungry would-be customers strolling on by.
Well, why not? I thought as I ordered such a sign. Not too big — didn’t want to trip people up — but big enough for people to read as they happen by. A few words. Just for fun. As we all take to the streets for our daily amble, pedal, jog or dog-walking excursion.
As all of us stuck in stay-at-home were having trouble keeping track of which day it was, the first sign idea was born. I wrote, “It’s Monday, you’re welcome” and set it on the small table in the front mulch bed. Please excuse the poor chalksmanship and drab color. We had low expectations.
But, wouldn’t you know? When I shared it on Facebook, folks liked it. (Apparently, others were having trouble deciding what day it was, too!) So, inspired and emboldened by Monday, I erased Monday’s for Tuesday’s. And Tuesday’s for Wednesday’s.
And that’s when it became a group effort. Our daughter (who is corona-stranded here with us) suggested “No whining Wednesday, but wining is okay.” And, she suggested, I might illustrate with a little wine glass by the wining, for those who might not be up on their homonyms.
So now this writer started ILLUSTRATING her words. Thankfully, chalk is a VERY forgiving medium. Passersby, being neighborly, kindly tolerated — heck, they even seemed to approve of my kindergarten drawing skills!
So “No Whining Wednesday” became “Thoughtful Thursday.” It was, after all, Maundy Thursday, the day we sit at table for the Last Supper with the one bound to save us. And then we were on to “Good Friday, neighbors.” That day we even received appreciative fan mail on an index card left by the sign.
This was getting serious. The bar was raising as increasing appreciation meant greater expectation. Sober Saturday, though it felt that way to me, didn’t seem encouraging enough, so now I had reached the second stage of sign-making: editing. I drew a line through Sober and wrote Silly, leaving the reader free to decide which their Saturday was. Who, really, was I to say?
But then came Sunday. Easter Sunday. “Serene Sunday,” the sign said. But was it? Certainly like no other Easter ever. All of us separated, one from the other, listening, watching, wishing, sending… Everywhere people were piping in Easter, but it didn’t feel like one.
But the sign proclaimed it anyway; this blank slate of an accidental chalk ordering had actually come to communal life. People riding slowed to catch today’s message. People doubled back to be sure they hadn’t missed it. One neighbor told me she drove out of her way on the way to work just to be encouraged by it.
What in the world? Well, yes, we did have some fanfare for Earth Day. One person even crossed the street to snap a photo of that one.
And Froggie Friday, that was a request. Wouldn’t you know we had frog visitors at the house that day?
Funny, it is only a sign propped up daily; a few chalked words and occasional amateur illustrations, then erased every evening to welcome the new day. It’s an original work of art with a 24 hour time limit. Who’d have thought something so temporary could stand the test of these times? Yet, day by day, it’s the gift we receive; the opportunity to write our way into each new day.
Last Sunday was “Sandhill Sunday! You say, Sandhill. We say, Sunday.” (Our community is called Sandhill Preserve, so there was a certain team spirit invested in that one.) Passersby waved and thanked, cars and bikes slowed to fist pump and smile and the curious circled extra wide to come looking.
There’s just something about an encouraging word or two and a community who needs one. I’m betting you live in such a community and you, my reader, are just such a writer.
We’ve been at this since April the 6th when it was “Monday, you’re welcome.” Expectations remain low and appreciation, high. Suggestions keep rolling in. There’s never been a better time to use your words well.