My Gift

I’ve been having a hard time for a while. Mentally and physically. There is no need to go into all of the particulars, it doesn’t affect this post at all. Having said that, keep reading, God is good and I am going to tell you about it.

I woke up today and it’s grey out. It has been unseasonably warm here in Northeast Arkansas. Balmy, if you will. However, it’s been drizzly, hazy and colorless. The air is heavy and wet even when it’s not raining. This kind of day magnifies the melancholy mood that smothers me these past days. As I fixed my coffee this morning, I did it through tears and prayer. I prayed that something good would happen today. Something that would propel me out of this somber climate. God heard me and answered me. Wait, I know he always hears me. I know he always answers me. This was so loud though. Silent in it’s descent, boisterous in the stirring of my faith.

I placed my coffee cup on the corner of my desk and went to adjust the volume on the television and something caught my eye. Just a white flutter, really. I have lost most of my peripheral vision. I see mostly straight on. But for just a second, a shadow of snowy calm peeked into my view. I spun around and there they were.

Our lake is a man-made lake that covers 645 acres. It was originally to be a part of the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program until the Small Watershed Act was passed which allowed for construction of bodies of water to  benefit fish and wildlife development. The lake was constructed to be a water source for the Lake Charles State Park for seven months a year. In October, the lake is drained to flood the Shirey Bay-Rainey Brake Wildlife Management Area, which is managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish. The purpose of this is so that duck hunters have a place to hunt successfully. Well, successfully for the hunter, the birds have a somewhat different take on this. What’s normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.

Our house sits in a little cove on the opposite end of the lake from the State Park. The park sponsors bass tournaments and local fishermen frequent the lake each summer. During this time of year, the boats are scarce as there isn’t a lot of water in the lake. What remains is shallow. Because the land was wooded when construction began, there are trees and brush that scatter the floor of the lake. Motoring a boat through a maze of timber both fallen and still standing takes a special skill. Even if you are very familiar with the lake. Right now, where the water is usually clapping against the bank, you can walk out two hundred feet before you ever reach the water. This isn’t something we usually take advantage of. The ground is marshy and in some spots, almost quicksand like. Our hounds love it! Much to my chagrin. They tramp around in the muck, wading in and out of the water to take a winter swim. Coming back to the house covered in mud, they are crest-fallen when I get the hose out to spray them off.

Because the lake is so low and the sky is so grey, I don’t pay much attention to the happenings on our lake this time of year. So imagine my surprise when I suddenly saw such an awe inspiring gift this dreary February morning.

Pelicans. At least a forty of them. I have seen them on the lake a few times before, usually in a group no larger than four or five. They were floating on the skirt hem of the lake. Bouncing up against the shallow waves that the blustery day created. They were so quiet. At first I thought they were snow geese. My eyesight, the distance my eyesight had to adjust to and the time of year all lent to this assumption. I soon realized these weren’t geese.

Pelicans are huge! The first time I saw one on the lake I was flabbergasted by it. There were only two and they were getting ready to take flight when we came upon them in our flat-bottomed boat. As they unfolded their wings and started to skip across the lake, we were showered with the spray from the water as their feet quickly paddled, bobbing and weaving, propelling their selves into the air. I immediately thought of Orville from the Disney movie The Rescuers. I was sort of expecting one of them to adjust their goggles. I remember the laugh that sprang out of my mouth before I could catch myself, I was trying to be quiet as to not startle them. Well, that didn’t work. My excitement was enormous. I had never seen anything like them. Their beaks were a foot long and the color of a traffic cone. Their necks stretched out in such a comical way. And their wing span, oh my goodness. I had no idea they were so immense! As I watched their colossal departure, I was mesmerized. Ken and I just sat there laughing. It was a sight to see.

My excitement was unmistakable and my dogs immediately knew that an adventure was afoot! Now, I have too many dogs. Of that, I am fully willing to own. I also do not seem to have any control of the hoard I have amassed. They run around willy-nilly and yip and yap. There was no way they were going to spoil the gift that was waiting for me at the length of my back yard. I screeched for Heidi, a friend of Belle’s staying the weekend, to look what I was saw and to grab my camera! I snatched the four-wheeler key off the key-shaped wooden board that hangs by our front door and out the door Heidi and I went, scolding and pushing dogs back so that they wouldn’t impede my race to the lake’s edge.

Now, I am not very good on our four-wheeler. We had an older one for several years, I could handle it pretty well. It was a big green behemoth thing that had no power steering and sort of lumbered along. Then my husband decided to buy a new one. The new one is FAST and very powerful. It has power steering. You think that sounds like a good thing. (insert eye-roll here). It just makes it feel like I am about to tip it over all the time. It has taken well over a year for me to adjust to my not-so-superior driving skills on this particular ATV. However, I am tenacious. I hopped on this cherry red beast and Heidi slipped behind me. I thrust my camera out to her, warned her not to drop it and I started the engine. Off we went, soaring across the yard and towards the lake. We bounced and careened over the yard, through the line of pine trees and around the bonfire leavings. Heidi let out a piercing little shriek and we both giggled and held on tighter, her to me and me to the handle bars.  I was having fun! I slowed down a bit when I drew up to the shore of the lake. I tried not to disturb the flock. They were floating and bobbing away from the bank and I was quickly losing any hope of capturing pictures of them. I stood atop the seat of my little rocket and started snapping. They were moving rapidly down and out, away from me. They weren’t swimming or navigating with any purpose, they were just gliding along and letting the wind move them about. Unfortunately, the direction they were moving was away from me.

My eyesight has deteriorated substantially in the last two years. For someone who loves nothing more than an afternoon with her camera, this have been something I mourn. I can still use the auto-focus but any manual attempts just end up being a blur. I attempted to use my larger lens anyway. Try or die. The outcome was a blunder, but I am going to share them with you anyway. I want you to grasp the beauty of the moment. I cannot tell you how this lifted me up. It was a spiritual moment for me. I have not one doubt that God set those pelicans on my muddy, shallow lake for me. I love birds. I envy their ability to soar away from scary things, drifting peacefully along. I love their songs. I am jubilant when I find a nest hidden in my yard. I creep slowly about their home, waiting on the birth of something new. I mean, my name is Birdie….

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God knows this. Of course he does, he made me this way. I prayed for something happy, something to life my spirit and to make my heart glad. I got exactly what I prayed for. I have come to know God differently in the past year. I lean on him as he has asked me to. I have come to know that he wants be to be joyful in my every day life no matter what is going on. He also knows that the flesh makes that hard sometimes. Our flesh gets in the way. So on a day when I was feeling overwhelmed with life, I asked God for something beautiful to make me smile. He delivered. He always will.

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