“Have you noticed the nests in the trees?” I stand looking out the window waiting for the toast, or am I waiting to see how thought and prayer, what’s seen and unseen, merge simply in these moments of quiet, are revealed in what’s happening around me in the middle of things, like making toast? Because I’m interested in seeing how simultaneous and spontaneous miracles and mysteries can be revealed. And I’m a little fascinated by the leafless trees.
“Yeah, I don’t know if those nests specifically but I’ve seen them.” Todd is reading the update on his Fantasy Football players on TV. His eyes are on the TV but I know he’s listening when I speak. Our interests are different and yet we manage to meet in the middle. “Careful with the toast. It burns quickly on the second round. You like it kind of soft.” I watch and press the button at the perfect moment. I would have burned it.
He’s in the Fantasy playoffs. I don’t understand the game. “It’s easy,” he says. “We all have teams made up of real players and we get points for yardage and points for catches by our players. It’s a league.”
I consider this. That seems easy enough. “We have regular seasons,” he continues. Well that clears it up for me.
“Oh, I get it,” I say. Kind of. Mystery and fantasy are really not related.
“Let’s make our 10:30 walk our long walk today.,”
“Okay.” He keeps us on a schedule. 10:30 and 2:30 are our walks with Fannie to the Lake or to the park. In between we take shorter walks during the day in the neighborhood. The fresh air keeps my mind alert to write. The walks inspire thoughts that sometimes turn into words. So absorbed I’ve become in words—God’s Word, my words—time stops. For long stretches of time I need nothing more. Am I becoming a monk? “Are you drinking your water? Have you eaten anything?” He is always asking. How could someone who loves food forget about it?
“You have two minutes,” he says but I haven’t eaten my toast.
“I know,” I say looking at my watch. I’ll never make it but I’ll try.
We enter the park just as a string of geese soar into a big V. “They’re heading south for the winter a little late. ‘Hurry up guys!’” He yells. He keeps the geese on schedule too?
In the ravine we run into our friend with his binoculars. “Did you see them?” He asks us. “They’re all over the trees. Dark-eyed Juncos, Chickadees and Sparrows. They’re quiet now.”
“We saw geese flying south for the winter.” I say.
“Those geese aren’t flying south. They are staying here. They’re just flying around.” How does he know the destination of those geese? I’m fascinated. “Goldfinches. Do you see them? Here look through my binoculars.” I see one small shadowed black bird. “Those are their winter feathers. In spring they molt off. Did you know the gold feathers are underneath? Many bird people don’t know that.” I feel fortunate to have joined the ranks of those in the know. But I wouldn’t know a Goldfinch in its winter feathers from a Sparrow or a Junco. I’ve never even heard of Juncos.
I tell him about the four nests I saw in our tree as he shows me a picture of Goldfinches from his phone, male and female, in their winter feathers. “Those are squirrel nests,” he says. Red squirrels nest inside trees holes, Gray squirrels are the ones that make the big leaf nests you see.”
Soon he’s talking about the Downy Woodpecker he hears and then the Diving Ducks he saw at the lake earlier. He gives Todd the exact location. “They’re little. Hard to see. They dive and stay under water for two minutes and only come up for seconds. They’re hard to spot. Have you seen the Barred Owl?” He asks Todd.
“No,” Todd says.
“Tommy, look! I say. There’s an owl!” I point up into the woods.
“I don’t see it,” he says.
“There,” I point. “See the V in those branches?’ It’s on the left of it.” I take a picture and show him. He laughs. I know it’s a part of the tree that looks like an owl to me.
We move on heading our different directions but, just as we have before, I know we’ll meet in the middle again.
“Tommy! You’re magical!” I yell back, “Like meeting Gandalf in the woods!”
We don’t find the Diving Ducks. But I do find a row of birds on the beach that turn out to be sculptures made of ice and sand!