Wednesday, June 28, 2017

From My Nature Journal: A Sure Sign of Summer

The nighthawks are doing their evening dance, flitting higher and higher, butterfly-like, then rolling into their booming, wind-jamming and wing-jarring dive. One just scared the bejeebers out of me with his sonic boom not fifty feet away.

“Pete!” they call, “Pete!” as if they all have the same nickname…

Last night I listened to them late into the night, long after I had crawled into my sleeping bag. And every time I stirred awake overnight I could hear them, far away or close by, even until dawn.

I’ll not forget the first time I ever heard the boom, years ago while on another solo campout. I had squirreled a day aside to spend on retreat, early summer as now. Up over the hill to the south came this strange sound. From a distance it almost sounded like the propane flame intermittently fired under a hot air balloon, ending with something of a small pop. I actually climbed the hill to look to the sky. Nothing. So then, was it an animal roar of some kind? It was hard to pinpoint the sound’s direction. A surprise it was to realize it was a small bird doing aeronautics. It didn’t seem to be going after prey, so I guessed it was some kind territorial or mating display. Yet maybe it was just doing it for the sheer joy of it, just because it could. I suppose if I could do that, I would.

Now that I think of it, the sound, if it could be lengthened beyond its half-second duration, is also like the sound of a semi going the opposite direction from across the median of an interstate highway. Strange that I have to compare it to two such contrary notions, a hot air balloon and a truck, but I can think of no natural comparison.

Perhaps it was doing it just for the
sheer joy of it, just because it could.
I suppose if I could do that, I would…

I see and hear nighthawks everywhere, from here in the boonies to the roof-top deck of my sister’s Chicago-urban-core condo. I also remember watching them as a kid on warm summer evenings up at the Michigan family farm. It might even be the first bird I learned to identify, what with its evening apparitions, its fluky juking and jiving, and its easily-seen white chevron underneath each wing. But it is odd I don’t remember the dive or the boom, such a unique characteristic.

Anyway, it is both a current delight and a pleasant memory.

I will speak of the glorious honor of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works. (Psalm 145:5)

~~ RGM, from an early entry in my nature
journal, adapted June 28, 2017

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

From My Nature Journal: River of Life

It appeared a bright orange streak across the hillside hiking trail, as if someone had spilled a can of orange soda on the uphill side of the path and it had run crossways downhill. But we stopped quickly in our tracks when we observed it to be a stream of thousands and thousands of ants heading uphill.

Brilliant in color, they were astonishing, stretching into the prairie grasses, wildflowers and brush on either side of the trail, a parade, not marching one-by-one or ten-by-ten as the song insists ants do, but a pulsing, coursing river of life, in places a half-inch wide. Twenty-by-twenty? Thirty-by-thirty? I could not tell. But they were all heading the same direction, from one place to another, even crawling over each other in places.

It gripped me. Overcoming my initial sensation of the creepiest insect scene in a classic Indiana Jones movie, or an old issue of National Geographic, I followed the downhill side of the procession, seeking their advancing source, picking carefully through thick growth, thinking it would lead quickly to an underground starting place. But it stretched into the pampas along mouse trails and rock edges, down, down, down. “Thousands? There must be millions,” I thought. I was a full twenty-five yards downhill before it all seemed to commence at one medium boulder. I heaved on it. It did not seem to budge. But I no sooner had my hand free than it was swarming with orange, the mother lode. I must have moved it enough to get their attention.

My own attention then switched back uphill to where they might be heading on the other side of the trail. Where were they bound, and to what end? But I was not successful in finding this; within a short distance I lost the convoy in impassible brush.

What an amazing river of life. I have never seen anything like it.

Lord, as I have thought about it, Your river of life is truly an astounding thing. Is this how Your beloved creation seems to You over the eons, an almost endless, yet much-loved marching band?
Is this how Your beloved creation
seems to You over the eons, an 
almost endless marching band?

Yet my mind is further boggled by God’s created variety, over 5,400 known species of mammals, 10,000 birds, 14,000 reptiles and amphibians, 30,000 fish, and a million of insects. And this is to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of species of plants and other life forms. Biologists sometimes even say there may be as many undiscovered species on earth as there are discovered, and that today’s diversity represents just a small portion of the species that have walked, swam, flown or sprouted the globe over time. What a procession it all must seem from the Master Designer’s perspective.

I’m undone again by the Creator’s majesty…

Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his wisdom and knowledge and riches! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! (Romans 11:33, TLB)

~~ RGM, from an earlier
entry in my nature journal