Last Sunday, a week ago, Gail and I went out to the Bogg’s Bog, a wetland the Nature’s Conservatory protects. Summer had come down in the beat of a day. Needles in the grass bloomed and stuck to my socks. I thought of rattlesnakes. The tules, within just a few warm days, were now brown, and the water in the marsh had already receded to where only birds can reach.
Redwing blackbird sentries surrounded the nesting area. These birds were a military force, the males in uniform with the red chevrons on their wings. They vigilantly protected their breeding grounds from predators and kept the females within its confines, forcing them to stay with their eggs. Canada geese honked in the distance. We could see them resting far off. They breed here during their long migration, something that I hadn’t realized.
When we first arrived, Gail and I sat on a log in the shade and just listened. We told our stories to each other. I shared what I thought was a bit of darkness on my soul, but brought to light with a trusted friend, with the words spoken over the colors that were descending with summer so that they rose with the bird talk, I realized that there was no darkness, just confusion and missteps.
Yesterday I went to Mary’s. To get there, you have to walk down six or seven switchbacks on her path. It’s steep and makes me winded each time I climb back up. But the descent is wonderful, and you wind up at her wooded house, built circa 1940, that rests right on the shore.
We sat on her porch and listened to the water lap and watched the birds fly and settle in the oaks, skirt the lilac, buzz around the feeders, and swim in the shallows. What a feast . . . we traced one call, a single note that kept repeating, from her deck and up to her bedroom window where we found a male mountain quail hiding in the upper branches of the scraggly oak tree. Black head and top knot, gray body. The females were foraging below him.
We looked down from her window and found a mallard and his mate paddling in the water right at the shoreline. A Bullock’s Oriole flew by. We went back to the deck to follow him as he flew up to the taller trees.His bright orange belly caught the afternoon sunlight; he and the tree leaves shimmered gold.
The finch’s necks were bright yellow, and we caught the iridescent red of a few hummingbirds. Then as we sank down in her lawn chairs, a pelican circled. Even when he was several hundred feet out on the lake, we could see the profile of its mating bump protrude like a big pimple on his nose. It will be there through the end of next month and then disappear when the mating season is over. There were two small birds doing a mating dance of sorts, the circled around each other too fast to know if they were hummingbirds or finches, or some other species. They rose twice while we were there in a small whirlwind of joy.
Mary and I shared a few hours of grace. I’ve thought a lot about grace for most of my life; I’ve only experienced it in small amounts on a conscious level, though I know if I became more centered I would be aware that I am actually drunk on it. My reality is steeped in it, as is yours.
Grace is found with the quiet mind. My monkey mind is the absolute monkeyish. If I “heard” this correctly, Course in Miracles says that we continue to crucify Christ with our thoughts, our lack of forgiveness for ourselves which then creates tension with the world.
Brother James commented to me: You are loved . . . and now I can’t remember the adverb. Passionately? Exquisitely? If the world experienced that love, would the kingdom of heaven, which is here already, form solidly among the shadows? We could touch it the way Thomas did Christ’s wounds, find that it is real, and that we have always belonged.