Today we have a wonderfully sunny day in Western Massachusetts. I am pausing in my holiday preparations to post some thoughts.
Last week, David and I were lingering in the kitchen over tea and coffee around 9:00 in the morning. My eyes were drawn to a huge bird, flying just above the baseball field, out behind the town offices. I said, "David I think that is a bald eagle!" He saw it, too, but didn't quite believe that is what it was. The bird landed in a tree, and I could just make out his white head with binoculars. I was still in my nightgown, so I asked David to go out with his binoculars and see what it is. He did — and he found a bald eagle sitting on a branch overlooking the Connecticut River, just looking around. He got a close-up view of it, including the big yellow curved beak. David came back in and convinced me to get dressed and come out with the camera and the binoculars. So we went out together and it was still there. Wow! What a sight! How majestic! I knew, even as I was viewing it, that I was afforded an opportunity of a lifetime. I just kept saying, "Oh, how beautiful! Oh my God, that is so amazing!" David was trying to take a picture of it, when it flew from the tree, out over the river, and away. The wingspan on that bird was wider than David's armspan. It soared right above the water, and then was gone — as quietly as a mystery.
Two days ago, I was going to the bank, when I looked up, and lo and behold, there was an eagle, soaring around in circles. Once you've seen a bald eagle, there is no mistaking it — the shape of the wings, the way it soars, that wide wingspan. When I watched him, I could almost imagine myself up there, getting an eagle's view of the world in which we live. So, I am thankful for these two sightings. It is another reminder of what a wonderful thing it is to have nature all around us.
I've gotten some very creative cards and letters from friends this season. Some people are so inventive with the way they catch you up on the year's happenings. I was particularly struck by one from John and Pat Anderson, who are parents to five and grandparents to fourteen. They managed, in one card, to include a photo of each of their children and grandchildren, photos of their fiftieth wedding anniversary, a wedding photo of themselves and each of their children, and one of their recent snowstorm. And then there are words of wisdom besides. This witty wisdom comes from the point of view of the stork, who visited their youngest daughter this summer. This was a rather unexpected visit, and it tells us how it has been working for the family for the last fifty years, and how it has arthritis in its wing joints. Then it says, "My outlook and attitude, however, could not be better and let me tell you why. The many bundles I deliver are examples of the greatest treasures you can receive.
My message to everyone is to pause and consider the real meaning of the holiday season. It's not the gifts and jingle bells we have become accustomed to, rather the creation of life, be it an infant child or the natural evolution of nature that surrounds us each and every day.
Believe it or not, our greatest gifts are free and don't arrive gift wrapped. I hope you will take a few minutes every now and then to think about what this old bird is trying to say."
I get what the old bird is trying to say. It is important for us to listen to the sages in our lives. What a blessing it is to have the those who have been seasoned in life's joys and sorrows share their wisdom with us.
I first met the Andersons back when I was teaching school among the Amish. I visited them in their home in Short Hills, New Jersey just before I left the Amish for good. Then we lost track of one another for more than thirty years. Earlier this year, I got an email from them and we reconnected. Since then, David and I have stayed at their home several times when on book tour. It is always a pleasure to be with them. We are honored to be in their circle of friends, and to be reminded that the important things in life are not always what we focus on.
Do you have sages in your life? What have you learned from them?
Now on a sadder note. Please keep the Yoder family in Fredericksburg, Ohio, in your prayers. This is an Amish family who just lost their fifteen-year-old daughter, Rachel, in a mysterious shooting. To learn more about that, you can read the report here. It is now believed that it was an accident, as reported here, though there are still questions left unanswered. This tragedy is the second in just a few months for the Yoder family. Rachel's mother was killed in an accident when the van she was riding in was hit by a truck in September. Rachel has ten surviving siblings. I can only imagine the grief that this family is going through. My prayers are with them.