Friday, March 9, 2012
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
My porch is like a sanctuary for me. During the day it serves as my office, motivating me to continue pushing on when I dread the very idea. Splashes from a large fountain shoot twenty feet into the air and gush back into the surface of the pond below my balcony. A hummingbird feeder hangs from the eaves, in my direct line of vision as I patrol the internet for content during my day shift. I observe dozens of hummingbirds fluttering in and out of my work space every day.
These birds are fodder for my imagination, incentive for my art. Upon their visits, I mentally note new and different features that I notice in these amazing little creatures. Once, when the fountain was turned off, I sat and listened to the buzz of their wings. Just feet away from me, a tiny bird made it’s presence known by the hurried flap of his feathers. It was loud and fascinating.
The birds have depleted the contents of the feeder which has been empty for a couple of weeks now. But the birds are persistent, paying regular visits to the hanging attractant. I love this about them. They return daily, confident in their search of a sugary treat.
They return, because if they don’t, they won’t get to partake in the sweetness they set out for. But their chance increases immensely if they at least come to check it out. Here’s my favorite part: when they approach their destination, they hover (rarely do they use the perch) over one of the four spigots. They test it by inserting their beak, only to find it dry as a bone. Instead of fluttering away, though, they rotate around each of the spigots in a clockwise manner, hovering briefly in front of each one to see if they find different results. They spend less time at each spigot, like they’re picking up on a pattern. After all that, they will dart off in search of another potential source.
I couldn’t help but make the distinction that I am all-too-often unlike the hummingbird. If I run into a closed opportunity, I’m not likely to check back into it. Rarely, do I look at seeming closed opportunities from every angle with the mindset, “maybe if I look at it this way.....” Nope. I like to give up and think to myself, “It’s a dead-end road.” I tend to view the situation as hopeless.
The problem with this outlook is that we will eventually lead ourselves down a dead-end road, by means of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we assume that there’s no opportunity, thus relinquishing the search for one, we will never find it.
It’s fair to suggest that we shouldn’t waste our time on things we know aren’t going to create an outcome. It would be foolish to hover over the feeder, simply waiting on the possibility. But it doesn’t hurt to check in from time to time.
I plan on filling the feeder again. I don’t know when I’ll get around to it. But it will happen. And when it does, the frequent visits from my friends will have paid off. They have no idea what’s in store for them.
Have you given up on a particular area of your life? Are you like the hummingbird, are you quick to retreat, like me? What else can we learn from the hummingbird approach?
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
Tonight, we experienced the final performance of Sons of the Shepherd, a group out of Tulare, Calif., as they sang of the goodness of a God who is with us in the valley as much as he is the mountain tops. Their voices prompted chills down my back and tears down my cheeks as they sang in harmonious glory. The trio consisted of a bass, a tenor and a soprano. At one point, I noticed how the soprano strained to reach his notes, while the tenor and bass stood effortlessly singing. He bent his knees, stooped his head, clutched his fist and turned red in the face to hit a certain pitch that perfectly enhanced those of the tenor and bass.
It made me think of how quick we are to try and “fit in.” I pondered what my impression of the group would have been had he been too afraid to stand out against the others. What if he talked himself out of his unique performance because it was different. What if the soprano strived for normalcy? My guess is that he would have fell flat. That the harmonies would have clashed and the audience would have felt uncomfortable. That is, if he went for it at all. He could have continued singing in a lower range, without even attempting the higher notes, in which case, we the audience would have been shortchanged.
But what a joy 1,300 people got to experience because one man chose not to be ordinary, but extraordinary. Despite the jeers he may possibly have received from underachievers, he chose to exit his comfort zone and coincidentally comfort the rest of us with his God-given ability to sing.
Tears streamed down the faces of spectators as they identified with the songs. GG, my 80-year old mentor, was particularly touched as they sang, “look for me, for I’ll be there too.” She has faced many tragedies in her lifetime and I could just feel the hope exuding from the lyric, that seeped into her soul. That one day she would see her sweet husband and daughter again.
Not only are we able to bless others when we choose not to be ordinary, we bless ourselves. I think about all that I would have missed out on, had I chose not to go last night because it’s not what ladies in their twenty-somethings do on a Friday night. As my eyes scoped the room, I noticed that the tops of the heads were overwhelmingly silver. Glasses rested on many of the faces of whose eyesight was diminished by age. Walkways accommodated walkers and the elderly occupied the seats. The ladies draped jackets over their shoulders as their weathered hands clapped to the rhythm of the music. I was, by far, one of the youngest people there.
But one thing I know--music is a powerful thing that speaks to young and old alike. I was moved to tears right along with the others. My toes were tapping and my hands were clapping just the same. The music touched my soul. And I was blessed by the company of GG, the southern delight, and my parents.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
I spent last weekend in the Salinas area, where I spent the first five years of my life. After attending a conference for work in Pacific Grove, I thought I would take advantage of its proximity to my family who remained there. My aunt gave up her bed for the weekend so that I would have a place to stay. Together we spent much time over a glass of iced tea, engaged in discussions of life, family, love and anything else that came to mind.
I also had the privilege of spending time with my great-uncle John's son, Frank, and his family. Frank and Priscilla's son, Jason, played on my brother's basketball team when they were in High School. I remember going to those games, like it was yesterday. A young girl, then, I wanted nothing more than to be a cheerleader and chimed in with the squad to root for my big brother. "He's got great big feet and he's six-feet tall; He dribbles, shoots, dunks and that ain't all; He's got bas-ket-ball...He's got bas-ket-ball." I've never forgotten the rhyme.
I would climb up and down the bleachers, trying to occupy my four-year-old self when Frank and Priscilla impressed me deeply. They would comment on my "pretty red hair" and shower me with compliments. And I believed them. They helped me see the positive in myself at an early age.
Aunt Mae and I spent the evenings at Frank and Priscilla's where we talked over a meal and laughed at jokes that were cast from every end of the table (like most Bigham gatherings). We looked through photo albums, which naturally spurred our conversations in the direction I hoped for: the Bighams in the early days.
I knew many members of my family worked in produce. And I knew long hours at the cooler deprived them in a sense. But I never knew how deeply this less-than-prominant lifestyle penetrated my family history.
Their employment required them to follow the produce in season, earning a migrant reputation--and I'm sure many sneers from the "holier-than-thous." The women, were dubbed "fruit tramps" and "lettuce tramps" and the men were known as boozers and brawlers. Depending on their duties, they were dubbed "loaders," "set-offs" and "push-backs." But they took pride in earning a living and being good at the job they did.
I learned of my great-great-uncle's association with the Chicago mob, my great-aunt, outlawed for bank robbery and a great-uncle who sang with Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
As I drove back home, making my way through the San Joaquin Valley, my eyes absorbed the productive land lining the highways and a few things began to make sense:
1. This land was settled by people form the South, like my ancestors, who did the only thing they knew to do when they arrived. They farmed. Lucky for them, this was some of the richest agricultural land and it remains such, today.
2. My deep love for and understanding of country music goes beyond a mere liking. It's imbedded in my blood. It's a part of where I come from. As I scanned the green fields, dropping down over the Pacheco Pass, I inserted a Merle Haggard cassette tape and sang along to, "Mama never had the luxuries she waned. But it wasn't cause my daddy didn't try." And I realized the depth of the truth those lyrics spoke to so many in their time.
3. After becoming more acquainted with Jason, this trip, and recognizing his striking similarities to my own brother, I realized the meaning behind my enduring respect for Frank and immediate bond with both men. Their tie to uncle John serves as a connection to Grandpa Wes for me. They are more than blood. They are the descendants of my grandfather's twin. And being with them has helped me understand my grandfather (and myself) a little more.