Posts in Category: The Generous Eye

The Generous Eye. Happy Father’s Day.

“if your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light.” Jesus

As it happens, yesterday we celebrated a new baby to be in the family at Erin and Paulo’s baby shower for Everleigh (they already know the baby will be a girl). And, today, of course, is Father’s Day. Certainly cause for reflection, and, yes, celebration (if I do say so myself). I have 7 wonderful daughters, enough to make any man proud. Each one is enough to make me proud. I have not always been the best of fathers, and that is not just false modesty…love is the hardest thing to do well, and I have often failed. Still, my heart tells me that Our Father, who dwells in us, has worked it all for good, and that, over all, love has won the day. That, honestly, is all any father can hope for…and it is my prayer for all father’s today, and that includes Paulo, as he sets out on this journey. It does not take a generous eye to see he has made a good start already. Happy Father’s Day to all of us today.

The Generous Eye: Wild Iris. Happy Sunday!

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

Here along the coast we will not have Wild Iris for another 2 weeks at least, but just a few miles further inland they are all over the place…in roadside ditches, and along wet swales in hayfields and on the edges of meadows near ponds. Maybe there are that many more this year as we have had a wet spring. I found a boggy pasture edged with pines that must have had 5000 Iris in bloom. Quite a show. Evolutionists will tell you that wildflowers got their form and color due to the evolutionary pressure, not to say competition, for reproduction and pollination. It is not so much that I don’t believe it could have happened that way, as that I find it much easier to believe that the loving creator just likes flowers…loves flowers. There are so many and so many different colors, different forms…from a simple round of petals to the ornate structures of the iris and orchids. Form may follow function, but, to my way of thinking, and my generous eye at its best, part of the function of flowers might just be…well…to be beautiful. If that is naive…or even “simple minded”…then I proudly claim naivety and simplicity as legitimate aspects of the generous eye. The generous eye sees the glory of the creator in everything. How can you not see it in the Wild Iris?

The Generous Eye: Surprise! Happy Sunday.

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light.” Jesus

If you go through the world with your eyes open, generously open, you are bound to be surprised by the things you see. This little puff of moss, up against the base of a pine in the forest, surprised me. It looks like a animate creature, an animal…like, at the very least, a sea urchin of the forest floor, or maybe even a hedgehog. Surprising. Delightful. With open eyes, you will be constantly reminded that creation is alive (and often delightful) in all its details, and that the creator is at work every second of every day. Another way to look at it is that the creation is communication. Nature speaks to us. We hear it with our eyes and ears, with every sense, and what it says conveys essential meaning to the spirit of creation what lives within us. Nature sings, and it sings a surprising song. My best hope for you this Sunday, is that you find yourself surprised by creation. It might not be a little puff of moss at the base of a tree in the forest…but there will be something…just keep your eyes open for it.

The Generous Eye: Compressed Season. Happy Sunday!

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

It seems like we have not had a “normal” spring in southern Maine in years. Perhaps it is time for me to admit that this might be the new normal…or at least the current normal. Wildflowers are blooming late, and migrant birds and dragonflies are arriving late, and our native dragons are emerging later each year. And, the season is compressed. When the wildflowers bloom, they bloom all at once. Take the panel here. These flowers should not be in bloom at the same time…and they certainly should not be having their first blooms at the same time. In the recent past, the Painted Trillium (upper left) and Blue-bead Lilly (upper right) would be showing their last tired blooms before the Lady Slipper (in the center) began to show. And the smaller forest floor flowers like the Starflower and Twin-berry would have be in full boom by the time the Lady Slippers appeared…but this year these are the first blooms I have found. If you are at all aware of the natural world around you…if you observe the rhythm of the seasons through the birds and insects and trees and wildflowers…it is hard to deny that the climate is changing. Spring in Maine is later and later, and more and more compressed. You can debate whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, for us humans, and for the earth…or you can be uncertain of the causes, and doubtful of the solutions, but it is becoming harder and harder to deny it is happening.

The generous eye is an open eye…one that sees what is in front of it. A being full of light has the wisdom to identify causes and the hope to see solutions…or at least to see the things we can each do to help the planet, and our species, children of the living God that we are, to survive this change in climate. And if we each did what we can do, that might be enough. Certainly if we all did what we can do, together, then I have to believe that that would be enough.

A late compressed spring may be the new normal, and it may be just a transition phase toward a more balanced planet. It begins with generous, open, eyes, and moves through beings full of light to a future where what is normal is better, for us, and for the planet.

The Generous Eye. Blossoms mark the time. Happy Sunday!

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

I am almost always away from home when our ornamental cherry tree blooms. The buds are just appearing when I have to leave for Ohio and the Biggest Week in American Birding, and are generally gone, swept away by early May wind and rain, before I get back. This year is a pleasant exception. The tree bloomed a bit late, due to our delayed spring, and the blossoms survived the storms of May long enough so that when I returned from several weeks of travel they were still there to great me. As I am sure I have said in the past, this tree has a special meaning for me…for my family. I bought it as a bare root stick at the local Dollar Store when we bought the house in the spring of 1996 and stuck it in the ground next to an old pine tree stump. The stump has long disintegrated, and, against all odds, that little bare stick has grown into a mature tree 30 feet tall and with a trunk two feet through. This year its canopy of dense blossoms shades half the front yard, and I have had to cut it back twice already on the house side to keep in off the roof.

When I see it in full bloom…when I see the tree it has become, it reminds me of all the years we have lived here in Maine…and how rich our lives here have been. Oh, not “rich” that way…but rich in love and growth and joy. There have been difficult times. There are scars in the bark of the tree to testify, but the fact is that it has gown so big and tall and strong and that it is still blooming abundantly and beautifully…that is what matters.

The blossoms are about done for this year. The petals are falling. They spot the grass and moss of the yard. And every petal could mark a blessing that has fallen into our lives in the past 23 years…a wonder of grace…a gift of love. What a wonderful God!

I don’t know how many more springs I have to see the cherry tree bloom (who does?), but I am thankful to see it now…to be reminded into thanksgiving…to be reminded to count our blessings as the petals fall. Happy Sunday!

Burrowing Owl in Ice Plant: Happy Sunday!

Burrowing Owl, San Diego California

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

Yesterday the San Diego Birding Festival started at noon, and I had a workshop at 12:30, so I slept in, and only went out to the San Diego River Channel and the Western National Wildlife Refuge across from Sea World. It is a good marshy river habitat, though the high banks of the river channel keep you well away from most of the birds. Great for scope views. There have been reports of a Burrowing Owl along this stretch in past years and I am always alert, especially in the area overrun by Ground Squirrels. I did not have to really even look for this Owl, as two other photographers were there already. Such a delight! I have not seen a Burrowing Owl this close since my days in New Mexico 30 years ago, and I can count the number of Burrowing Owl I have ever seen on my fingers without running out of digits.  I wrote a little poem about it for yesterday’s Day Poem.

Burrowing Owl on the bank above
the San Diego River, right by the
Sports Arena Bridge. What at treat!
Sat in a big patch of Ice Plant, a
mound really, at the mouth, obviously
of a Ground Squirrel burrow, the
sun in its bright yellow eyes, turning
its head side to side, and occasionally
looking straight at me. I felt privileged
to be included in its gaze. Privileged!

And of course another word for “privileged” is “blessed”. I felt blessed to see the Burrowing Owl. It is one of the things, the main thing, I love about bird watching. You never know what you will see, if you just go out with your eyes open…and you almost always see something that quickens the pulse and makes you feel more alive. Blessed. It is a part of the generous eye that I really enjoy. “Eye’s wide open” is the way another translator translates it…eyes wide open in wonder and delight. 

And may you go through this Sunday with generous eyes…and I believe God will bless you in what you see. 

Snow Fence. Happy Sunday!

Snow fence along a beach house access road. Kennebunk Maine

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

This little stretch of snowfence protects a corner in an access road for a group houses on our local beach, where the wind across the marsh might drift the snow across the road. As you can tell from its condition, it has stood there at least since I moved here over 20 years ago, and I can’t honestly remember it looking any better then. This is after about a foot, maybe 8 inches right along the coast, within the sound of the surf, of fresh blowing snow. We expect another 12-24 inches in next 24 hours, a real nor-easter. The snowfence does its job, more or less. There is, every nor-easter, a sizable drift in front of it. Because, of course, that is the way it works. It is not so much a snowfence as wind fence. By slowing the passing wind, it causes the snow to drop out on the downwind side. In this next storm I expect the snow will backfill to cover all but the tips of the slats. It does not prevent drifts so much as to encourage them to form somewhere short of the road. 

I like the line and curve of it against the snow, and what the wind does with the surface of the drift…the carving, the light and shadow, and in this shot, the brooding bank of cloud and the touch of blue sky above. 

As I started to post this image for yesterday’s Pic for Today, just because I like the beauty of it, the whole concept of erecting a snow fence to fence out the snow…or a wind fence to tame the wind…stuck me as having a spiritual dimension, and I decided to save it for the Generous Eye today. 

Now that I reflect on it a bit more, I not sure what to do with it. The wind, in the new testament, is, very often, the spirit. They are the same word in the language Jesus most likely spoke, and, if I remember right, in Hebrew as well. Jesus, speaking to an honest and devout Jew come to inquire of him, said “No one can see the Kingdom of God who is not born again.” When the questioner questioned the possibility of anyone being born twice, Jesus went to to say, “Turely I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of the wind (spirit). You must be born of water and the wind. Flesh is born of flesh, but wind is born of wind.” (Or flesh is born of flesh, but the spirit is born of spirit.) “Don’t be surprised that I said you must be born again. The wind blows where it will. You hear the sound of its passing, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with anyone born of the wind…born of the spirit.” That, of course, only confused the questioner more. And that, of course, was Jesus’s point. He was saying that something has to happen to you, before you can see God’s Kingdom…before you can see God at work in the world and in eternity. Something has to change in you. I am pretty sure he was also paying the questioner, who had already admitted that he saw God and God’s presence in the things Jesus was doing and saying, a compliment. He was telling this honest, devout Jew, that if he saw God in what Jesus was going, he was already born again…born of the wind, born of the spirit…whether he knew it or not. But that is straying pretty far from snowfences. Or is it?

My first thought was about the futility of trying to fence out the snow, or the wind. At the very most, all we do is slow the wind and reposition the snow. It is equally impossible of course to fence out, or to fence in, the spirit. It is an odd thought, but building a church, or establishing a doctrine (building a fence) might slow the spirit enough so you get a drift on the down wind side, a congregation or a denomination, but it does not stop the spirit from blowing where it will. And I am not at all sure I want to be part of the drift. If I am going to be snow in this metaphor, I want to be the snow still blowing in the wind…I want to part of the movement, the force, the power and unknowable purpose of the spirit. And maybe Jesus was telling his devout Jew that too…not to settle in the drift, behind the snowfence, but to get up into the wind again and get moving. The Kingdom of God is not a place, it is a movement like the wind…a way of being suspended…lifted out of yourself and part of the great wind that is God acting in love in the world. You have to be born of the wind, born on the wind (I don’t know if Jesus had that pun to play with in his language, but we do in ours 🙂 Our mother’s carried us in a womb of flesh…the spirit carries us on the wind of loving creation. Born of and in the flesh and born of and on the spirit. 

So yes, when I look at this snowfence I see beauty, but I am also amused. A snowfence? As though anyone could fence in the snow. A wind fence, as though anyone could fence in the wind. And who are you in this metaphor? I know who I want to be. I want to be God’s creative love in action. I want to be a particle of snow, a paricle of water, a particle of flesh, born on the mighty breath of God in this world and eternity. Happy Sunday!

Cardinal in the bush. Happy Sunday

Northern Cardinal, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville Florida

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

It is hard to resist attempting a shot of a Northern Cardinal when one sits less than 6 feet away. And sits while you stand there looking. The fact that it is buried in dense leaves and twigs, and, if it were not so bright red, would basically be invisible to the naked eye, should not stop you…at least if you have manual (and selective) focus on your camera. My Sony has an interesting feature called Direct Manual Focus, which allows you to set one of the control rings on the lens barrel to manual focus, while keeping the camera in auto focus. Then, when you use the ring, the camera automatically switches to manual until you stop moving the ring. It also has a “focus lock” button that allows you to lock in the focus once achieved. When I use it, I get the focus close with DMF and then let the Auto focus do its work, which it does nicely, and then lock it. And you get an image like this: Cardinal in the bush… with highly selective focus. 

And I am thinking that the generous eye has to have its own DMF…its own highly selective and intentional focus. We go through the world, too often, and too many of us, on auto focus, allowing circumstance and our inner mood to determine what we focus on. Too often we are distracted by the bright leaves and the tangle of twigs (and thorns) that this world presents, when, in fact there is a Cardinal in the bush, waiting to fill our souls with beauty, if we can shift our focus to see it clearly. The generous eye requires conscious decision, especially while we are developing it (and in this world we will always be developing it). If we are going to be full of light, we need to choose what to focus on. God is good, and often makes what will nourish our souls both bright and beautiful, like the Cardinal, so it is had to miss…but miss it we will, too often, unless we take the time to focus. 

I could have walked right by this bush and not seen the Cardinal. (In fact it was pointed out to me by someone who had seen it wriggle its way in there.) I could have decided it was not worth the effort, buried as it was. But the generous eye both sees and takes the time to focus…and is always rewarded with beauty. 

Of course, what nourishes our souls is not always bright or even apparently beautiful. Sometimes it is very subtitle. Sometimes it is just a glint of light among the shadows. If we do not take the time to practice our selective focus when something as bright and beautiful as a Cardinal is found in a bush…then we will certainly miss the more subtle presentations of God’s beauty and that light the generous eye finds buried in the shadows of this world. 

I would like to think that the focus of the generous eye will become automatic in time, and that I will one day walk in a world where everything I see is beautiful and full of light. I am confident I will. But while I walk in this world still, I plan to practice selective focus until it approaches automatic…so that I don’t miss God’s beauty and light when it is right there in the bush beside me. May your eye be generous and your focus deliberate, and may you be presented with many opportunities to practice today and every day. Happy Sunday!

Water dancer. Happy Sunday!

Snowy Egret, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Titusville, Florida

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

Snowy Egrets dance on the water when hunting fish. They lift off just enough so they can flit from spot to spot, just touching their feet on the water to pursue fish across a pond…and then pounce when they catch up. It is a fascinating and beautiful action to watch, the white birds with bright yellow feet (yellow slippers we birder’s call them), slim and graceful, dancing across the water.

Walking on the water is, of course, one of Jesus’ more famous miracles. He did it in a storm on the Lake of Galilee while his disciples in a boat feared for their lives. The gospel says “walked”, but I wonder, with the Snowy Egret in mind, if “danced” might be closer. I wonder if Jesus danced with the waves of the storm. I hope he did, graceful and wonderful as the Snowy Egret.

One of things about the generous eye is its willingness to believe in miracles when they happen, “right before our eyes,” and the tendency to see the miracles in even in the common happenings in this world. Isn’t the Snowy Egret dancing on water a miracle in its own right. I certainly can not analyze the physics behind it, or image how it is done from a mechanical and aerodynamic stand-point. I am amazed every time I see it. Amazed and delighted. I like living in a world where Snowy Egrets dance on water. It is good to remember, when the politics and stormy troubles of life in the world get to be too much, that once upon a time Jesus walked on water in the storm, and somewhere, even now, there is an Egret dancing on the waves. 

Happy Sunday!

Cherry Chickadee. Happy Sunday!

Black-capped Chickadee, Kennebunk Maine

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

Just yesterday I posted about the acrobatic Chickadees at the feeder, and yesterday they were back, along with Titmice, Goldfinches, Nuthatches, Juncos, and Bluebirds, to continue their show around the back deck feeders. There is nothing more cheerful than a Chickadee. They are bold enough so my presence on the deck while they are feeding does not disturb them and it certainly seems as though nothing can get them down. Always busy. Always active and alert. Always poised and confident. Always, to all appearances, cheerful. 

With all that is going on in the world right now, I feed the need to channel the chickadee’s cheerfulness. In fact, I woke this morning full of hope…full of good cheer. I don’t know exactly why, but I am certainly thankful. My Day Poem yesterday was about the Woman’s March protests that took place all across the country, and, while I do not agree with some of the things espoused (Choice is much too complex and troubling an issue to put up on a placard), I did and do appreciate the energy…the “pro” in protest, and the testimony to good will and generosity that the movement exemplifies. 

If I were to make a protest sign it would be something like this.

I choose life
(and life for all that lives)
I choose hope
(hope that carries us all toward good)
I choose joy
(in service to my fellows and all that lives)
I choose love

While that might be a bit heavy, philosophically, for a chickadee to carry, it is what I imagine the chickadee’s sign might also say. It is a cheerful message. Poised and confident. It is a “pro” message, not an anti message, and is, therefore, right in the spirit of true protest. 

I woke with that sign, if not in my hand, at least in my heart and mind. I woke to the realization that no one can take my faith in life, my hope, my joy, or my love. They are my creator’s gift to me, knit into my bones, renewed by faith in Jesus Christ.  And I woke to realize that, no matter what they had on their signs, there are a whole lot of other people in this country and this world who share that generosity of spirit (whether they share my faith or not) and that generosity can not, and will not, be put down. My hope for the next four years is that the movement that embraces Bernie Sanders Revolution, Occupy,  the Woman’s March, the Obama legacy, and so much more, will find a clear voice…a pro voice, never an anti voice…that affirms life, hope, joy, and love. If that comes to pass, then what people will remember about the next four years is not Trump and his silver spoon henchmen, but the way people of good will rose up to take our country, and our lives, back. 

And it begins with the cheerfulness of the Chickadee. Happy Sunday!