When Cheri and I were first married, with hardly a penny to our name, one day we received an invitation in the mail. A resort in Minnesota invited us to come and receive a small propane grill, just for coming and spending an hour or so listening to them talk about the great opportunity to invest in a time share for their resort. In case you just simply don’t know what a time share is, well, you don’t own any property, no land, or anything like that. What you do is “buy” a week’s worth of time to stay at the resort per year. Of course, you can certainly “buy” more if you are crazy enough to do so, but you can then reserve that week to stay and enjoy all the amenities of resort living, or let your relatives stay there if you can’t make it. All you have to do is buy into the thing, and then pay yearly fees to keep up the property that you don’t own. It’s a sweet deal – for the owners. It’s a giant trap for those persons who are swayed enough to take their money and give it away. And it never ends. You and your estate “own” that week and all the expenses that come with it, forever.
Well, we drove over to “Breezy Shores” and took the tour and spent the hour in the presentation. It wasn’t really very tempting, since we didn’t have enough money to buy furniture or anything like that, but after it was done, I asked for our free grill. They weren’t happy, but they gave us the little box with the junky little grill that we used probably twice before realizing that it had the potential of blowing up as it tried to cook our hamburgers. That’s the extent of our timeshare experience.
So – imagine my surprise when just shy of 40 years later, Cheri and I found ourselves as the actual owners of an entire time share enterprise! You see, when we bought our home in 2015, we also bought the backyard with five massive spruce trees ringing the property. They are beautiful and wonderful to see as they anchor the whole yard. Unbeknownst to us, however, is that they also serve as a pretty significant “bird time share.” It’s been the same almost every Spring to Summer. As the birds make their way back north from wherever they spent their winter, different contingents settle into the trees. The first ones to come are the blackbirds. Frankly, they are not the best renters. If you have ever sat and listened to a flock of blackbirds all trying at the same time to make nests in the trees, you know that there is a din of squawking and cackling and the equivalent of bird yelling that goes on day and night. They really are rude, when it comes down to it. There are constant battles over which bird suite they will occupy, and when they find their mates for the season, very soon the sound explodes further with the squeaking of babies, all hungry and demanding their bird fathers go to McDonalds and bring back Happy Meals. It just never quits. And no one apparently ever has taught them how to sing – squawking is the best they can do.
This racket continues for the better part of a month – and then suddenly, they are gone. It’s like they pack up the kids and the souvenirs and sneak out in the middle of the night. That of course, makes room in the condos for the next group to move in. We become hosts to two sets of birds – robins and mourning doves. For some reason, they get along pretty well, but the doves will seek out the highest spot in the area, whether trees or housetops, and sit there cooing like Barry Manilow at the Copacabana. Did I mention they never quit as well?
As for the robins, well, they are the pigs of the bird world. The robins’ favorite food happens to be worms, or other meaty little insects, which pass through them fairly quickly, and the end result is just a real mess on the patio, the windows, the chairs, the table, and anywhere else that they decide to use as their restrooms. Pigs. And messy pigs. When their babies come along, for days there are peeps and squawks as they also wait for their dads to bring them breakfast, lunch and dinner. When they get old enough, they hop out of their nests, and follow/chase their poor father birds all around the yard, waiting for them to find another worm or other juicy mess to feed them. The funniest part of it all is when the “babies” grow to be about the size of the parents, and still just follow them around hoping to hop on the gravy train, instead of learning to feed themselves.
This week, however, we experienced that wonderful changing of rooms at the bird timeshare. The robins and doves have pretty well left the area, and finally it’s time for a couple of favorite weeks, as the songbirds come to claim the nests, or the branches or whatever they are renting for a time. The sparrows (who apparently have all changed their name to “Jack,” after the Pirates of the Caribbean movies), the purple finches, the canaries, the wrens, the chickadees and more all politely move in and while their time away with two different activities: one, they clear the backyard of any and all little flying insects – really, they are like vacuum cleaners. Two, they pull out their little songbird acoustic guitars, and sing and sing and sing beautiful little serenades. It really is delightful to sit outside and just listen to the music. Even when the babies come along, there are tiny little peeps as they politely ask their parents for a little bit of food, please…
However, by the middle of July, the season is over. Cheri has asked me where the birds all go, and I have no idea – they just leave our spruce trees for other places to stay. I have never looked up inside the trees to try to count the number of nests that must be all over the inside of the branches, but there could be dozens and dozens. They are all more than welcome, so long as I don’t have to vacuum up after them when the season’s done…
God creates incredibly wonderful cycles of the seasons and the patterns, even of little birds. When we intentionally lend an eye and an ear to witness creation as it unfolds, we come to understand that it wasn’t just in the beginning that God created – it is a continual en-livening of this world with all creatures great and small. If we are intentional enough, we can find great delight as we simply observe the comings and goings of God’s work, even in our spruce trees in the early summer.
Word for the day: abrupt. Pronounced uh-BRUPT. I actually found this word in the Merriam-Webster word for the day. It has a fascinating background, since we will often use the word without knowing from where it came. We know the word means “rudely curt,” or “changing without warning.” There is a suddenness to its action, like someone abruptly changing lanes in busy traffic, or someone else abruptly ending a job interview. It’s of course a Latin word, coming from abruptus/abrumpere, and further ab + rumpere, which means “to break (off).” You can break a branch off a tree, or a piece of bread from a loaf – you are being abrupt when you do so! Of course, some related words with the same root would be “interrupt,” “rupture,” and “bankrupt,” which all maintain a suddenness and near violent action. Try not to be too abrupt today – it just puts people at a dis-ease.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.