"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Making Miracles

It was a rare January afternoon: sunny, balmy, the warm wind-stirred air teasing senses with spring. A perfect day for the refuge, our first since the arrival of the geese last fall. As we began our slow meander around the familiar loop, windows rolled down, seat belts off, Walt with his camera ready, me with the binoculars, I began my search for this day's miracle.

This sacred place where birds come to be safe, where the air shimmers with unearthly colors, where the sky is so big anything seems possible - this land offers me at least one miracle every single time I'm here. These are not the it's-a-miracle-because-all-of-nature-is-a-miracle kind of miracles. These are full-blown, even Moses would be impressed, no room for doubt miracles.

About two-thirds of the way around on this day, I began to prepare myself for disappointment, or at the least to adjust my definition of miracle. We'd seen coots, great blue herons, red tail hawks. Pin tail ducks were flocked in larger numbers than I'd ever seen before, but even their art-deco beauty didn't quite meet my criteria. There were tundra swans in the hundreds, huge elegant avian angels filling the air with their chuckles and chattering, but nothing about their presence sang miracle.

I found myself thinking about bald eagles. Looking for them, as I always do at the refuge. And becoming aware that I receive miracles because I seek them. It doesn't work to decide I'm going to see a bald eagle and that will be my miracle. Deciding anything doesn't work. Seeking and being open are the fertile ground from which miracles spring.

We were almost at the end of the loop - just one long straight stretch to go - when we stopped to watch some geese gathered close to the road. Walt had turned the car off so we could enjoy their mutters and honks, and my eyes were delighting in the textures of their feathers and colors in contrast to the grass glowing in the rare winter sunlight. In one sudden uprush they took to the air. We looked at each other in puzzlement. There was no obvious reason for the geese to spook.

I looked behind us to see if something there could account for the goose panic.

That would do it. Not one, but two bald eagles. Both young. One just getting his white head, the other still mottled brown. We watched them for a very long time as the older hunted and ate while the younger tried to steal, unsuccessfully, and resorted to stalking the other in hopes of a handout.

I remembered these magnificent miracle birds this last week as another type of miracle unfolded.

It started with an e-mail from middle brother Mark titled "Clare's Dad." Clare is older brother Frank's wife. Her dad in his eighties. The message was no surprise. He had died the day before. The funeral would be Friday.

I had never met Clare's dad. I was mad at Frank for calling Mark, but not me. We had company coming Friday night. So when Mark said he was going to the funeral I was torn. Even when he said younger brother Geoff and his wife would be going - probably. I didn't want to go, but I love Frank and Clare both, and this dad was a good dad to them both, so his death would leave a huge hole in both their lives.

I stewed. I prayed. I talked to Walt. Still uncertain, except I kept getting a picture of Frank looking up to see his three siblings sitting together in love for him. And that took me to yes. The four Lyons "kids" (all over fifty now) had not been in the same place together, friendly or otherwise, for almost a decade. Geoff, who has been estranged from Frank for years now, was going. How could I not?

Our united presence at that funeral became a tangible force of love. When I first saw my larger-than-life brother serving as one of the pall bearers for Clare's dad, he looked old and hunched and diminished. The only way I recognized him was his fuzzy halo of white hair. By the time we left much later in the day, after standing and talking as a family - joking, crying, hugging - Frank running to get his camera to record the momentousness the occasion - he was standing taller and much more himself.

Driving home after, Mark reflected on a book he's teaching for Sunday School in which the author talks about how God nudges us. And if we listen to the nudges, every day miracles will happen. Mark went on to share that this author believes miracles are commonplace (oxymoron?), and would be even more so if we as humans would pay more attention to the nudges.

Bald eagles are certainly becoming common in my life. Yet I always, every single time, experience them as miracles. As I learn to trust that small still voice within, the one that provides the nudges, I expect miracles will become more and more common. I seek. I'm open. I believe.

I love.

bird photos by Walt
family photo by Frank's wife, Clare


Jan said...

It's really "brotherly love part 4," isn't it? I love seeing the four of you together in that picture, the family resemblance and the love glowing out from the shot.

"As I learn to trust that small still voice within, the one that provides the nudges, I expect miracles will become more and more common. I seek. I'm open. I believe. I love."
Yes, definitely. It's so hard to hear those nudges, and to pay attention, and to be brave enough to follow them. And yet the rewards are huge. I will try to remember that.

Carrie Wilson Link said...

"And becoming aware that I receive miracles because I seek them. It doesn't work to decide I'm going to see a bald eagle and that will be my miracle. Deciding anything doesn't work. Seeking and being open are the fertile ground from which miracles spring."

Wise and beautiful!

And the last line? OMHOG, you got me!

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Wow. I've never seen a bald eagle in person. Beautiful.

It's funny how funerals bring people together. I'm glad that y'all were able to come together and hold each other up.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Hey, Deb!

I have a question for you. Sorry I couldn't email... I don't have outlook express so I couldn't get your email address.

I'm in the process of writing/co-creating a devotional for our missions organization. Right now we're editing and collecting photos for the devo. One of them is on eagles. Could we use your eagle pictures? It'll be printed in a devotional and used for several years--not sold. It's given to our students to read while they are on their trips... so up to 300 people a year. We'll put your name on the photo (ex: Photo by Deb Shucka).

If you don't mind, will you email me at kristentorres-toro@adventures.org and send both of those pictures to me?

Thank you!

Jody Hedlund said...

Oh wow, Deb!! Those are beautiful pictures! Since I love bird watching, I was absolutely jealous of your experience! And what a miracle to see the eagles! Wonderful thoughts.

Lorna said...

The photos are inspiring, as are your thoughts. Nature, family, they are all miraculous. I left you a Happy 101 award at my blog today, if you have some time for a visit...

M said...

I loved the way you weaved your eagles with your family...our family. I think as we continue to understand that God has such a great desire to restore us to each other, and to Him, we will see the miracle in our everyday life. Whether it's the beauty of the magnficent bald eagle or healing and restoration of broken relationships. Thank you for the beauty of you words...and your love.

I love you


JOY said...

How blessed for these miracles to unfold in your life - both eagles and long-lost brothers. Sweet pix of all of you.

Words of wisdom!

colbymarshall said...

Can I just say how much I love that you used the phrase "goose panic" in a blog? :-)

Midlife Jobhunter said...

How beautifully you wove this piece as well as the events. The birds, the family, gathered together. Weariness set aside. I thank you for sharing this.

Great photo of you also. Helps to place you in my mind's eye.

Pam said...

A most beautiful photo of you all, and uplifting story to go with it Deb. Thank you for sharing this.

Suzy said...

Gorgeous photo!

American Eagle
"Eagle represents a state of grace that is reached through inner work, understanding and passing the initiation tests that result from reclaiming our personal power. Eagle Medicine is the Power of the Great Spirit. It is the spirit of tenacity. It is the gift of clear vision with which one can truly see the things one sees. It is the patience to wait for the appropriate moment. It is to live in balance with heaven and earth. Eagle reminds us of our connection with the Great Spirit. It tells us that the universe is giving us the opportunity to fly above our life's worldly levels, or above the shadow of past realities. Eagle teaches us to look above in order to touch Grandfather Sun with our heart, to love the Shadow as much as the Light. Eagle asks us to grant ourselves permission to be free in order to reach the joy that our heart desires."

Seems to me you have lived the truths of the eagle.

Stunning writing.



Kathryn Magendie said...

Look at y'all -- that photo makes me feel wistful, and makes me smile...

what a gorgeous post.....

Tabitha Bird said...

Oh wow. That was wonderful. I think that the common things are miracles if we chose to look at them as such.

She Writes said...

You wove this beautifully. I am as seeker and expetecing miracles too!

She Writes said...

You wove this beautifully. I am a seeker of miracles too. Waiting. watching.

kario said...

I'm with Carrie. The paragraph about miracles was absolutely amazing - it struck me and rung so true in my head.

I am so pleased that you and your brothers are having this time together right now. That you four are able to be there with and for each other in ways that are meaningful to you, without pretense.

And I apologize for my absence. In the brief snatches of time I have had to myself lately, I've discovered that I can't do your posts justice unless I take a while to read them and sit with them.