When one reaches the age of 60, it does not take much to create a state of wonder—just a cup of good coffee at 6 o’clock on any morning at all, a postage stamp of freshly mowed front lawn, a tiny porch stoop with a comfortable white wicker chair, and the hope that the sun will rise just one more time. It is after all the seemingly insignificant things that can somehow emerge as the most meaningful, most profound and richest of life’s pleasures. At least that has been my experience of late.
We teach our children and our students the importance of making eye contact in order to communicate effectively. I have learned this in a new way on my front porch stoop. Just the other Sunday I sat there at daybreak in preparation for my Sunday School lesson when, of all things, an owl winged its way into the silver maple across the lawn. I do not write, “winged its way,” flippantly. The owl’s wings were magnificent, stretching out several feet wide.
When landed, the owl turned its head, as owls are able to do, a good 180 degrees and made direct eye contact with me. We had a moment, communing with each other. Let me just say that my Sunday School lesson, which happened to be on God’s creation, took on a new meaning for me at that moment. I called to Evelyn and when she came to the door, the owl flew to another maple in our side garden, thus alerting the crows. Evelyn and I were able to follow the owl’s pilgrimage by the crows,’ raucous cawing for the next 15 minutes.
Almost every morning, the same hummingbird comes along, attracted by the bright red blossoms of a potted geranium on the porch. The hummingbird goes through the same routine each morning. He’s always disappointed, unable to draw any nectar from the blossoms. But he always turns his head, looks me square in the eye as if to say, “You’ve done it to me again,” and then darts away.
Just this morning, a praying mantis perched on the front door frame. I drew very near to snap a photograph with my cell phone, and even the praying mantis cocked its tiny head, looked me straight in the eye to say, “Excuse me; you are in my space.” I took the picture anyway and then went back to my chair.
I think of all of God’s creatures I have observed during these early morning hours on the front porch stoop my favorite has been a very small ground wren who made a ruckus burrowing under a boxwood bush by the front sidewalk. The wren hopped along the walk and I tried not to move a muscle. When the wren went under the boxwood, that tiny bird unbelievably shook the entire bush violently.
Finally, all went silent. It took another 10 minutes before the wren came out again. When the wren came out, however, she finally took notice of me, looked me right in the eye, and then flew away. I never knew what the disturbance inside the boxwood was all about.
Each of these marvelous creatures communicated with me through the light of their eyes. They made not a sound, but we talked even so. And that is the way it is every morning when I sit with my cup of coffee in a state of wonder on my front porch stoop. I sit amazed at the wonder of it all, at the wonder of God’s glorious creation.
In “The Marshes of Glynn,” the southern poet Sidney Lanier, wrote “As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod, Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God.” I have a new appreciation of that verse after observing our own wren at work in the boxwood from our front porch stoop. Maybe that’s what she was trying to tell me when she looked me in the eye. “As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod, Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God.” May it ever be so.
Duane Bolin teaches in the Department of History at Murray State University and is a member with Evelyn at Murray’s First Baptist Church. Contact Duane at firstname.lastname@example.org.