Hummingbird

My neighbors and I both have hummingbird feeders out, and we think we are seeing but two hummingbirds regularly this year.

One of them was quite active on a hot Thursday morning this past week, so I grabbed the camera and went outdoors to await the bird’s return.  These are skittish little creatures; sudden moves by photographers create a ‘fly away now’ impulse.  So I was still.  And I waited.

Hummingbirds drink for two seconds or less, then look around.

Preparing to depart, hummingbirds back up a bit, then turn and zoom away.

This little bird was also sticking its beak into the petunias, which apparently contain little nectar.  But pollen is there, and so the hummingbird helps flowers pollinate.

50 years

I’ll leave it to those more eloquent than me to write paeans about the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

And I’ll link an article later.

On this day 50 years ago, I had just turned eight years old.  Space launches were a big deal in the late 1960s, and I remember watching almost every lift-off . . . the thrill of the countdown, the excitement of all that smoke from the launch pad, and then the amazement of seeing that Saturn rocket take men toward outer space.

July 20, 1969 was a Sunday.  I don’t have any recollection of the afternoon, of the live broadcast on all three channels (imagine that!) of a simulation of the moon landing.

But I do remember being ready for bed after church that evening — we attended Fifth Street Baptist Church in Hannibal, and Sunday included two services — but my parents wisely telling me to stay up and watch the telly.  “You will want to remember this, to tell this story some day,” they said.

So I’m telling the story.

Thus it was that on this day, 50 years ago, my eight-year-old self watched Neil Armstrong take a step onto the moon.  And heard those immortal words:  “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

I don’t recall how long I stayed up that evening.  But I do bless my parents for requiring me to stay awake to see this world-changing moment.  As I age, the memory of this moment, now distilled through 50 years and sentimentalism and my own tendency to revere life-changing moments, reduces me to tears. As it does right now, as I write.

I was dimly aware of the turmoil of the last three years of the 1960’s.  I remember asking my parents about Viet Nam and death counts on the news, about Bobby Kennedy, about who they were voting for in the 1968 election (they wouldn’t tell me, but Mom said “I think our votes will cancel each other’s” and I’ve always assumed Mom voted for Humphrey while Pop voted for Nixon), about why students were killed at Kent State.  I was a precocious kid.

And easily moved, too.  The Olympics opening ceremony made me cry.  So did “My old Kentucky home” at the Kentucky Derby.  Still does. Still do.

So the memory of the moon landing and what happened 50 years ago today is emblazoned in my formation.  Thanks be to God.

Zoo day

I spent part of my birthday at the Saint Louis Zoo at Forest Park.

The weather?  HOT and muggy.  Two hours was enough….

Grizzly bear cub.

Penguins.

A puffin having a bath.

Prairie dogs.

Sea lions.

Toco Toucan.

Great Hornbill.

Some sort of owl.

A primate. She is not amused on a hot day.

Notes on a birthday

I have spent many of my recent birthdays out of the country — last year in Vienna, three years ago in Exeter, four years ago in Prague, six years ago in Bristol, seven years ago at Interlochen (not out of the country, but in the different land of Michigan).

This year I wanted nothing more than to be home and be happy. I received a note yesterday, from the Dean at Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) in Saint Louis.  Part of that note said “I pray that the anniversary of your birth will bring reflections of care, love, and hope.”

And that’s exactly what July 17, 2019 brought me.

Crepe myrtle makes me happy. This is from the Saint Louis Zoo on my birthday.

I spent part of the totally July day (intense heat and humidity) at Saint Louis Zoo, wandering around with three surrogate nephews.  I call them my ‘circus nephews.’    (Zoo photos follow tomorrow.)

My niece Anna works at the zoo, and I stopped by to say ‘hi’ to her.

Then after dropping the boys at their home, I stopped by Sugarfire to purchase an entire Key lime pie, something I’d been craving for a few days.

I dealt with birthday greetings from far and hear on Facebook, having heard from people in Morocco, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Brazil, Italy, Sweden, and the USA.  And as I take stock of those greetings, I find Shirley Ward, who has known me since I was six years old; college roommate Steve Davis; boyhood friend and now stepbrother Greg Herriman; Linda Hodges, sometime surrogate mom who with whose children I grew up and who was with us as my father was dying; and current and former students, people with whom I’ve made and lived theatre; people with whom I’ve sang; colleagues, friends, chums, classmates, acquaintances from around the world.  This is a rich tapestry indeed!

I ran some errands and tidied my life a bit by returning things and dealing with gardening recycling.

And I cooked, which for me is spiritual and physical sustenance.  The dinner menu, shared with my dear friend D., was lamb kebabs (broiled after the storm came through and squelched my charcoal plans) and homemade tzatziki, garden salad with mango dressing, and Key lime pie.

And then we sat out doors in the temperate weather and talked for an hour.

[The ground lamb, by the way, was flavored with ginger, garlic, shallot, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon, as well as salt and pepper.  This is one of my favorite grilling dishes!]

Evening Prayer from The Book of Common Prayer closed out my day.  Then some Downton Abbey.

Surrounded by love, reminded of love from afar, with a growing sense of newfound centeredness and qi that is positive and healthy, with new determination to right some physical and emotional listlessness . . . “care, love and hope” indeed.

A psalm

A psalm for this birthday.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
    and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
    and you have healed me.
Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
    restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment;
    his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
    “I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
    you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
    I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cried,
    and to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my death,
    if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
    Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
    you have taken off my sackcloth
    and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.