By LORRAINE V. MURRAY | Published Thursday, July 18, 2013
“The frog is back!” my husband exclaimed as we settled down for supper on the back porch. As we listened to the steady croaking coming from our heavily wooded backyard, we realized we hadn’t heard the frog since a day last fall when suddenly and inexplicably the serenade had ceased. The frog, who no doubt had spent many months hunkered down hibernating in the mud, is now back in full force—and his thrumming provides the backdrop to our meals.
We call this guy “the frog,” as if he were the same one, year after year, but of course we know this is highly unlikely. For us, the frog represents the mysterious persistence of the natural world, which thrives even in the heart of a city. We have lived in Decatur in Chelsea Heights for 28 years, in the same house, and during that time we have witnessed enormous bouts of construction, with trees falling, houses rising and various changes all around.
We have enjoyed the steady stream of new neighbors, especially because they come with a nice herd of children who have revitalized the block. I enjoy looking out the front window and spying various tykes across the way swinging on a big rope attached to a gigantic magnolia tree. Seasons come and seasons go, but the kids are nearly always out, riding bikes, skating and hanging from that rope in the tree.
The Lord gives us so much each day, and each season, but if we only count the material stuff, we may grow discontent. As for me it seems that no matter how many outfits I have, or how many shoes or earrings, I am always hunting for more. Same goes for home renovations, because as soon as one project is done, another one comes creeping into my consciousness, screaming out that life just won’t be good and I won’t be happy unless we (choose one): refinish the floors, replace the cabinets, paint the walls, renovate the bathrooms. There seems to be an eternal drive for more and more when it comes to material goodies.
Still, if I can tune out the voice of the mental monster constantly wanting more stuff, and turn my attention instead to nature, I find that the small gifts the Lord sends are quite sufficient.
Just the other day, our first hummingbird of summer appeared at the front feeder then whirred his way over to the window to peer in at me, evidently attracted by my red-flowered robe. This simple moment, so humble and ephemeral, made my day.
As much as possible, my husband and I eat our meals at a little table on our screened-in porch, surrounded by thickets of pines and oaks, plus shaggy cypress trees. This summer we have Eastern Towhees nesting in a tree so close to the porch that at times we spy the open, eager mouths of the babies. When darkness falls, we count the tiny magical points of light as swarms of lightning bugs dance around the yard.
When I spend too much time in the house—and on the computer—I often feel out of sorts and somewhat disconnected from God. In “Cross Creek,” Florida writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings put it this way: “We cannot live without the Earth or apart from it, and something is shriveled in a man’s heart when he turns away from it and concerns himself only with the affairs of men.”
Nature’s daily gifts may be small: a robin sloshing in the birdbath, an orchid blooming in a pot, a wily squirrel pilfering blueberries and a fig fattening on a branch. Still, since God is the creator, and nature is his masterpiece, the more we can see—and really appreciate—the natural wonders of the Earth, the better we can love the one who so generously provides them.
Artwork by Jef Murray. Readers may email the Murrays at firstname.lastname@example.org.