Day 20: Togetherness

I first saw those ducks from a distance and did I ever rejoice, hoping against hope it signaled the triumphant return of the Bickley’s Pond white duck from two winters ago. You may remember my endless fretting over that much maligned creature. Despite his nonstop efforts, he was never able to assimilate into the clan of web-footed cousins around our cove. The sweet mallards gave it their best, making room when he insisted on joining their cozy twosome. (It was short-lived.) The Canada Geese not only shunned him—they mocked him in a vociferous and hateful way. Eventually the entire duck B.P. population grew so weary of the misfit they abandoned him completely, flying on to other waters and leaving him here, all alone on Bickley’s Pond.

For weeks it stayed that way, that forlorn creature swimming solo, not a friend (or foe) in sight. And then one sad day when I looked out to the pond I noticed there was no duck at all. My heart broke a little more when later I heard a neighbor say (and I swear this is the truth) that the last time they saw that duck he had made his way up the hill from the water and was heading toward the gate, waddling right down the middle of our neighborhood’s main road.


And so you can see why my heart leapt at this Spring’s sighting of not just one white duck, but two. Two white ducks, mirror images, so attached to each other that whether they are on shore or pond, they are never separated by more than a few inches.


I’ve never, ever seen such love and commitment is what I thought as I watched the two from the big window over my kitchen sink. He is so protective! She is so devoted!


What a beautiful way to make your way in this world, knowing there is someone there, always there, who cherishes you, yes—but who also has your back.

I wanted a closer look, and thanks to my camera’s big zoom lens, I was eventually able to get a better view. It was not my misfit white duck, after all, but another kind of creature altogether—and one with such an odd appearance I laughed in spite of myself.


What. Is. That? I wondered, a bit in awe. I ran straight for Google.

The Crested Duck: This fancily-quoiffed duck is descended from the domestic mallard and sports a pouf of feathers growing out of the back of its head. This crest is actually caused by a genetic mutation that duck breeders have selected for. This mutation causes a duck to be born with a gap in its skull, which is filled with a growth of fatty tissue.  It’s from this growth that the pouf of feathers sprouts. (source: Animal Planet: Animal Oddities)


By now I have spent countless hours watching this beautiful couple make their home on Bickley’s Pond. In all that time, whether climbing the ledge beneath the trees that cover their nest, or waddling across the greening grass, or criss-crossing from one corner of the lake to the other, I have never seen them more than ten inches apart. How I adore them, this unusual Crested Duck couple. How grateful I am they are here, a constant reminder of the significance of family, the importance of devotion, and the overwhelming power of love.


how good it is to be together

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Day 19: Expectation

something wonderful

© Ruffles and Stuff

This little gem got me to thinking about how different each day would be if lived in a state of “wonderful” expectation. A little proactive optimism, if you will, rather than our more natural human tendency to prep for disaster. Brace for the worst our gut tells us. The ax is about to fall. Be ready.


Something wonderful is about to happen.

I think I shall give this glorious new perspective a try.


*Thank you to Disney of Ruffles and Stuff for allowing me to share her gorgeous graphic (and thought) with you.

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Day 17: the fathomless mystery of life

IMG_2550 - Version 3

This magnificent quote from Frederick Buechner (How have I not known about him?) came to me today via Arianna Huffington’s new book, Thrive, the Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-being, Wisdom and Wonder.

Buechner says:

If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this:

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.


–Frederick Buechner


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Day 16: Dusk. Rain. Eagle!

You probably know the sight of either of the Eagles is cause for great celebration in our house, now that the pair has made a regular home back in the woods, out of our view. For so long their nest was right here, across the tiny cove from our back yard, where I could watch (and document) every move. We raised five eaglets in that nest, those Eagles and I.

Late yesterday I stepped to the sink to wash up some dishes, there in front of the big kitchen window. Looking through the rainy dusk I spotted this.


(Not great photos due to the darkness, rain and distance–but you get the idea.)

It was thrilling to see that big bird there, for obvious reasons. But even more fun is the fact we’ve never seen either of the Eagles perched there, on the tip-top of the tallest tree on Bickley’s Pond.

What a grand view of the world I thought. How glorious it must be to see things from that height, to have that broad perspective.


It was a beautiful reminder of advice I received years ago that has served me well in this life:

When you are wrestling with a problem you can’t seem to solve, pull out, broaden your perspective. Then broaden again. And again, if need be. The answer is there for you—you just can’t see it when you are down in the weeds.

I hadn’t thought about that counsel in a long time, but I get the feeling it has come to me now for a very good reason.


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Day 14: Going Home Again

She’s tracing her roots is how my husband describes it when he tells people about the trip we took last weekend, back to my beloved Southwest Virginia. And while I wasn’t thinking of it that way, exactly, I suppose it is a rather accurate description.


It was a journey long-planned, you see, one with a specific purpose. I want to stomp around in the mountains I told them to see all the places I never appreciated when growing up there. It was all too ordinary back then, this living amidst the rugged Appalachians, a mere backdrop for after-school band practice and Friday night football games. And my brother and sister-in-law thankfully said yes when I asked them to serve as our guides, Randy and Lisa Rigg, two people who know this territory well.

We’ll stay at Natural Tunnel bubbled Lisa. And we’ll start Saturday Night at the Carter Fold, in Hiltons.

My heart skipped a beat, I must tell you. I knew we were in very good hands.


Stomp, we did, for the next 36 hours. I spent much of the time in a blissful state of awe—to say those mountains wrapped and rocked me like a baby is the understatement of the 520 posts on this blog. We mapped and drove and hiked and wandered; we traced family lines and hunted down homesteads; we followed railroad tracks and trailed along great rivers and crossed tiny streams, all in search of … what? Realization? Affirmation? That the Earth is mighty. That we are all connected to it—to its mountains and valleys and rivers and plains, connected in significant and inextricable ways—just as we are connected to each other, now, and for generations spreading in every direction.

That it has been this way since the beginning of time.

It was a gigantic blessing, this knowing, a sweeping grace that settled over me then and sits with me still as I write this from my current home in the flat midlands of South Carolina. Here, now, miles and decades and generations away.

We are connected, I know, to the Earth, to each other. And I am a part of it all, a link in the great chain.

US 23 historic markers

US 23 historic markers

sitting in Johnny Cash's rocker

Mighty pleased to be at the Carter Fold, just chilling in Johnny Cash’s rocker


Anderson Blockhouse view

Anderson Blockhouse view

Carter Cabin, built in 1784

Carter Cabin, built in 1784

window to the past

Stock Creek

Stock Creek


on the road to Fort Blackmore

the road to Fort Blackmore

Carter Cemetery

Carter Cemetery in Hunters Valley

Randy, Lisa, Tim and me: a cold morning at Natural Tunnel

on our expedition: Randy, Lisa, Tim and me



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Day 13: Blue Sky Yoga

I am doing yoga under the old pine tree in the school yard, where the merry-go-round used to be said the text from my dear childhood friend and fellow Wise Woman, Julie. I smiled.

And then she added this photo:

Julie's sky

© julie wiliams dixon

How my heart soared.


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Day 12: Cold and Rainy

ghost tree

cold and rainy St. Augustine, March 2014

We took a walk, my Eliza and I, on this cold, rainy Spring Break day in Florida. We’d made the trek South together to give her a little prime beach time with her cousin, Claire, while I visit with my sweet Daddy. But alas, the weather has simply not cooperated. In fact, Three Days of Rain = Total Spring Break Washout for the girls.

That’s a tough break for these college juniors—girls who run toward the sun the moment Spring arrives.

But for me? Eliza + Claire + housebound = Spring Break BINGO.


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