Downy Days

It is twenty-six degrees outside and the paper tells it will get no warmer. I have a to-do list as long as my arm but this morning a downy woodpecker came to my feeder and now I am keeping watch for his return. He was stealing bits of the suet, hammering with his hard bill on that frozen block of lard. I briefly entertained microwaving the thing for his benefit, but even I realized this was silly. He returns periodically, hitches to the side of the wire feeder with his four toes, and takes my breath away. His underfeathers mirror the down of  the surrounding snow. I long to touch, to smooth fingers over that deep soft. His red cap seems like an exclamation point and I read it all to that end. I sit still at the kitchen table, barely daring to breath—fantasizing about birding expeditions and wishing life was not calling me away.

I have been reading Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk and she has filled my head with all sorts of adventures. She writes about exotic travels and the beauty of little known places. Last night I started the chapter about her time at Galápagos. I am filled with longing for a life of seeing when I read these things. But then I remember this article that I read last summer and I am grateful that I have choices.

I have chosen this life.

I remember this with sobriety this morning as I reflect on the events of my day thus far. There is the rising in the quiet. The making sure the lunches are packed and the coffee is made. Dogs out in frozen tundra. The gym clothes that are not ready and somehow it’s my fault. Forgotten backpacks and drop-off lines. Then back to laundry and this house and the downy woodpecker.

Well, it surely isn’t gazing at the palo santo trees on Galápagos. But there is poetry to it. If I allow myself to see it.

Last night, I told my friend, I am learning to think in poetry. I look for poetry in my day to day.

Yes, she said. Because she knows this too.

I think of those words said to me between the walls of the hospital where I work. The mother eyes, their longing–the deep pool of them.

I just want things back the way they were, she said. I just want our life back.

This is the life I live in. I choose this life. I choose to see each moment.

And pieces of my day lift up before me like lines of a beautiful sonnet. And my eyes are opened to beauty.

Today I am writing from where I am and joining L.L. Barkat in searching for a sense of place. Join us? You can link up here
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Monday is also gratitude day (isn’t everyday?). Today I am thinking of sweet blessings…
**Footprints in fresh snow.
**Running between droplets of “rain dressed in white feather coats” (oh, how I love that line by TALON)
**All four of us, gathered round the Advent wreath, candles shimmering.
**Youngest blessing us in church on Sunday. He played drums with the praise band! This mamma heart just knew that God was smiling at his too short legs amidst those praises.
**The smell of winter in the air.
**Warm home on cold night.
**Prayer partners.
**The arms of the one who loves me.
**So much more!


  1. says

    Thinking on, “I just want our life back”. I know so many including us who have found themselves in a place they never imagined. Looking back brings comfort for a firm foundation if we know the One yet I must put my focus into the present..what is…what is He saying or merely soaking in His presence resting in the knowledge that He knows even if I don’t. Finding sweet comfort in Him…learning how to abide.

  2. says

    laura, there is so much to unpack in this… i join you in seeing the poetry in the day to day (how well put!) and in simultaneously longing for a life of seeing. 🙂 so much love to you dear friend. (ps. i’ve just put a request in at my library for this annie dilliard book–thank you)

  3. says

    Such a good reminder. Like you, being in nature gives me a better sense of place. Although around here, it’s more likely to be a crow than a downy woodpecker.
    Thanks for your prayers. I’m doing better.

  4. says


    “I am learning to think in poetry. I look for poetry in my day to day.” My younger son thinks in poetry and always did. I always loved seeing the world through his eyes. But then he grew up and moved away.

    For him, this way of seeing was a birthright. For me, I think it’s more a choice. Sometimes beauty creates an ache in my heart that won’t let go until I wrap words around it. Like your woodpecker. But I have to sit still and quiet long enough to hear the poetry. Thanks for reminding me that this is a choice I want to make.

    Love, Jeanne

  5. says

    You’ve inspired me to look for that poetry also. But, I have to admit, it sure is hard for me to find it when it’s so cold so soon:) I like warm sun, green foliage, and washing away the sweat with a big glass of sweet tea. Never was much for hot beverages.

  6. says

    I love this list Laura. Pure joy!

    I need those eyes to see. Sometimes circumstances put blinders on my eyes – blocking out the beauty and the blessing. I was thinking, as I read your beautiful writing, that it is the relationships in our lives (no matter what trappings they come with) that will finally be all that matters. Wherever we are, whatever we do – that is what we must do well.

  7. says

    Annie Dillard has been recommended as a good book for ministers to read b/c she has such a captivating style. Sad to say I have not read one of her books yet! Thanks for reminding me that I need to!

  8. says

    Beautiful, Laura. I wonder if you remember my jealousy of Dillard’s Galapagos trip in my first pages of God in the Yard? 🙂 How many of us writers has she filled with envy? 🙂

  9. says

    Thanks, Laura. For this – to be settled and grateful and accepting of the life we have chosen. It’s so easy to get lured into the fantasies of the life we think we left somewhere along the side of the road. But it’s right in front of us. And finding poetry is just one other way to see the beauty and grace that is there. What a great assurance.

  10. says

    “I am learning to think in poetry. I look for poetry in my day to day.”
    Laura you know this is why I began my own blog – to remind me to strain always to see the beauty. Then when I catch a glimpse of it, the straining stops and there is peace.

  11. says

    “I just want things back the way they were..”

    Yes, that is such a mournful, yet real response.

    But , as you say, reality is different. We are right here, right now and I have to live there with my Lord’s help

  12. says

    A year ago I sat in this room late one night struggling with God–I wanted Him to be my reality. He wanted my all. I finally said “yes.” The next Monday I lost my job. A month later I started having health issues. A few weeks later our youngest totaled my husband’s vehicle and walked away unhurt. Our fairly new furnace stopped working. Our basement flooded. Loved ones passed away. The list goes on.

    Today as I read your words, I think, “Yes. I chose this life.” At one point, earlier this year, I wanted out. I told the Lord I never signed up for “this.” But He asked, and I said, “yes.” And now He is becoming my reality and I have walked us through the fires hand in hand with Him. And I know His voice, His touch, His love, His compassion so much more than I did before.

    Thank you, Laura, for your eyes that see, and your heart that writes…beautiful poetry of life.


  13. says

    <<This is the life I live in. I choose this life. I choose to see each moment.

    Thank you, Laura, for choosing this life you live in. For choosing to see each moment.

    <<And pieces of my day lift up before me like lines of a beautiful sonnet. And my eyes are opened to beauty.

    So much beauty in these two simple but thoughtful statements. I’m so glad you have Jesus Christ in you to help you lift up before your sight, the pieces of your day.

  14. says

    Annie Dillard leaves me in awe.
    But also in awe of life.

    and while I secretly harbour fantasies of secluded writer shacks in the mountains… I am living this life and I choose to see. I do.

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