I love walking around Silver Lake in Rochester, MN.
Even with the sounds of the geese and ducks, laughing children, traffic, and adult voices, it’s a thinking, praying, finding peace kind of place.
When we were kids, we fed the geese and ducks, and played on the swings, and got our picture taken. Because Mama knew some day remembering would be important. On the 4th of July, we carried blankets to the park and waited for it to get dark so we could watch the fireworks.
On this day in 1960 or 1961, I got bit by a swan while feeding her. (See the full story below)
Last week, while walking on the path around the lake, I stopped and remembered. The breeze was cool on that long ago Sunday, but the sun was warm. Daddy pushed us on the swings and Mama took pictures of her babies because to her they were incredibly beautiful and the grandparents in Worthington and Lake Park would love a picture sent in a letter. I know it was Sunday because I’m wearing my fancy shoes and whether we went to church or not, Sunday was a dress-up kind of day for me.
While I stood there, joggers and walkers with dogs passed. I was relieved when no one asked if I was okay, but then maybe the smile on my face said I was fine. And grateful that I wasn’t in a hurry and had time to stop.
Because on my solitary walk, those sweet memories kept me company.
It had been a day full of love and standing there, the love found me again, and I thanked God.
I hope you enjoy the following excerpt from Under His Wings about this place and long ago day.
The Swan ~ by Joy DeKok
One warm Sunday afternoon, my parents took my little brother and me to the lake. Clutched in our hands were bright polka-dot bread bags. We were going to feed the geese. I loved being surrounded by the big birds and had often watched them eat right out of my dad’s hand. That day I was going to try it, too.
To my delight, the swans came to us, and to my maybe four-year-old body, they were huge. In the water, they were graceful and seemed lighter than air. But on land, they waddled clumsily on black legs that seemed too skinny to hold up their big, white bodies. Dad offered the first bite of bread to a swan that gobbled it down.
I eagerly reached into the bag and grabbed a piece of bread. Tearing off a corner, I held it out for the swan, but I forgot to let go of it. The swan’s mouth closed around my fingers and pulled. A short tug-of-war began. I wanted my finger back, but in my fear forgot to release the treat I’d offered the bird.
The swan got the bread. I got hissed at and a sore finger. The skin wasn’t broken, but my heart was shocked. Tears filled my eyes as my concerned parents checked me over. “But why did the swan bite me?” I asked, tears running down my cheeks.
My heart was hurting at what I perceived was the rejection of the beautiful creature in front of me.
While the white bird waited for another bite of bread, Dad explained that in order for the swan and me to have a good relationship, I needed to let go of the bread. Then he showed me that I had two options: I could put pieces of bread on the ground, or if I offered the bread in my open palm, the swan could take the bread without hurting me.
Wanting to be friends with all things wild, I chose to offer the treats with my hand wide open. My tears evaporated, and the bread bag was soon empty.
Remembering that encounter, I realize many of us try to manage our lives with our inner fists clenched. We suffer from tense jaws, sore shoulders, pain in our necks, and headaches. We live in a constant state of stress and forget that release is only a prayer away. And sometimes when we do remember to pray, we utter the words unwilling to let go leaving our prayer time more tense than before.
It’s like the swan and me; when we offer God our cares, He’s willing to take them, but in order for that to work, we have to release everything to Him. When we take Him our troubles resting on the open palms of our hearts, He not only hears the prayer, He is able to do something with them.
Living open-hearted doesn’t guarantee us stress-free living, but we will be stronger in our faith, more settled in our minds, and healthier in our bodies.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:3-4)
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)
For the Birds:
Keep a journal listing the birds you have seen. Record where you were, what they were doing, and what you were thinking at the time. Or simply mark your sightings on a calendar as you noticed birds you haven’t seen before, or when familiar ones return. Record significant birding dates such as how often you buy seed, put up new houses and see babies at the feeders. It’s fun to read your calendar notes or journal on New Year’s Eve.
Until Next Time,