July 22, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Observing nature from serene sitting spaces

It took most of one spring and summer to prepare an outdoor sitting space I call Cypress Corner. After removing and transplanting plants there, I covered the tiny triangular area with cypress chips. A woody scent wafts over the area, especially after rain.

This aroma occurs when the temperatures soar, too. However, because summer heat reflected from the house and adjacent blacktopped driveway is so intense, the place is uncomfortable except in the early morning or evening.

Prior to that project, I used a carport as my sitting space, but vehicles took over the area. Stronger persons than I then moved my heavy wooden swing to the back yard. I purchased the swing on the last day of the Indiana State Fair one year, using birthday money from my sister and brother-in-law, Beverley and John Thurman. With help, slowly but surely, I hope to surround the back yard with shade plants. Perhaps some day, through God’s grace, my neighbors, Frank and Charlene Gleaves (whose property is always a floral and green delight) might have a more serene and orderly view of my yard.

Meanwhile, on good days, I love my quiet outdoor spaces, especially when praying, meditating and reading. These are enjoyable places for reaching my goal to read the entire Bible in one year. My sister inspired both my desire for a wooden swing and my pursuit of a Today’s Light Bible study.

One time after I was hospitalized in my Belleville, Ill., hometown, Beverley became my caregiver until I could return to Indiana. Experiencing nature from the Thurman back deck and front porch swings was and still is so enjoyable. In fact, not long ago, Paul and I relaxed there, surrounded by flora and fauna, birds and critters. Besides more than two dozen types of birds, their city property backing onto woods has been visited by deer, a bobcat, a fox, groundhogs, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, raccoons, ­possums, and domestic animals.

However, when reading the following prose (adapted from my poem, “Convalescence,” written during my above-mentioned illness), readers will find a different twist to the observance of nature:

“Nipping and tossing an earthworm, a robin prances on gravel, shortening his victim to quivering quiddity, half alive and slithering slowly toward escape and renewal. Robin prances, unaware of a tabby at twenty paces, preying her way with silent paws into the bird’s niche. Too sick to intervene, I view this enigma of existence from the porch swing of my sister’s care, flipped by fate like the worm, as nonchalant as the bird, as determined toward survival as is the feline with her fabled lives.”

How much I’ve learned about nature—and God’s nature and mercy since that time.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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