Another Poem From My Stash

HOLD STILL

by Margaret Penner Toews

Wee little hummingbird, caught in a wire,
Halt, little bird, or your wings will tire:
In your little-bird-world your plight is dire!
Hold still, wee bird, hold still!

Wee little hummer, don’t flail, don’t fight!
If you’d stop your frenzy you’d be all right.
It’s the flailing that causes your awful plight.
Hold still, little bird, hold still.

Is your wee little scream a little bird-prayer?
How can I tell you, wee bird, I care?
You pause at last and numbly stare.
Don’t be afraid! Hold still.

Spent, despairing, you rest your wing.
I reach. I touch. What a fragile thing,
The delicate body quivering,
A hummingbird, holding still!

In my palm you tarry a little bit,
Then shake, and away like a breath you flit.
I stand astonied at thought of it…
A hummingbird, holding still!

How tiny the feather you left behind!
…And then of a sudden there comes to mind
The truth God wanted for me to find:
“Hold still, my child, hold still.

“Stop your frenzy and rest in Me.
It’s the flailing that hurts you, don’t you see?
Whate’er your predicament, trust in Me.
Hold still, my child, hold still.”

© Margaret Penner Toews
From her book FIRST A FIRE

Margaret’s poetry is delightful reading and she has published several books of poems as well as several books of devotional thoughts. These are available from PrairieView Press and Gospel Publishers.

Masked Warblers and DNA

My husband’s cousin owns a nice bit of farmland right by the Saskatchewan River. He raised cattle, but he and his wife also set up some cabins on their yard and called the place Leaning Tree Guest Ranch. Though they’ve retired now, for years they offered guests a place to stay and enjoy the beauties of nature. One of the things they advertised: because no pesticides had ever been used on the land, this property boasted the largest number of native songbirds in Sask.

One summer my husband and I rented one of their cottages for a few days. In addition to enjoyable visits getting to know our relatives, we spent hours touring the lovely woods. Cousin Paul had made a nice lane right beside the river and kept this trail open for guests to wander.

At some places this lane narrowed down to just a foot path. One morning I was ambling along this path watching the antics of the common yellowthroats, tiny warblers that seemed to decorate the bushes around me like little yellow blossoms. Hyper, curious and cheerful, these cute birds are blessed with distinctive black masks somewhat like a raccoon.

I soon noticed that they were as interested in me as I was in them. They flitted into nearby bushes trying to get a better look at this visitor passing through so I sat down on a fallen log for about fifteen minutes and let them scrutinize me. Soon the branches a few feet away were a-flutter with yellowthroats hopping around seeking better viewing points and holding animated discussions about this odd creature. It’s quite a turn-around for me to be watched by the birds — and really unique to be discussed so openly. Being human — and females are very prone to this — I wondered what they thought of me and how I measured up to others of my species they’d observed.

Thinking of their cute little masks led me to pondering the variation in the warbler genetic pool that produces this unique feature. Some types of warbler have only one yellow spot on the tail while others are totally black and white.

My mind hops over to the marvels of the genetic pool in general. Which leads to some serious questions about the theory of evolution with regard to genetics and DNA.

A Simple-Brained Creature Ponders Evolution

According to the theory of evolution, as we were taught it in school, the earth was sterile. A boiling chunk off the sun and totally dead. The basic elements were present in molten form — guaranteed to kill any living organism. Eventually, they say, this sphere cooled and everything solidified. Except the water. Just why the water didn’t all evaporate into space, how it formed an atmosphere, is a mystery to me, but anyway…

Then one day a cell floating in the ocean came alive. Boink! Hello, world.

I lack faith here. I can hardly comprehend that a tiny pebble, a drop of water, or any other basic element of earth, would suddenly come alive. And not just start breathing air — or filtering oxygen from water — but also have the capability to reproduce! Did it divide? Or did it mate and thus reproduce? Mind-boggling.

Human cells divide all the time, according to the direction of the DNA. Any living cell —even a one-celled life form — must have DNA. So where would the DNA come from?

And then, could this new one-celled being contain in its DNA enough variation to produce a man, a dinosaur, a kangaroo, a mouse, a bird, a butterfly, an octopus, a reptile, a tree, a flower, a melon? According to evolutionists, all these and more eventually evolved from that one cell. I turn this thought over in my mind and come up with another question:

If the DNA to produce such variety were present in this initial one-celled creature, why did it take millions of years (according to the theory) to show up? These days if you have in one couple the DNA for red-hair and black hair, you’ll see this variation in the offspring — and definitely in the grandchildren, where other DNA is mixed in to produce an amazing display.

However, if the DNA to produce all that variation didn’t exist in that first living cell, from where did it come? It must have been added to the mix as time went on — but how? Can DNA that wasn’t initially present in a cell — like the DNA for scales or feathers or fur — somehow come into it from the atmosphere? More mind boggling concepts.

Some talk about genetic mutations and we see this happening today. We see mutations producing dwarfs, albinos, people with a sixth toe, etc. A child may have a harelip just like great-grandpa, but we never see a baby born with a beak, red eyes, a mask, a forked tongue, or talons. The DNA just isn’t there to produce this kind of variation.

According to most religions there is/was a Creator — in English we say “God”; French all him “the Eternal One.” Believers say this Eternal God designed all the creatures of the earth and gave each the particular genetics of their species, with potential for some variation. He also gave every species the ability to reproduce after their kind. And we see that He gave each species a DNA capable of some variation. And He gave them life — because life was his to give.

Now this concept is easy for me to grasp. Nothing mind-boggling here — if we can accept that God always was, even before the earth was.

sometimes it seems the whole theory of evolution is a cloak for “We will not accept that there is a Creator, an Eternal God.” Yet this is a theory its originator, Charles Darwin, tried to play down before he died. He advanced it as a theory, not as an unquestionable truth.

Catching Up With Ourselves

Good morning, everyone! It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything about our activities so for those who are interested, here’s a brief review of the past week’s comings and goings.

Spring has come to our land for sure. The woods around us are getting greener by the day, more of our summer-nesting birds are showing up every day. Our neighbor told me about seeing orioles a few days ago; they’ve since been over to visit our trees too. Yesterday she saw a hummingbird at her feeder. I’d been planning to get out my feeders so when I heard that, I cleaned out our two feeders — for hummers and orioles — and hung them outside yesterday evening.

Our farmer neighbor seeded the fields around our acreage yesterday while Bob mowed the grass for the first time.

Last Friday morning we left for an overnight trip to Moose Jaw. We stopped for dinner en route and drove out to the Belle Plaine area, east of MJ, to visit an elderly friend who was Best man at our wedding. Joe’s 91-years-old now and somewhat crippled by arthritis, needs a cane, but his spirit is as vital as ever. He’s kept going all these years, refusing to let arthritis immobilize him. This week he was loading up and hauling about 20 head of cattle to the Swift Current market, about 150 kms away. He’s finally giving up feeding cattle.

We drove through Belle Plaine, the town where Bob and I met. He ran a grain elevator for UGG — a company that no longer exists— while my folks bought the local café when I was thirteen. Needless to say, things have changed a lot, especially in the past 20 years. We had trouble figuring out what was what anymore; the café ha disappeared completely. And how can fifty years go by so fast?!

We saw a small herd of antelope on the way to Joe’s home, and I spotted a group of cormorants at a dug-out right near Belle Plaine. This dug-out was made when we lived there, when dirt was needed to build the overpass over the train tracks. So it’s quite a large body of water and there were a number of waterfowl.

We had supper with Bob’s cousin Dennis and wife; in the evening we met my sister Rose for coffee at a Tim Horton’s. All of these live in Moose Jaw.

We stayed night at a motel across the street from Crescent Park and the Public Library + Art Gallery. All day Saturday we attended a writers’ conference at the Library. Met a few people we know and heard various speakers, including a retired Regina police officer. He spoke about how a homicide investigation is REALLY conducted. As you can imagine, he detests all the nonsense shown on TV cop shows. Two other speakers were romance writer Ellie Lynn and mystery writer Gail Bowen.

We came home Saturday evening and attended church as usual Sunday morning, then were invited to our son-in-law’s folks for an extended family Mother’s Day dinner: their three children who live here and in-laws like ourselves.

Tuesday morning our son-in-law and daughter very kindly drove us back down to Moose Jaw to attend the funeral of Bob’s cousin Julia. She’d celebrated her 94th birthday in early February; in the funeral service we heard how she’d enjoyed a long, love-filled, productive life. Her five children have all done well and their descendants seem to have, too.

After the funeral we met and visited with my sister Donna for half an hour or so. It’s been too long since we last connected! I last saw Donna — and only to exchange a quick hello — at our nephew’s funeral at the beginning of Sept 2010. She’s been living in Regina for years and only moved back to Moose Jaw last summer. Hopefully we can connect more often now.

When we got home Tuesday evening around 8pm, we all noticed how much the trees around our yard had greened up just while we were gone. And they’ve continued to leaf out in yesterday’s heat.

Today is cloudy and cooler — and we’re off to Saskatoon later to have coffee and a gabfest with several other writers who live in this area. We’re only about eight who like to touch base now and then — but try to find a date and time when everyone’s free!

Tomorrow we’ll stay home and catch up with some work that’s been neglected while we gallivanted. 🙂 Now I’ll end my “catch-up” post with this short poem by an unknown writer:

The slightest word of comfort
to help us on our way,
the slightest smile from someone
to brighten up our day;
the slightest act of kindness
to lessen care and such
all these cost so little,
but they mean so very much.

An Interesting Home

Happy Birthday to our son-in-law. As they say, “The big 40!” Picnic supper planned for family and friends this evening at our school.

This morning I came back down to earth from the whirlwind I’ve been caught up in for the past two days. I’ve been turning over ideas for the title, cover, content of my next book, but now have recalled all the other projects that need to be finished first. 🙂 I’m still enthused about compiling a second book of flash fiction stories, but will work at it little by little over time rather than trying to do it all in a rush.

One thing I remembered is that I want to start posting on Tree Top Haiku again, and so have scheduled a week’s worth of posts, to start next Monday.

We were sitting at the dinner table enjoying some moments of peace and quiet after our meal when what to our wondering ears did appear but the unique tweeting of tree swallows. I can scarcely believe the first ones have returned already. Only a few, though. I have yet to see the main migration, but my impression has been that fewer are coming back nowadays. Last year we didn’t have nearly as many as in the first years when I started putting up nest boxes for them, but this may be part of a cycle. I hope so; I really enjoy their friendly chipping.

And now, here’s one quick non-fiction story from years ago that I plan to put in my next book.

The difference between a man’s perspective and a woman’s can give us a real chuckle at times.

When we sold our home in Ontario, our realtor, Paul C, told us about another house he’d been asked to sell. He says he walked up to the living room window and looked in — there being no glass to interfere with his view.

The house had running water of a sort. There was a large hole cut in the kitchen floor; as he looked down he could see an open well about twelve feet below. The owner had hooked up an old washing machine motor and pipe beside the hole so they could pump water into the kitchen sink.

Paul mentioned a few other “unique” features that I forget now. He was delighted when someone actually came forward with an “as is” offer on the place. The day he took the paperwork over for the owner to sign, the sad fellow sat there for awhile after accepting the offer, then threw his arms out in despair and wailed, “I can’t figure it. All this luxury and she left me!”

Paul was all sympathy. “Yep. There’s no understanding women.”

I asked him, “And did a bee fly in the window opening right then and sting you?”

He laughed. “Well, maybe it should have.”

At that moment we understood each other perfectly.

Of Books and Titles

Hello Everyone. This morning I’d like to tell you about author Dan Walsh and one of his books, The Deepest Waters. I’ve read a number of Dan’s books, including this one I’d give a five-star rating. It is one REALLY good read, both for the story part and for the historical angle, being based on a true incident. Here’s part of his blurb on Amazon.com  :

“What began as a fairy-tale honeymoon in 1857 for John and Laura Foster aboard the steamship S.S. Vandervere becomes a nightmare when a hurricane causes their ship to sink into the murky depths of the Atlantic. Laura finds herself with the other women and children aboard a sailing ship while John and a hundred other men drift on the open sea on anything they could grab as the Vandervere went down… Laura must face the possibility of life alone and meeting her new in-laws without their son if she ever reaches New York.”

As he says on his website, the publisher has recently returned the rights to his book and he’s just re-released it as an indie e-book. For the next five days, until MAY 1ST, you can pre-order a copy for only $2.99; after that the price goes up to $3.99.

Now for a personal note:

Since free books abound…and I want to promote my own writing and my books as well… I’ve been considering putting out a another book of short stories — mainly flash fiction tales I’ve written — and putting it out there as a free e-book. For the past couple of days I’ve been trying to come up with a title for this book and decide which stories I want to include in it.

This isn’t as easy as it may seem, since I have to do a check on Amazon for similar titles. Flash Fiction Stories and Tales from the… have been used so many times a person would have to scroll through dozens before they came to my book. Whereas some other titles I check out bring up books with the same title, but sometimes a quite different genre.

I like birds. How about The Wandering Tattler? 🙂 I like the word Kaleidoscope — indicating a variety — but then so did a dozen other writers. I could borrow from Dan’s title and call my book, In the Shallow Waters, but it doesn’t really grab me. Does anyone have a great title suggestion for a few dozen non-themed flash fiction tales?

Meanwhile, it’s spring in our land. The grass is beginning to show a green tinge and the trees are budding. Our early birds all got the memo at the same time; last Friday I saw robins, snow geese, and sandhill cranes one morning; Saturday I saw an avocet at one slough, two great blue herons at another. That really surprised me; you don’t often see them at all around here. These days snow geese are constantly flying over in flocks of several hundred, and making the fields white where they settle. I think we prairie folks live for spring!

Spring Morning

Kisses of Spring

Meadowlark singing on fence post,
ducks dabbling on the slough,
the cry of a pair of Canada geese
overhead, as they hurry on through.

The woods beside us now waken
with sound at first morning light;
I spy a flock of some kind of birds
silent and northward their flight

These are the kisses of springtime,
the sights and the sounds that delight.
Oh no! While I’m here rhapsodizing
our landscape is fast turning white.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Good Morning from our house. The dawn was rather misty when I first looked out and I saw this flock of birds winging over the field beside us. Small ducks, maybe? I let the cats out and sat back to enjoy the coming of spring.

A pair of Canada geese have been around for a week; the ducks and meadowlark we saw Sunday on the way to church. I could hear small birds twittering in the woods yesterday as I went out for a walk. Sunny days and south winds have melted most of the snow in our yard. Last week the driveway was muddy, but by yesterday it had almost completely dried off. Oh, the joys of warmer weather!

As I enjoyed my morning coffee this morning a poem came to me, so I fired up the computer and started to write. I hadn’t quite decided how to finish off, though — until I looked outside again and saw the air full of snow. Our poor cats huddled on the back step, turning white along with everything else.

A sad surprise indeed. Poor little birds! And no wonder that flock was winging it in such a hurry, probably looking for a place to shelter. Oh, well. I shall carry on with my sewing project, a dress for myself, and forget about taking a long walk in the sunshine.