Vanity

She was pretty. I’ll be the first to say it.

Her mascara was a bit heavy for such a delicate face, but I’m not criticizing. I think it’s a matter of taste.

Her lips were prominent. They made a provocative statement suggesting inner strength and independence. I think the thick watermelon lipstick was overdone, but when I stepped back and took it all in–saw the whole person–she was impressive.

But why the vanity?

Every day for a week I watched her staring into a small mirror. She posed with such gusto, swiveling her head at odd angles as if she were preparing for an essential role in a Hollywood blockbuster. Of course, she’s not the first to preen before a mirror. Tutankhamun’s 3000-year-old personal hand mirror made of polished metal with a golden handle tells us otherwise.

But why the vanity?

I decided to approach her discreetly and offer a little counsel. I wanted to tell her she was beautiful but not to confuse beauty with virtue. I wanted to warn of time’s inevitable weight and the wrinkles that would one day crowd the mirror. But alas she would not allow it. For whenever she caught my shadow drawing near, she flitted away showing little interest in temperance.

I decided to accept her as she was. After all, who am I to make judgments? Now, whenever I see her from my porch clapping her feathered hands with glee at her image in my car mirror, I smile and turn to the swallows dipping and diving above the lawn.

They don’t show any interest in mirrors.

David R. Denny  PhD
Observations
www.BlaktiePress.com

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The Nightingale’s Song

The little pine coffin, simple in design, elegant in austerity, gaped with the tiny prisoner held in eternal abeyance within its wooden jaws. She was just a common song sparrow. No noticeable markings. No medallions lapped about her fragile neck. Her fame did not lie in public accomplishments celebrated by the press. There was no mass acclaim. She was not a celebrity.Nightingale.jpg3.png

She was just a common song sparrow who once brightened the neighborhood where she lived. She called to her many friends every morning with encouraging melodies that lifted the spirits of all who rose for the day’s toil ahead. While others cooked daybreak grits and fired up coffeepots, she sang. There was no coercion. She sang with spontaneous delight.

The effect of her lifeless body upon the gathered mourners was immense. The sparrow’s Spartan lifestyle reminded all that the essence of the gospel life is elegant simplicity, austere joy. She summoned spiritual strength from servanthood. She lived for others, not herself. Her life was her song. She sang tirelessly spinning out melodies directed at the homeliest of hearts, at the despondent souls that inhabited the byways and sultry nights of her working class neighborhood.

Now she lay in state, her little limbs stiff and cold, the melodies hushed. The mourners, hundreds of friends from the streets about her home, sat numbly wondering who would sing for them now. Who would coax them from their beds on dreary midweek days when the sun was clouded over? Who? Who would flutter from window box to window box smiling at them as they sipped morning coffee? Who? Already they missed her. Yes. Already they missed her.

As the funeral progressed, the minister read his favorite texts promising a bright tomorrow. He reminded the sorrowful of the bliss of heaven and did his best to revive the song. He tried. But everyone knew she would warble no more. The songster was gone. The silence was too heavy for the sermon.

Nightingale2.jpg.pngThe minister heaved a cold sigh, closed the Bible and sat down on his stiff-backed pulpit chair covered in golden fabric. He sat down and dabbed at his misty eyes. He too wondered who would replace the song. Who?

The whole congregation was entombed in grief. No one moved. The Minister checked his watch and realized it was nearly time to depart. He had failed his people. Inspiration eluded him. Dismissal was all that remained. He dreaded to rise and dismiss. All was not properly settled.

Then, suddenly interrupting his limping reverie was a quiet melody so pure, so sincere, striding buoyantly with hope. It rose from the back of the sanctuary like angel’s breath from the recessed choir loft high and removed. Sweeter than taps, the heaven scented Aria fell over the congregation like mist on a cracked desert.

The effect was immediate. The desert began to bloom. Eyes red with grief brightened. Brows tight with death furrows softened.

The crowd immediately turned to stare up at the mysterious voice in the loft. What they saw was not an angel. They saw no apparitions or ghosts from paradise. No. What they saw was a humble nightingale whose own heart was broken over the loss of her friend in the casket.

Nightingale.jpg.pngShe was not on the program. No one had officially recognized her. She did not mean to sing. But as she listened to the Scripture and reflected on the sparrow’s life, singing seemed her natural contribution. She sang with her eyes closed spilling her heart upon the listeners and offering an inspired carol to God, who always appreciates genuine prayer.

The nightingale’s solo continued for a spellbinding period. The notes cascaded down upon parched attendants until without any warning or notice she stopped. She just stopped, wiped her eyes, blew her little nose with a delicate yellow hanky and then quietly flew off.

The minister, stunned over the unexpected performance, rose with renewed joy. He motioned for all to stand. “Go in peace,” he said, his face beaming. “Go in peace and remember the nightingale’s song,” he told them.

And they did.
“I was like one who comforts mourners” (Job 29:25).
Parakeets in the Choir
David R. Denny

 

Chivalry on Sea Breeze Drive

Chivalry on Sea Breeze Drive

I befriended a lady this week.

I am fully aware of the complications that can arise from such an act of kindness. You know how people talk. But still, she had stumbled into my Sea Breeze driveway, and I felt an uncontrollable urgency to act.

I knew at once that she was high born for she wore a sophisticated tea rose orange gown cut with impeccable taste, custom fitted to her petite form. Perhaps, I wondered, the black smudges that freckled the dress were the result of some unknown trauma encountered on the highway. It must have been those bad kids down the road throwing mud at her I thought, anger rising within me.

I knelt down and checked for signs of life. Not hearing any breathing, I was about to engage in CPR when she moved. It was just a faint fluttering of her gown, but I took it as a positive sign. I bent low and whispered words of comfort and inquiry.

She seemed startled and made an attempt to rise and flee.

I stopped her. “You’re not ready,” I said softly.

She paused realizing flight was an impossibility at the moment.

“Let me help you,” I said.

She would have none of it, searching frantically for an escape.

I lifted her from the ground. She made no resistance. A slight morning breeze drifted in across the ocean marsh ruffling her begonia gown, summoning.

I knew she would leave, and I would never see her again. I knew.

Still, I tossed her gently into the wind, and she was gone.

(But as we all know, real friends never really leave us).

David R. Denny
Visions501@gmail.com

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Whistling in the Dark

Version 2

Whistling in the Dark

It was close to midnight on the front porch, and the darkness clung to the unseen horizon muffling the ocean murmurs. The only sounds I heard were a few distant geese and some of the nuthatches that flitter in the cedars behind my house. The silence was haunting, almost frightening as I contemplated the mysteries lurking in the darkness beyond the Cedar Island shoreline.

I’m not sure what prompted me to whistle. Perhaps it was nothing more than an instinctive summons from nature; I’m not sure, but whatever it was, I just whistled and waited. The few lone chirps and distant squawks hushed, and all that remained was my solitary porch note gliding along the black corridors of the Point. I noticed at once that my brief melody lingered a while echoing off some distant pine tree before it slipped under night’s cover and was gone forever.

That simple whistle brought me such sudden joy I couldn’t wait to launch another. This time I added a little trill to the melody wondering if perhaps I might a get a response. But there was no answer; just a ponderous silence that tried to interpret my meaning. I knew I had an audience now for the night sounds had grown still, and I just knew that a thousand little-unseen eyes were looking this way.

Smiling, I whistled for a few more minutes sampling a variety of orchestral tempos from adagissimo to affrettando (very slow to hurrying). Each spontaneous stanza meandered over the dark marsh beyond and then sank slowly into the ocean.

It was something akin to praying, I thought. Little pieces of the soul flung out toward the heavens, waiting, hoping, expecting. Yes. It was little like praying.
David R.Denny
Visions501@gmail.com

Sunrise

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Sunrise at Henry’s Point, Sea Breeze Drive
(Photo by Dr. Denny)

I paused on my morning walk recently as the sun stretched regally over the Cedar Island marsh that rolls out like a velvet carpet to the shore.  The horizon seemed almost to be on fire as I stood and stared in wonderment at the painting before me.
And then this deer quietly slipped out of the dark forest brush on full alert fully aware of my intrusion into his morning ritual.  It was one of those mystical moments that I knew would vanish within minutes.  I wanted so badly to freeze it, to command it to linger longer, but, alas within a few dolorous winks of a faint morning breeze, it was but a delicious memory.
        In some ways, this sunrise fantasy reminds me of the year just past.  It rose with promise balancing on the precipice of time and then quickly vanished into December’s mist.  Gone.  Within a blink or two twelve months slipped into the sea and left me realizing how fragile time really is, how fleeting the gift of life can be.
I stood a few minutes longer beneath the golden haze lost in lazy thoughts wondering what the deer was thinking and if he sensed the divine like I did.  I wanted to ask him, but before I could the sun bade farewell, the day began, and he was gone.


Christmas Shoe Boxes

We had another successful shoe box campaign this year.  Everyone gathered on a Wednesday night, including the girl scouts who helped this time.  Shirley Deeds spearheaded the event and close to 80 packed boxes were stacked in the sanctuary  ready for delivery to the needy around the world.

 

 


Hanging of the greens

The kids are practicing for the Hanging of the Greens service in December.  Jo Coniglio, the church organist, teaches them the songs for the service.  Megan Campbell watches from the front seat.
During the service on Sunday morning, these kids were such a delight to all the congregation.  They sang several songs and then bustled off stage to gather in ornaments which they paraded down the center aisle of the church in an endless stream dropping off their ornaments and looping into the back to gather more.  Thanks, kids, for your participation.


 Dale Parks and Linda Young pose beneath the pulpit in front of the poinsettias.  All the members of the Flower Committee (Alice Rew, Ted Lewis, Amy Kay Hines, and Shelly Mize) did an exceptional job of decorating the church.  This is one of the most beautiful sanctuaries on the Shore.  Be sure to stop and enjoy it before the holidays slip away.


The Dream Team will have its first meeting on January 20th at 10:30 at the Crossroads Coffee House in Onley.  Anyone is welcome to participate.  Currently there are eleven volunteers.  Our mission is a simple but complex one:  DREAM!  What can we do to make our church better, more effective, more interesting to absentee members and outsiders.  Our goal will be to dream of ways to spur growth and inspire many in the surrounding area to become a part of our church family.


Candlelight Service

  The Drummondtown Baptist Church Candlelight Service will be held December 23 at 7:30 pm.    Everyone is welcome.

Closing Thoughts

Let’s not forget the miraculous offering on Harvest Home Day, November 19, 2017.   On this hallowed day, the church gave from free and thankful hearts over $21,000.00!
The pastor will be out of the pulpit for two weeks– December 31, 2017 and January 7, 2018.

Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year!

Anticipation

They aren’t flying.

They are just sitting at the end of the driveway in a little forlorn huddle, about ten of them.

No more darting and diving in front of the porch. No more shameless displays of acrobatic somersaults.  Ten swallows just sitting in deep contemplation at the end of my driveway staring at the sky.

Anticipation.

Will they leave today? Will they linger a little while longer?

I sat motionless on the porch and hoped they would stay. These little friends have brought me such joy every morning. If I ever woke with night burdens still pulsing it only took a visit to the morning porch to reassure me. They always greeted me with chirps and drive by wing salutes to awaken my heart to the possibilities of a new day.

It hurts to see them motionless at the road’s edge as if somehow childhood was slipping away and the long flight to somewhere haunted them.

Couldn’t they stay a little longer carefree and young? Does it have to change?

There is sadness in the air today, an anxious anticipation of a farewell that I don’t think I can avoid.  Still, they linger in the distance staring off into the mystery.

But wait.

They’re up.
They’re circling.
They’re coming this way slipping happily under the porch to their mud huts. I hear singing again!

The morning sun is now above the distant marsh pines, and I am happy.

I always hated goodbyes.

David R. Denny 2018

Hungry-swallows.jpg

https://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/technique/wildlife_photography/photographing-swallows-60356

 

The Invitation

Bird feeder

I hung the invitation beneath the tree in the backyard and waited. I was so excited. Who would stop by, I wondered? I don’t get many visitors way out here by the sea, so I was hopeful.

But nobody came.  Nobody.

Each morning for the first few days since I had hung the invitation beneath the tree on a little golden hook I had screwed into the low hanging branch, I had waited breathlessly. Somebody will come, I said to myself. And then when they do come, I will greet them, and we will be friends.

But nobody came.  Nobody.

Perhaps it was my fault, I thought. Maybe I had been a bit vague about who could come. I hadn’t meant to exclude anyone, but the feeder was built for the songbirds only. The little-spiraled wire that encircled the feeding tube was thin and delicate, so the invitation was for the smaller songbirds.

Each morning after my initial disappointments vanished, I checked the tube to make sure the birdseed was plentiful. It was. No one touched it. I also cleaned out the bird feeder that sat beside it keeping the water fresh.

Two days ago, when I rose with waning enthusiasm to check the feeder, I was so surprised. A little cardinal was on the wire pecking at one of the feeder holes. I stared through my binoculars so I wouldn’t disturb him. Finally, I thought, they’re coming. And they did. Soon the Brown-headed Nuthatch stopped for a snack along with a boisterous Northern Mockingbird.

Then something unusual happened. Some huge blackbirds sat nearby on a fence rail reading the invitation. They saw the fine wire and the tiny holes and sensed that they weren’t welcome. I stood back and wondered what they would do. I noticed they chatted furiously with one another, their conversation public and a bit edgy.

Then one flew over to the feeder and grasped the spiraled wire. It didn’t fit his oversized claws, but he was tenacious. He hovered, half-perched on the wire, wings fluttering to help him keep his balance. He tore at the feeder holes and poked out huge chunks of seed that fell to the ground.

At first, I was annoyed. These birds were too big, I thought. I hadn’t invited them. But then I slowly realized that they had determined that the invitation was for them.

I’m glad they come now. I’ve thought more about this whole thing, and I have decided that invitations should always be for everyone.

David R. Denny

 

Lucky Penny

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The claw marks on the front porch said it all–Owl.

And Penny was missing. She’s an indoor cat and hates to get her paws dirty. Each morning brings a feline routine that begins in front of her mirror grooming, getting the whiskers just right, fluffing up the hair on her elegant tail, etc. Toss her outside, and she’ll hate you for life.

But Penny was missing, and the ominous owl talon marks stretched from the door to the front steps. Off an on all night long we called from the porch our hands clenching the railing, our eyes searching the dark yard for any sign of movement. Our somber pleas blended with the distant voices of pond frogs and crickets who hadn’t seen her.

I tried consoling my wife while standing on top of the claw marks so she wouldn’t see the traces of nature’s cruelty. “Something has happened to her,” she wailed. Unable to summon a wise Greek proverb relevant to this emergency, I merely shrugged. “She’ll be fine. She’s just exploring.” Even I didn’t believe that.

After a fitful night of difficult sleep, I woke early and stepped outside. No Penny. The claw marks were fresh and deep. I pieced the crime together in my mind. The owl had studied her patterns of peering through the screen door. He had timed Penny’s brief dalliances with the outside world, her ever so short and tentative excursions a few paces from the door onto the porch.

He had watched, veiled behind pinecones and hunger, lurking. And as Penny played with a cricket just beyond the safety of the den door he struck, his threatening talons striking the jugular and dragging her across the rough boards into the upper branches of the marsh pines.

Just as I was preparing myself to call the undertaker, I saw a little paw flicker in the tall grass. And then came whiskers, a smirk, and a sarcastic trot past me into the house. I stood stunned.

I thought of asking her what happened, and fleshing out the power of needless fear, but she was in no mood for light chatter.

David R. Denny

The Roadster

The chrome engine rose
like a molten pyramid
out of a custom blue lagoon.

The top was down
and she sat beside me at a traffic light
preening.

Her silver hoop earrings gave her status.
I gave her a bucket seat
on a highway stage.

She took the lead part without prodding
nodding to the gawkers in the rusted heap
smoking and growling next to us.

She wore a short brim paper fedora
natural tone
with a broad black band
as wide as the Nile
tucked tight around the base.

Like a matinee idol on a red carpet,
she blew kisses to her fans
who pulled up,
horses wheezing and coughing.

I gave the roadster a little drink
shoving high octane bourbon down its gullet
and making the eight angry pistons jump and dance.

She liked that.  
Oh yea.
She liked that!

So I repeated the bar scene by
jamming another round of spirits down
my stallion’s throat pumping the pedal
with a lover’s vigor.

She pecked at my cheek
leaving red tire marks steaming.

The light turned green.

I wrapped a hot arm around her shoulder
and put her hand on the walnut shifter.

The white wall Hoosiers
torched the asphalt spitting up gravel
with an attitude
while she torched my soul in
the Roadster.

David R. Denny  (for Alice)

Roadster2

Tweet

It was an early morning tweet.

Its impact was immediate. The three short syllables were barbed and struck deep into my psyche.

There was a melody to them,
the notes dripping with venom.

The tweet came again and again
like a revolver dropped on cold concrete spitting bullets.

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

I searched the treetops behind my house, but I couldn’t see him.
The dew-speckled leaves of this sunrise morning hid him.

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.

The words bore a foreign accent, slurred but purposeful.

I subpoenaed him, but he did not comply.
I merely wanted to ask the obvious. Why?
Why do hate me? You don’t know me.

The wren, however, was polite. She sang me a lullaby
as I slipped away to the beckoning garden.

The dark tweet faded as the morning unfolded.
A doe nibbled a low branch by the creek.

I smiled again.

David R. Denny
Visions501@gmail.com

Tweet

 

Brood

The husband wasn’t friendly, but I understood. I had startled him, and he had a lot on his mind.

All ten of his kids were in the road.

The mother was doing her best to shoo them to the curb, but it was taking time.

My instinct was to chastise. Good parents don’t let kids roam around in the streets. But I was a kid once, and streets have a way of summoning.

I slowed down and kept off the horn. Both parents were already flustered. Ten little kids. It seemed like a mini schoolhouse.

I rolled my window down thinking I could offer some guidance—they seemed lost their eyes darting here and there searching, panicking.

They didn’t trust me.

I felt the cruelty of isolation at that moment. They were alone, wanderers in the wilderness. All they had was each other.

But a struggling family that stays together is a powerful force in a world of evil.

I drove on feeling somehow confident. They had each other.

There is no greater love.

David R. Denny
Visions501@gmail.com

Brood