A Bluebird Sky

I’ve been lying in front of this window in our foyer for so long, I’m beginning to see faces in the tree trunks and branches. One face smiles broadly while shielding its eyes, looking out from under its leafy mask, no doubt an identity disguise.

Tree trunk faces are piled up one on top of the other like so many heads on a totem pole, only these aren’t man-carved and painted. The one bearing the brunt of the weight at bottom has a set of irregular white teeth, gapped and grimacing, with beady eyes and a crooked, lichen covered nose.

Ascending from him, there’s a hedgehog, an old soul, a one-eyed cat, and a hound dog’s snout before the branches begin, and I’ve lost track, distracted now by the faces overhead, scattered across the branches.

Besides the grinning face under the leaf mask, there’s a face in the upper left corner of my window pane. It is strong and kind, checking in daily to say hi, I’m imagining, and to ask if I need anything. The first time I spotted him, I was teary and sad, but since then, I’ve come to rely on him as my friend. Or at least, as the friend he represents.

Am I going mad?

It’s week three, post knee replacement surgery, and while I’m up walking and moaning through daily physical therapy, I’m also flat on my back and in front of this window quite a bit—much more than feels restful to me. It’s wearying, to be honest, a locked-down sort of misery of inactivity and atrophy just before swimsuit season.

Lord, have mercy.

But it’s only been by lying around and looking up that I’ve seen these hidden faces that amuse and comfort me. In a couple of low moments, the kindness of the one in the upper left corner has been enough to make me weep, feeling like an expression of my Father’s compassion for me.

But was it, really? I wonder. Can I imagine God to be more compassionate than he is?

I haven’t had much interest in the television for distraction. After a few shows, boredom settles in. Books-on-tape feel tedious. My brain on pain meds is mush.

But the red headed woodpeckers that visit my tree cheer me. And so has the posse of squirrels that scampered through—I counted nine before they were out of view.

And one morning, annoyed by the early hour and cursing my ice machine wrap that must be velcroed on and off dozens of times per day, snagging my surgery hose, I saw seven deer sauntering through, looking at first like sinister shadows in the predawn light and then like the graceful, grey gifts they were. Little ones raised white flags.

Sometimes I lie around and ice my knee on our back porch, where house finches have built a nest. Both father and mother flit back and forth constantly, either checking me out or checking on their young, it’s hard to tell which. Their incessant flying about, tirelessly tending, reminds me that if a pair of birds cares this much for their babes, surely God’s care for me is at least this doting and diligent.

Birds can’t be more devoted than God, can they?

I came off my narcotic this week and thought my sleep would improve. But it’s become even more elusive and now anxiety mixes in. I’m up and down, pacing and praying, wrestling to find sleep and losing.

Last night at my lowest, I begged God to have mercy. After five straight nights, I couldn’t trust and believe him enough to fight through it all over again. My cold turkey, narcotic-kick wasn’t going to win without a showdown. “God. Show. Up!” was my last thought before something that felt like Holy Percocet poured in, taking me from writhing panic to blissful peace in less than a minute.

And then glorious sleep.

The view, the creatures, the thoughts, the pain, the peace have all reminded me that the best, most basic things in life really are free—a body that moves, sleeps, and eats; a family that pulls together for me; and a Father who heals and helps as I find my way back to me.

These are great gifts and daily blessings, normally taken for granted like the sun and earth, air and water, hope and birth. But today, along with all these, there’s a bluebird sky. A light breeze. Blossoms in the garden.

And all of it, free.

Lord God of all my days, receive this, my grateful praise.

(My daughters and me the week before surgery.)

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