Magic Moments

In my youth a group called The Drifters rocked our Teen Town with a catchy tune called “This Magic Moment.”  A song of love, of meeting someone special, it was sang with beautiful, old Soul Town harmony.

Several times over the weekend I found myself mentally humming the chorus and music, moments of small special things. Ours was a hard working weekend of planting our recently received bare root shrubs and trees in our new orchard along with some roses along the garden we hope will detour the deer, Luise Hille’s wedding gift spruce and a colorful crab apple in the yard. Both our hard work and breaks offered magical moments.

A bit of history … when we bought our Listening Stones Farm, a classic antique hog barn was nestled in the grove. We debated about restoring it. Close to the barn, though, was a deep pit, which might have been dug to bury the barn before us. No one seems to know, yet that is where the hog barn ended, along with an imploding granary that was in the yard. The excavator set fire to the pile before covering the whole mess with tons of soil. This was where we had dragged and piled the downed buckthorn from our grove we had planned to burn.

That was a problem. That was where Rebecca planned our orchard, so after planting a cherry tree where the yurt was planned, and two pear trees further down the slope, she looked at the pile of buckthorn and said, “We don’t have enough time to burn it, and besides, we’re in a burning advisory. We’ll have to move it.”

Remember the old Pick Up Sticks game where you tried to deftly remove a long toothpick-like stick without disturbing the pile? Buckthorn isn’t toothpicks, with the branches entwined inside and out, over and under, and we three — Rebecca, our son, Martin, and I — worked for a couple of hours pulling, pleading and dragging one tree after another from the pile. In the midst of our work she pleaded with me to take a break. Perhaps she was afraid of working me to death!

So I headed into the grove for the listening bench, found on our circular path that winds through the remaining trees. After removing my hat, I leaned against the downed box elder that serves as the back rest, and was suddenly joined by a tiny and wholly colorful warbler that began flitting from branch to branch and across the path to the box elder, landing on a spike branch not five feet away. As bird watchers will attest, this is a rare happening.

That was when I first heard the musical strains of “This Magic Moment.”

Then came the cooing sounds of nearby mourning doves. Had they been singing all afternoon? Had I not heard them? As the mental music played on, I tried counting them. That’s when I noticed the sap dripping off the box elder. Sunlight slicing through the canopy caused the sap droplets to glisten like pearls.

Like pearls, sap drips from the old and bent box elder.

Like pearls, sap drips from the old and bent box elder.

And so it went, little windows of nature there for the revealing.

Later, as the sun lowered in the sky, we drove into town for dinner and passed wild turkeys silhouetted in prairie grasses down the road, and deer grazing in many of the meadows. Dusk was settling in when we returned home, yet we watched was three deer crossed the road from our grove. All quite magical.

Whitetails in a nearby meadow.

Whitetails in a nearby meadow.

We were back at it on Sunday, working to complete the plantings in the new orchard. Besides the cherry and pears, in went two plum trees, three apples and a crab apple. We each took a shovel to dig a hole perhaps 24 inches deep, with Rebecca using her special tining spade to loosen the dirt around each hole. She poured about a half bucket of water into the hole as I held the spike. Once the loose dirt had been packed around the tree, mulch was added along with more water. We bent wire cages around each tree to complete the task.

It was perhaps mid-afternoon when we threaded the last deer proof cage through a stake to keep it in place, then made our way to the house for chilled glasses of sun tea. We eased our sweaty backs onto our Adirondack chairs to rest while taking in the cobalt sky above us. We watched as ducks  and geese flew over, and even saw a redwing blackbird on one of the feeders.

“Oh, wow!” said Rebecca suddenly as she looked out over the newly planted orchard and grove to the north. “The pelicans.”

At first I didn’t see them, then suddenly, as one, an entire pod of about 20 pelicans turned with their white contrasting the deep blue of the sky. They were drifting in a one of those invisible columns of draft, alternately becoming almost completely invisible when their “black side” was turned toward us, then exploding in glaring white as they turned. If there was ever a magical moment, this was it, one that was replayed again and again.

An image of pelicans taken the following day in the setting sun. One day I'll capture the white against the blue.

An image of pelicans taken the following day in the setting sun. One day I’ll capture the white against the blue.

Sometimes I think of all the places where I’ve lived, each with good friends and nearby quiet places. Now, in the autumn of my life, I find our small acreage offering so much solitude and so many special moments. Someone recently suggested that this appreciation comes with my age. Perhaps. Yet, I can also remember growing up on our Missouri farm, and of the hundreds of nights I ventured off alone with my fly rod to one of the ponds, and of how easily I breathed in a love of solitude and nature, of noticing the little things and magical moments. I don’t know if this has to do with age, but I know magic. A sudden visit of a warbler. Silent, glistening pearl drops of sap dropping from a bent and bowed box elder as old as our farm. A real life mobile of suspended pelicans appearing, then disappearing, then magically exploding in a vivid white against a deep blue sky.

I’ve learned that if you can appreciate those little things … those special magic moments … you can more fully appreciate life.

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About John G. White

Somewhat retired after a long award-winning career in newspapers (Wisconsin State Journal, Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Denver Post and a country weekly, the Clara City Herald). Free lance photographer and writer with credits in more than 70 magazines. Editor with various Webb Publishing magazines in St. Paul, and a five year stint as editorial director at Miller Meester Advertising.

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