It was only a hike.
Down the humpbacked road and past a few miles of cornfields, past the groves of blueberry bushes swollen with their late July bounty- the same bushes we’d just plucked two buckets full- lies our family’s favorite haunt: a small state park full of walking trails and wildlife, meadows and trees, and a picturesque lake that begs to be admired.
We visit all year round: in the fall when it seems like someone’s colored over the place with every shade of orange, yellow, and crimson; come winter when the lake is frozen over and through binoculars we’ve spied bald eagles having their supper on the ice; in the spring when the mud is thigh high, the buds are just peeking out, and you have to be careful not to hit one of the last patches of ice on a downward slope for fear of tumbling into a patch of trees or a mud pit; and always in summer, just as the sun is low in the sky, sending that other-worldly light sideways, across the tips of the grasses in the meadows and in shafts through the canopy of leaves that slip straight to the mossy forest floor. That’s our favorite time: the summer gloaming, the eventide, when all is quiet except for the sounds of flip-flopping, bird chatter, and the voices of the children as they exclaim over every new discovery. When our would-be fellow hikers have gone home to their dinners, and the animals have come out to play.
That day, with bellies full of blueberries and the blackberries we’d found at the beginning of the trail, we set out, adventurers of our own course. We startled a bunny who froze until we’d crept up far enough to warrant his great escape. We caught sight of the rounded bottom of a very large woodchuck who was none too pleased we’d found his hiking trail and disappeared into the overgrowth before we could get a proper look. Farther down the path, two bucks with fuzzy antlers and two does, not five feet away, went about their business munching the leaves from spindly trees. We stopped and stared and marveled, as we always do, at how beautiful they are, and wondered if they wouldn’t like to be petted.
You almost expected a fairy to fly by or a hobbit to bumble around a corner. The light was magic, the animals friendly, the meandering peaceful.
That was before we met the quail.
We spotted him just off the path in a particularly wooded area, dark with shadows. If he hadn’t moved he would have blended in with his surroundings, his speckled feathers a perfect match with the wood chips and dirt. But he did move, followed us in fact. He kept pace just off to the side and soon grew brazen enough to take the trail along with us. We laughed and stopped to admire his fat little body, and when we bent down to get closer, he didn’t run off like we thought he might. Instead, he toddled over to us, curious. We spoke to him and he replied in his soft murmurs; somewhere in the trees we could hear the just as soft peeping of his chicks, invisible, though we tried hard to spot them.
We pulled out our phones, Honey Bun and I, wanting to capture our perceived knack for being “one” with nature. Mr. Quail stepped up for his photograph and posed dapperly as I got in close for his head shots.
And then it happened…
The Sour Patch Kid stuck out a hand.
The quail rushed forward, quick on his short, stumpy legs.
The Sour Patch Kid was most offended.
Honey Bun rushed forward (being the only one wearing something other than shorts and flip flops, it was his duty after all- our naked feet and legs were quail bait).
I, being the ever-protective parent, jumped behind all three children and cowered.
Honey Bun threw the Strawberry over his shoulders and tried to scare the bird off. He rushed, he stomped, he yelled. The most that blasted quail would do was flutter out of the way for a split second, off to the side where he could reward Honey Bun with a bite to the pant leg.
The quail and our family- we were no longer friends.
Honey Bun walked quick down the trail, hoping to lead the man-eating quail away; this was wilderness survival now and a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do to protect his family.
The quail chased after, pecking his ankles the whole way.
I suggested turning around. “Let’s just go back the way we came,” I whined.
Honey Bun wouldn’t hear of it. He was in battle mode now and he wasn’t going to let the quail get the better of him.
The children took my side.
“I don’t want him to bite meeeeeeeeeee.”
“Yeah, let’s just go back!”
No one wanted to lose a toe that day.
But Honey Bun was firm. He managed to corner the quail, looking death in the face, lifting a leg and be-booted foot when necessary to keep the bird down.
I knew the window of time was limited, so I ran for it… leaving my two young sons in the dust and flying wood chips.
Nutty Buddy followed, but the Sour Patch Kid stood firmly planted- he knew the wrath of this killer quail and was hesitant to face its fury once more.
After much coaxing, we managed to convince him to make a run for it. He did, and the boys and I made a break for it down the hilly path, leaving Honey Bun and the Strawberry to fend for themselves.
They caught up to us a half mile ahead (okay, not really) and Honey Bun and I laughed at the adventure we’d had, while trying desperately to convince the Sour Patch Kid that this was still a safe world, despite its run-ins with quail.
“You know, as long as I faced it and looked it straight in the eye, it didn’t bite me,” Honey Bun mused, “It was only when I turned away and had my back to him that he attacked me.”
And then he said it: “There must be a spiritual lesson in there somewhere.”
And I knew.
I knew that, yes, there was a spiritual lesson in there- a spiritual lesson I knew all too well.
All this heaving and sighing on my part lately. This anxiety, these fears. For the million times a day that I feel inadequate and listen to the questions rattling around in my brain- Did You really say that I should…, But I don’t have what it takes- if only I was more equipped, then I’d be able…, God, I really don’t see how this is all going to work out. It’s just not possible, I mean, who do I think I am?
But if I’m honest, and I listen close, it’s not my own voice that I hear.
Did He really say that you should…
But you don’t have what it takes- if only you were more equipped, then you’d be able…
I really don’t see how this is all going to work out. It’s just not possible, I mean, who do you think you are?
It’s not my voice, but it’s funny how fear’s voice can sound a lot like your own. Sometimes fear impersonates reason; other times it tries on the voice of responsibility. It can even masquerade as humility.
But when you’ve heard another Voice, and you remind yourself of this, each time, every time, fear looses its sneering tongue, you begin to realize how much fear sounds like a schoolyard bully.
Overcompensating for something it lacks, fear taunts.
You can let him hurl his insults, let him cut you down to his size. You can try to turn away, ignore him, but he keeps right at it.
Fear is a sniveling little liar.
But my God is the creator of the universe.
And the only way to deal with a bully is to look him in the face and take a stand:
My God says He’ll make his ways known to me…
Of course I don’t have what it takes, if I did, I wouldn’t need a helping Hand…
I’m able if He tells me I’m able…
It doesn’t matter if I can’t see how this will turn out because God’s in charge of my tomorrows. I can trust Him.
And besides, with Him all things are possible…
Who I am, is His child…
And my Dad’s bigger than your dad.
Sometimes you just have to tell fear like it is, stop cowering in the corner as fear pins you to the wall with his bullying lies.
Fear’s a puny little bird.
Now stand up to that bloody quail and show him who’s boss.
Tell him he’d look great with a side of rice.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/brenda-starr/4176882591/”>~Brenda-Starr~</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/turatti/5000480602/”>jaci XIII</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/likeabalalaika/3757132939/”>thefoxling</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/stijnnieuwendijk/5405759240/”>stijn</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>