Back to Nature (Published on - April 12, 2006)
In a moment’s time
There are times in the way the leaves turn in the wind, in the way the breeze feels upon your face, in the way the sun warms your back on a cold day or creates shadows across green grass or in the way a familiar scent awakens within us a memory long past, yet suddenly as real, raw, fresh, beautiful, painful or joyful, brilliantly detailed.

It is as if this remembrance only happened yesterday. There are times that take your breath away. There are moments when tears flow where no tears had been seconds before. There are moments when time itself seems to stand perfectly still while spanning decades, becoming yesterday and today at exactly the same moment.

We all know those moments. We all have those special sensual triggers: scents, sounds, visuals, tastes and touches that awaken something inside of us.

The month of April has a difficult start for me. There are times when in a moment’s time everything that was is changed forever. It’s been years since I buried my daughter. I carry her memories with me in my pocket and have put the pain upon a hidden shelf.

It’s often asked of me, “How did you survive?” My answer is simple, “I had no choice.” But in reality I did have a choice. I could choose to live or not, if that is a choice? By choosing to live … then I had no choice, but to make that walk the best possible. I have learned we go on with life as we “wish” to live it. We get out of life what we put into it. We do have choices, but it’s not always easy. We need reminders that life goes on.

This morning I awoke to a familiar sound in the distance. It warmed my heart although I didn’t immediately recall why this sound had this affect upon me. Sleepily I padded into the kitchen and turned on the coffee pot, threw open the back door for the dog to go outside and that sound came to me again. It almost took my breath away. A joyous series of gurgling sounds that was familiar however unfamiliar. I knew I hadn’t heard it for a long time.

The sun was breaking through the fog lighting the world in dramatic silken veils. The cold air was fresh, delicately scented with dew dampened jasmine. I lingered a moment, closed my eyes, yes … there was the sound again … one lone Purple Martin.

He sang as if his heart was breaking with the joy of returning home. He sang as if he knew he would soon be greeting all his companions again and his lifelong mate. He recognized the trees. He recognized the fence rail, the stream, the insect attracting flowers in the field. He sang to the dawn sun, the silver fog, the new morning and the sheer simplicity and joy of living life.

Purple Martins, progne subis, 7- to 8.5-inches long, are from the swallow family. Martins mate for life and are devoted parents. They usually arrive in Florida, from their wintering grounds of South America, in the first part of March. Their distinctive, liquid, gurgling call: tchwee, tchwee, tee, tee, tee, lilts on the spring and summer air. The male is a purplish, blue-black above and below. The female and juvenile are duller above with whitish-gray breast and throat.

According to a study published by the Purple Martin Conservation Association (, “Martins eat only flying insects, which they catch in flight. Their diet is diverse, including dragonflies, damselflies, flies, midges, mayflies, stinkbugs, leafhoppers, Japanese beetles, June bugs, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, cicadas, bees, wasps, flying ants, and ballooning spiders. East of the Rockies they are totally dependent on human-supplied housing.”

The Purple Martin’s flight is a long glide with rapid wing beats and a glide again.

Purple Martins are the largest North American swallow, about the size of a blue-bird. They can be distinguished from the starling, with similar shape, by their forked tails, although the Purple Martin’s tail is not as deeply forked as the barn swallow.

The martins are back. I can hear their songs, no longer one call from a lone male. Over thousands of miles they have traveled to be together again.

What songs of hope are offered if we choose to listen? What lessons are learned if we choose to learn? What promises we are given when taking a moment in time … back to nature.

Karen can be reached at

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