Monday, June 21, 2010

It's a Jungle out There - We Need Personal Strength

Yes. We were excited. Bewick's wrens had been building a nest in the little house we put up to attract them. We watched for days as the male and female flew back and forth with nest material. It was a great location, and this would be our first nest here in the Texas Hill Country. We were looking forward to watching this miracle unfold, up close and personal.

Then two weeks ago came Tuesday, June 8, 2010, a day many people in our area will remember for a long time. We had scattered thunderstorms during the day, with an accumulation of about an inch. That night, a vicious thunderstorm dropped another two inches on our property. I woke up to the thunder in the middle of the night. The next day we learned there were about 3,000 lightning strikes per hour. Some areas got ten inches of rain all at once. The Guadalupe River rose quickly, and summer campers were caught by surprise. The river rose about 20 feet in the middle of the night and campers, trucks and cars were swept downstream. Amazingly, only one person died.

After the storm, we never saw the wrens again. My wife, Kathleen, assured me that they make alternate nests and the female wren may have chosen another. We heard wrens calling in the distance. We wondered if they were our wrens.

Later that morning I saw Kathleen sitting on the back porch steps with a battered hummingbird in the palm of her hand. She had found it sitting confused on the small footbridge over our dry creek bed. She just walked up to it and picked it up. I sprinkled some water on it, and it surprised us by flying away.

Birds are one of life's miracles, and as we watch them come and go it's easy to imagine a kind of ideal life for them of nest-building and raising young in the sanctuary of our back yard. But the thunderstorm reminded us of something. The truth is, a bird's life is brutally hard. They struggle every day to survive. 

Then I thought, human lives are tough, too. Businesses struggle and go into bankruptcy. Homes are lost. Marriages fail. People fight cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The people we love die. Unexpected downpours wash people downstream in the middle of the night.

I don't think I know anyone who's had it easy. All of them, without exception, have struggled with adversity. We try to protect our families from all this, but the truth is, life is hard. A worst-case scenario happens, usually not when we expect it. And more often than we expect, we have to dig down deep and engage that thing we call personal strength. Like the people who were picked out of the river, we discover that the ability to do the hard things is always there for us.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength . (2010 photos by Kathleen Scott, used with permission.)


Kathleen Scott said...

I saw a wren in the thicket behind the house this morning, bet we see little ones soon.

Les said...

Wonderful blog, Denny.

The strength is there, whoever we are, and we can find it when we need to... some forget to look, while for some that strength is forced into their being.

I'm sure the wrens will be surviving somewhere. :-)

Anonymous said...

Denny Coates -
I am glad to have had these few quiet moments to reflect on your excellent story and the more universal application you give it in bringing it back to this primal fact:
'I don't think I know anyone who's had it easy.' I have found such instances to be useful in reminding myself on a daily basis: 'Everyone you encounter bears about with them a heavy burden.' This simple fact, whether it comes from reading a face in line at Walmart or experiencing the saga of wrens displaced from home by an inexplicable thrust out of the dark, should be sufficient to keep us alert to the ever-present needs of others, their fragilities.
Thank you for the thoughtful post.