Manna in the advent wilderness

The Chattahoochee River winds through Atlanta with walking trails along the edge and up on the bluffs and in the lowland meadows nearby.  Usually the trails have lots of people, but it’s been cold this week so my friend and I walked for long stretches by ourselves.  She is a therapist who often works with children after there has been a suicide in the family, and she moves peacefully through wild weather and rugged terrain.  We are both named Martha but unlike our biblical sister, neither of us is management material.

We saw more Canada geese than the law allows.  They are loud honkers and cantankerous and I like that.  I especially like when they stick their heads in the water and go bottoms up so that all you can see are their snowy white rear ends.  They like to eat the river grass and then paddle over to flat rocks and sun themselves.  

A giant blue heron on stilts peered into the water as if his life depended on it, which I guess it does,  and then whooshed himself in the air – God knows how – to settle in another likely fishing spot.   

We made a loop into the marsh path and came upon a Chinese man with a butterfly net gently swooshing the mown and frosty grasses along the edge of the trail.  We asked him was he with the park service, and he said no, he was not, still gently swooshing. His English was far better than our Chinese and his smile – grave and kind – was best of all.  So smiles and nods were our best words.

He said he was looking for “tiiinnnnee tiiinneee gwasshoppahs.”  I thought uh-oh.  December is not a good month for such. We said why?  He said for his frog.  And frowned.  His son had found a pollywog in the summer who turned into a tiiineee tiiineee frog.  Too small to eat crickets found in pet stores. Too picky to eat dead bugs.   So there he was on a frosty morn searching for manna in a frozen wilderness. 

We tried to explain the habits of grasshoppers in Georgia in winter.  But really what did we know?  Maybe after we left him swooshing in the slanting afternoon sun he found a slew of them.  I know one thing.  The sight of him gently swooshing the grass for the sake of his son and his boon companion will stay with me.  Compassion is so strange and beautiful and contagious.

We live in such a lovely and hungry and grace-filled world.   Watch. . . Watch. . . Watch.