Christmas, Christian Science, eagles, snowy owls and love

December 20, 2013

Many years ago, I was riding the back roads of southeastern Sussex County near the Maryland line. The quiet vastness of the Great Cypress Swamp stretched across Delmarva’s flatness just a few miles to the east.

Searching for a set of ancient graves protected with little cypress shingle roofs, I found myself on a sandy rise behind a Methodist Church. A simple open-air tabernacle beside the church offered a place for outside services when weather permits. Nothing like belting out “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing” with a warm breeze flowing in from every side.

Beneath one of the gable ends hung a big white banner with bright red letters: God Is Love. Midweek. The church and tabernacle empty. No one else within miles. But I needed no one else to talk to. The banner said it all. Jesus Christ said it in the New Testament; 24 karat essential wisdom.

So, on Wednesday afternoon this week I was drawn to the Christian Science Church in Rehoboth Beach. Just drawn there is all I can tell you.

Maybe it was Art. Art Owings. Same as my wife Becky’s maiden name. A Blackfoot Indian from the Flathead Lake area of Montana, Art joined the National Park Service and eventually migrated east to Washington, D.C. He followed his own call and eventually landed in Lewes, where we would visit him from time to time. My parents had met and befriended him when they were honeymooning in Montana.

Art loved the painting scene of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach – Theodora Kane and all the rest in the mid-20th century. He attended the Christian Science Church in Rehoboth and was filled with love and good humor. So maybe Art is feeling the love of the season from that dimension he entered when he died back in the ‘70s and sent some my way.

Three eagles soaring

But before church, let me mention Chico and Connie. Chico Barranco called a couple of weeks ago from Silver Lake, just a few blocks from the Christian Science Church.

“Dennis, you can’t believe the number of bald eagles I’ve been seeing around Silver Lake. One day I saw six at the same time, and today I’m looking at several soaring above the lake.”

That’s something new for me, though with so many geese and cormorants and ducks in the lake it’s not surprising. A few days later Connie Costigan emailed me to say she had seen one of this year’s snowy owl visitors. “Just thought I would report in on sighting a snowy owl on Lewes Beach this morning. In 36 years of walking the beach I have never seen one before; 9:15 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 17. It was sitting on a windsurfing board. On our approach it flew up to the red roof peak on Halsey Knapp’s house  on Bay Avenue and was still there at 9:45 when we left the beach.  It seemed very big and very beautiful, and we are hoping it will stay around.”

Isn’t nature great, dropping these wonderful Christmas presents right in our laps?

So, back to Wednesday afternoon: On the way to the church to check out the Christ in Christmas, I drove past Silver Lake. More presents from nature. The canvasbacks are back, so regal with their red heads and white backs. Then soaring birds over the lake caught my eye. Chico tuned in. Bald eagles. Three of them. Circling and playing. Courtship, no doubt. They take to the nest in February. Flocks of geese and ducks, but a flock of eagles?

When I finally made my way to the church, Winnie Russo was in the reading room, open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for prayer and quiet study. A table is spread with Christian Science books about Christmas and holiday decorations. She said Christian Scientists – as taught by the writings of Mary Baker Eddy – believe in the healing power of love and the words of Christ Jesus. “We hold to the Bible and believe in everything Christ said, though we don’t take everything the Bible says literally. We take it to the next level, demonstrating what Christ Jesus told us. He expected people to go out and help heal. We’ve been doing that for 130 years. We know that the healing power of love and Christ Jesus can help with our health, relationships, finances. I wouldn’t be here if it didn’t work. I’m not dopey. Christmas is very important for us.”

Onward to Rehoboth Avenue

After a strong dose of the Christ in Christmas, I headed up to Rehoboth Avenue and came across another scene of love. Rehoboth Chamber Director Carol Everhart was walking out of the Purple Parrot. As I closed in for a holiday hug, I saw tears in her eyes.

“They’re just finishing up the Christmas party for city employees, and a few people stopped by to say goodbye to Greg,” she said.

City Manager Greg Ferrese is leaving his post after 30 years on the job. He and Carol have worked together for many of those years. “Go inside and say hi and sign the poster and picture we gave him,” said Carol. My pleasure. Just before leaving the office to follow the draw of the church, I had finished writing an editorial about Greg. It’s on page six of this edition. The chance encounter felt just right.

Chico and Connie, Winnie and Greg and Carol, the bald eagles, the canvasbacks and the snowy owls. All coincidence? I don’t think so. Jesus Christ, Mary Baker Eddy and Huey Lewis and the News all have it right. It’s the power of love.

Merry Christmas to all.

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