Grandpa settled himself in his favorite backyard chair. I pulled my own up beside him. How long had it been since I had had a moment like this to relax? I couldn’t remember.
My life was such a rush with my full-time job, bills and chores to keep up with, not to mention commitments to friends and family. My to-do list seemed to get longer every day. By the time I made headway on it there was no time for relaxing. But life at Grandpa’s house always moved at a slow pace.
My schedule kept me from visiting him as much as I would have liked, but whenever I did get away to spend a few days with him it was like stepping into another world. A world like the one I remembered from my childhood on his farm when the two of us watched the clouds and listened to the wind in the trees.
“Why does life make me so tired, Grandpa?” I sighed as I sunk down beside him. I knew I had my nerve asking him. He was nearly 90, he had lost his eyesight and much of his hearing.
He’d sold his farm and bought a little house in town. Yet when he sat out under the trees he didn’t want for anything more.
Grandpa chuckled. “You’re not doing what comes natural, girl,” he said. “Do what comes natural and everything else’ll take care of itself.”
That was Grandpa. Always talking in riddles when I wanted a direct answer. Like that afternoon on his farm as a girl. I’d never forget it.
We were sitting outside in the yard, just the two of us, just like we were now. A loud knocking split the air, followed by a squawk. “What’s that noise, Grandpa?” I asked.
He pointed to the splintered top of an old oak tree. “It’s a red-headed woodpecker pecking that tree,” he said. “He’s looking for his dinner.”
I could just see the bright red head between the green leaves. “Why’s he making so much noise?”
“To make sure we hear him,” Grandpa said. “Woodpeckers come around to remind us about something we’ve overlooked.”
I looked all around the farm. The garden beds were weeded, the animals fed. “What did we overlook?”
Grandpa gave me one of his trademark grins. “That’s for us to figure out by ourselves.”
Even way back then I knew better than to ask again. And I never had, even all these years later, figured out what that woodpecker was trying to tell me any more than I could figure out what Grandpa was telling me now. “What do you mean I’m not doing what comes natural, Grandpa?”
He turned his eyes up to the sky, as if the answer were beyond this earthly world. “When was the last time you stepped outside for more than a minute, girl?”
“I don’t have time to listen to the birds, Grandpa,” I said. “I have too many things to do.”
Grandpa shook his head and sank deeper into his chair, leaving me to puzzle out another riddle myself. Soon after my visit Grandpa died, sitting in his favorite backyard chair, his face turned to the sky.
After the funeral, I tried to lose myself in my busy life so that I wouldn’t miss Grandpa. I knew that with him gone, I could never again visit that world Grandpa had lived in all the time.
One perfect summer afternoon I struggled to do some work at home. The breeze from the open window kept distracting me. I focused harder on the papers in front of me. But try as I might I couldn’t keep my mind on the work. I gave up. A quick break, I told myself.
I went outside and got a lawn chair out of the garage. I dragged it out under the trees. I leaned back and closed my eyes, letting the sounds fill my ears: bugs, birds, a breeze through the leaves.
This is a nice way to spend a few minutes, I thought. The bills were paid, the housework done, my work nearly finished. I actually felt relaxed. So relaxed I was about to doze off—until a loud knocking startled me.
My eyes popped open. The sound was coming from the big maple tree behind me. I walked over to it, peering up through the leaves. What is that? Then I saw it: a flash of red. A woodpecker!
Grandpa’s riddle presented itself once again: What had I overlooked? I sat back in my chair and ran through my to-do list once again. Mentally I flipped through page after page. One item branched out into three more, all the way down the line.
Did it ever end? No, because that was life. Or at least that was my life. How different it was from Grandpa’s. The most important part of his day was sitting outside, in thankful appreciation of the beautiful world God gave us.
If Grandpa kept a to-do list, that was at the top. Listening to the birds hadn’t thrown off my schedule. In fact, I suddenly felt like I had time enough for everything. For once I’d put my earthly worries aside and in no time felt comfortable enough to ease into an afternoon nap!
Above my head the woodpecker drilled the maple tree one more time, just to make sure I’d gotten the summertime message. Finally I’d solved Grandpa’s riddle.
Download your FREE ebook, Rediscover the Power of Positive Thinking, with Norman Vincent Peale.