One unforeseen pleasure came into my life when I stationed a wicker rocker on the front porch of our new home. Soon I adopted the habit of sitting out on the porch in early summer mornings after my husband departed for work – before anyone else had begun to stir.

I first began sitting on the front porch in the early mornings to enjoy the gentle fragrances the breeze carried my way. Every week a new blossom gave forth its dew-laden aroma – daffodil, Muscari, iris, lily, four-o’clock and sweet pea. Though it’s difficult to choose, my absolutely favorite scents are the blossoms of lily of the valley and the black locust tree. One is assertive while the other is extremely delicate. I also welcome the visual palette of colorful blossom progression throughout the spring and summer from my position.

Before long I began to notice the presence of birds fully engaged in declaring a new day. Diminutive wrens seem to sing sweetly from dawn till dusk. I’ve even heard them sing in the middle of the night. They go about their business while keeping everyone informed about where they are, even to nesting in the hollow wash-line post.

Bluebirds, with their eye-catching brilliant-blue wings and russet breasts, make themselves known as they drop to the grass like rocks from overhead branches or wires. They linger just long enough to grab a luscious meal and silently take off again. On rare occasions I’ll catch another movement out of the corner of my eye; it’s a chipping sparrow hopping along the sidewalk in front of the porch. Sometimes that tiny bird announces its presence with a little chipping sound, but most of the time it’s silent. It leaves as quietly as it came.

Pigeons relish the new day. In their daily debut they fly in formation back and forth over the landscape, casting a larger-than-reality shadow in the early-morning sunshine as they plunge and ascend in unison. A flapping of wings announces a sharp banking maneuver in the flight plan or a landing on the silo roof, followed by comforting cooing communication.

Then come the barn swallows swooping through the air, straining mosquitoes as they go and announcing their presence with small squeaks as they fly. I marvel at their ability to swiftly maneuver even sideways through a slit in the wall to reach their destination.

On one occasion I was dozing in the serenity of the early morning when my ear detected a slight whirring sound. In the still air I thought I was hearing a helicopter in the distance. But because the sound drew nearer without growing louder, I opened my eyes slightly. I turned my head slowly in the direction of the sound to behold a hummingbird dipping a drink from the lily and clematis blooms. It never sat down; it just paused now and then at various attractions before whirring off to another location.

Vibrant yellow-and-black goldfinches come to wrestle nesting materials from the old clematis vines or the twine used to secure them to the wrought-iron railing. The deep-purple of the clematis blooms contrasts strikingly with the quick-moving yellow-hued finches. Later in summer cedar waxwings will also come to those same vines seeking nesting material. Sometimes they will even take the hair offerings hung on the rail just for them.

Occasionally a hollow thumping will sound the alert that another pair of winged visitors has arrived. Red-headed woodpeckers walk up and down the tree trunks pecking in search of bugs for their meals. They usually stay for a while, moving from tree to tree making a thorough sweep of all available provisions.

If rain is in the forecast or it’s a tranquil dewy morn, often the woeful cry of the mourning dove will be carried on the still air. At the same time black crows caw-caw their way through, with smaller birds dive-bombing them as they go. From time to time the watery call of the cardinal farther away reminds me those flaming-red birds are the Lord’s sign of victory. I usually see or hear them just when I need that comforting reminder.

The beauty God has set before my senses prompts me to linger as long as possible. The fragrance of the morning air, coupled with the melodies of birds and the visual buffet of color, serve to remind me to take time to appreciate what’s before me. That rocker on my front porch helped me discover my favorite summer pastime.

Married for 42 years, Darlene Stern and her husband have raised a family of nine in rural southeast Wisconsin. She has been a stay-at-home mom, goat herdsperson, dyslexia tutor, midwifery advocate, newsletter creator, manuscript editor, published author, model for professional artists and passionate pursuer of Jesus Christ. Her degree in geography from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville helped raise two National Geography Bee state finalists, one of whom was a national finalist. She finds great delight in short-term overseas ministry trips, writing about her experiences.