Crows on the cross

Crows, historically associated with death, are highly intelligent birds with powerful memory. In folklore they convene to determine capital punishment for wrongdoers—a murder of crows, apropos. Yet they mourn their dead and will even place small sticks or other objects around a deceased fellow crow, in a sort of funeral rite.

On Sunday morning, crows perched atop the steeple cross at church as congregants arrived. Harbingers of death? Casters of judgment? Consider the cross, an instrument of capital punishment, particularly of someone “who knew no sin” offering himself as a sacrifice for all the wrongdoing of humankind…For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17 NKJV); For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV).

So sit the crows
on the steeple cross
a judgment passed
a death sentence cast

yet overturned and overcome
so long ago
—one wonders what the crows know.

Dinnertime guest

He comes to dine each evening
between four and five o’clock
resplendent in his crimson cravat
in an emerald flash, he’s gone
breathless, I await his return

A female ruby-throated hummingbird giving the feeder over to a male: If you look closely, you can see his tongue lapping up the sugar water. A hummingbird’s tongue is forked, like a snake’s, with edges that trap nectar. During my impromptu summer study I’ve learned that males are the minority. They are fewer and never linger as long as females. So many days have gone by without sighting a male that I wondered if they’d all migrated; they are the first to go. Then this fellow began arriving every evening for dinner. He’s quite punctual. I’ve been reading that hummingbirds may not leave my central North Carolina neck of the woods until winter. We shall see… in the meantime, I watch and marvel over nature, its rhythms, its endless curiosities.

Peaceful pulsations

It is said that jellyfish are the most energy-efficient swimmers in the sea. Simple creatures
lacking brains, hearts, and central nervous systems, they have eyes, mouths, and nerves. They see, eat, and feel. Growing up on the east coast, I was terrified of them. One brush of those hairlike tentacles while playing at the seashore welted my legs and burned like fire. What a study of opposites, jellies: fire in the sea, simple yet complex, eliciting fear and, as with this video, a sense of deep tranquility. I once read an article about the immortality of a species of jellyfish—when threatened or harmed, it’s able to return to a previous developmental stage and regenerate itself. Fascinating, mysterious, perhaps even haunting… but a word I wouldn’t have used in connection with jellyfish (stinging nettles, as Grandma called them) is beautiful.

Until now.

Sea Ceremony

peaceful pulsations
sea nettles trailing bride’s veils
deep tranquility


Atlantic sea nettles. Thanks to my friend E. Johnson for this video.
Try watching while listening to Enya’s “On Your Shore“:

Strange how my heart beats
To find myself upon your shore
Strange how I still feel
My loss of comfort gone before

Cool waves wash over
And drift away with dreams of youth
So time is stolen
I cannot hold you long enough

And so this is where I should be now
Days and nights falling by
Days and nights falling by me
I know of a dream I should be holding
Days and nights falling by
Days and nights falling by me

Soft blue horizons
Reach far into my childhood days
As you are rising
To bring me my forgotten ways

Strange how I falter
To find I’m standing in deep water
Strange how my heart beats
To find I’m standing on your shore

Songwriters: Nicky Ryan / Roma Shane Ryan / Enya

Something about September

Sunlight
still bright
takes on an amber tinge
the sky
day by day
almost imperceptibly
deepens its blue
still hot
in Carolina
but now she’s rolling up
her blanket of humidity
to put it away at last
there’s the first
tiny delicious trace
of coolness in the breeze
cicada choruses fade
day by day
a vintage time of year
I think to myself
remembering
how September stands
as a paradise paradox
regal in earth’s greatest finery
stitched with threads
of her greatest losses

September morning. rkramer62CC BY 2.0.ran

Expectations

As a literacy coach and intervention team facilitator, I am tasked with communicating expectations of my administration and the district to my colleagues. It’s a tricky position (correction: these are tricky positions. Plural. Sometimes I feel like Bartholomew Cubbins, wearing 500 hats). At present, my fellow educators are, in the wake of COVID, undergoing state-mandated Science of Reading training while adjusting to new curriculum and new leadership. It all comes with new expectations.

Truth be told, however, many of these expectations aren’t new: Problem-solving as a professional community, finding what we need as educators to give the students what they need. Bridging gaps. Collaborative planning. Collective responsibility. None of these are new; they just feel new if they’ve not been done effectively before…the bottom line being the determination of this is what the kids really need; how do we make it happen?

It’s formidable challenge, in a time where there are many needs, and when educational philosophies, beliefs, and mindsets clash. I recently wrote about endurance (from a spiritual point of view). This new school year follows one of extreme exhaustion. We will not endure without leaning on one another. We will not build our strength in isolation. We will not succeed without stamina. Or vision. Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). Grappling with expectations is, well, expected. Everything, everything, everything rests on one of two beliefs: it can be done or it can’t.

I believe it can.

Yesterday my granddaughter visited. The hummingbird feeder rings I ordered for us had just arrived. Perfect timing. We took them out of the package, washed them, made a tiny batch of sugar water, and filled them. Off to the yard we trotted to stand with our arms resting on the fence near one of my two feeders where a handful of hummingbirds compete for their nectar throughout the day.

You can see for yourself, in the photo, my granddaughter thinking I don’t know about this…yet there’s a layer of hope and fear in her expression: Will the hummingbirds actually come drink from my ring? Will I be scared?

After a while: How long is this going to take?

The secret, my love, is patience and persistence. If it doesn’t work the first time, we will try again, and again. Hummingbirds have come to drink from the rings of other people in other places; they will eventually do so with us. Keep trying. Believe. I will stand with you until it does.

Oh, right.

I started off talking about teaching, didn’t I.

Expression of uncertain expectation. After she left, I went out again when the hummers were more active. A couple of them hovered nearby, considering me and my outstretched, ringed hand (hummingbirds are highly intelligent and curious). If they come to me…they will come to my granddaughter. I will see if can make it happen for her.

*******

with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge

Magic bubble

Just an ordinary morning
making coffee
washing my favorite cup

dab of dishwashing liquid
whoosh of small bubbles
escaping the tip
of the plastic bottle

nothing out of the ordinary
in bubbles rising, drifting
iridescent, carefree

except for the one
heading for the
outlet

where it stays
suspended in midair
between two plugs
rolling and turning
never drifting
as if some invisible force
some electromagnetic field
keeps it in place

I watch and watch
wondering

it seems
anything
but ordinary…