Misty reflection

There’s a scientific explanation
for the mist rising
from the glassy ponds
along my morning commute

then there’s poetry
the perceiving of
elemental transitions
autumnal ghosts rising
from the silver surface

the old heron
is still there by water’s edge
not wading
but watching
in the cool gray
in-betweenness

quite possibly studying me
an unnatural phenomenon
a recurring phantasm
passing through
its world

Lumia Shot: Foggy WatersTom Mrazek. CC BY 2.0.

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.

The cicada

Yesterday I tried to rescue a cicada that had fallen on the pavement in the bus loop at school.

I didn’t see it fall. I only saw it on its back, wildly fluttering its wings, unable to right itself.

As cicadas are huge insects, many of my colleagues preferred not to get near it.

But I have loved cicadas all my life. Their summer song, that choral buzzing swelling from the treetops, sends my spirit spiraling skyward. I find it among the most comforting of Earth’s songs.

And so I went and picked it up.

The cicada beat its wings in a frenzy, for a second clinging to my dress with its hook-legs.

I placed it, right side up, in the mulch at the roots of a crape myrtle.

It flipped over on its back again.

This is what cicadas do, what most insects do, when they are dying. Their legs can’t support them anymore.

I figured the creature would be gone by the time school dismissal was over. All I could do was provide a dignified passing for it in the mulch under the tree versus being flattened by the wheel of a bus.

But it was still alive, moving its legs a little, when time came for me to leave.

So I put it in a cup and brought it home.

It was still and silent for most of the ride, except for one episode of weak wing-beating against the cup.

I placed it, right side up, under some ivy in a planter on the back deck.

A couple of hours later, it was on its back again, still feebly moving a leg or two.

I don’t know how long it takes cicadas to die. I don’t know if they feel pain, anxiety, or fear. I know they live the greater part of their lives underground (up to 17 years, some of them) and their time above is short (a few weeks). I start listening for their song at the end of May, the month of my birth, and I hear the last strains sometime in September. Cyclical, symbolic creatures, cicadas. Across cultures and legends, they’re most often associated with immortality and resurrection.

Yet this one was dying. I couldn’t help it or save it. I couldn’t tell it how grateful I am for its kind, and it couldn’t care. I couldn’t give it peace.

In the end, it gave me peace to let it play out here at home with honor in the ivy-sheltered planter. As night drew near, dozens of other cicadas called from the trees…a fitting requiem for a fellow northern dusk-singing cicada.

Maybe it could hear. Maybe the song was a comfort, a blessing, a benediction.

It was for me.

My northern dusk-singing cicada

Something sacred

Summer evening
after dinner
the three of us
are riding home
through the countryside

late-day sun
is amber-bright
when giant raindrops
begin to slap
against the windshield

Raining while the sun shines,
says my husband
from the passenger seat
(I’m in the back;
the boy is driving)
—there’s got to be a rainbow
around here somewhere

The boy makes the left turn
—There it is, he says

wide shimmering bands
hanging in the air
like a gossamer curtain
touching the road
right before us

breathless, we ride
right through it
to find another
and another
just ahead

so many rainbows
gleaming down through
the trees
over the fields

heaven’s glory bending
to caress the earth
a prismatic promise
poured out

all along
our way home

At the end of the rainbow. Mara ~earth light~. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

I didn’t get photos, alas, but the rainbows touching the road before us yesterday evening happened to be near the spot where my husband and I saw an eagle sitting majestically by the roadside back in early 2019. In this picture the background is dark whereas our scenery was vivid green in the amber-gold light of late day… but there’s an eagle, and the sojourning child carrying solace and security in the form of a teddy bear in a backpack speaks to me.

Something sacred is in this place.

The way of it

On the first required workday
before school begins
I drive the familiar backroads
once again

dew-drenched pastures
and old weatherboard barns
defy time
they are
their own world

then to my delight
a patch of tangled sunflowers
on the right
must have been growing here
all summer
I didn’t know
I think of Van Gogh
walking the rustic village
of Arles

up ahead, the pond
I scan it quickly
for the great blue heron
and there it is
at water’s edge
nearest the road
big and gray-blue
like a watercolor rendition
so perfect a pose

I feel light
like these are signs
that all will go well
with the work
lying before me

peace becomes strength
in my spirit
in my bones

on the second workday
I see it all again
even the heron

I can always face
the day ahead
whenever I see
the heron

I am so light
I could soar

then on the third day
without warning
orange signs on white gates
say the road is closed

I must detour

no passing the pond
no seeing heron
standing with elegiac grace
in the still water

although I know
it’s there

so on I fly
day after day
going out of my way
to get to where
I need to be

for now at least
I have the sunflowers

Vincent would say
it’s enough

keep painting the day
and the required work
beautiful
around the barriers
until they are gone

that is
the way of it

Coming home; the pond is just ahead but I can’t see it

Filling the bucket

Bucket of Sunshine. gfpeck. CC BY-ND 2.0.

Dandelions represent the return of life, the rebirth of growth and green after a harsh winter, and a display of abundant strength and power.  – Lena Struwe, Director of the Chrysler Herbarium

At my school this year, every staff member is writing notes of encouragement and gratitude for each other. We are calling this “filling each other’s bucket” – everyone has a colorful designated bag for receiving the written messages.

I couldn’t think of better symbolism than this bucket of dandelions. Or the quote.

All too often, we never realize the collective abundant strength and power we have.

It is in the giving that we begin to experience it.

Nurturing the summer soul: Spiritual journey

Peace

Last day at the beach
I wake far too early
but I make the coffee anyway
and take a cup to the top deck

I sit in the chair
facing east
drinking in
the deepness
of solitude
the blessedness
of silence

Earth stirs a little
and sighs
like a baby in its sleep

Just ahead, high over the sea
Venus glitters and winks

I am the bright and morning star
I know you are

My waiting soul
cannot think
of anything else it wants
or needs
as black silhouettes
of pelicans
fly soundlessly by
against the sky
pinkening with light

Sunrise
signifying the end
of night

My view this morning: Venus over the Atlantic just before sunrise

Pelicans, while not in this particular shot, are plentiful here. As the sky grew lighter they appeared in silhouette, gliding gracefully against it. The pelican is an ancient symbol for Christ, often depicted in Christian art.

Revelation 22, the last chapter of the Bible, references the River and Tree of Life, the healing of the nations, the end of night, and the return of Christ with the words “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last…I am the root and offspring of David, and the bright and morning star(13; 16).

The best I can do is to describe this morning scene. The sense of peace, so often fleeting or not to be found when Earth is wide awake and churning, was honestly too deep for words. I shall hold these moments in my mind for returning to when my soul needs more nurturing, long past summer.

—with thanks to Carol Varsalona for the theme and for hosting the Spiritual Journey writers on this first Thursday in August.

Curious connection

gogyoshi: a Japanese poem with a title and five lines

The Curious Connection of Seahorses and Hummingbirds
(Two of My Favorite Creatures)

One is the slowest creature in the sea
the other, the most agile in the air.
One armor-plated, one gorgeously plumed;
what could they possibly have in common?
Fins and wings beating at the same speed.