The feather

on the second anniversary of school shutdowns due to COVID-19

Bleak days. A long, rain-spattered, windswept season, gray as ashes, as stones, just as hard, cold, and immovable. Day to day to day the green promise of spring seems like a dream barely remembered; naked tree branches twist skyward as if beseeching the heavens for renewal…

We go through the motions, automatons numbed by a pandemic not quite past and the ripple effect of unprovoked war on the world stage, as if we’ve somehow fallen through a wormhole to eight decades ago… what year IS this?

I am tired, my colleagues at school tell one another. So tired. Some don’t know if they’re coming back next year. Some don’t know if they’re going to stay in education at all. Our principal is leaving in four weeks.

The children have seemed shell-shocked most of this year. Maybe I seem the same way to them, especially now that masks are optional and I find myself not recognizing some of them; I’ve never seen them without masks before. I don’t know their faces below their eyes.

As I walked the hallways last week, I had a sense of dragging myself over a finish line, except that there is no finish line. Not now, not yet…

But even in the bleakest, rain-spattered, windswept season, when gray goes grayer still, bits of brightness are always swirling. Maybe as tiny as a feather, a soft semiplume shed from a creature with the gift of flight. It might appear to be half one thing and half another… it might have the appearance of dark, wispy, wayward hair as well as a tapered tip dipped in fiery red, altogether like an artist’s brush with which we might, we just might, begin to dispel despair by painting our moments as we will…

So much symbolism in a feather. In the bird that releases it.

It is said that when cardinals appear, angels are near.

I don’t know about that.

I just know a cardinal feather is a symbol of life, hope, and restoration. And courage. And love. And sacrifice…

Falling from the grayest sky
Ethereal, riding the wind
Alluding to nearness of angels
Tiny trace of a nearby cardinal that
Has lost a bit of his insulation
Ephemeral, perhaps, to him
Restorative tincture, to me

Semiplume cardinal feather photographed by my friend,
E. Johnson, 3/11/2022.

*******

with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March.

Bookends of winter days

Winter mornings
dawn in gray monochrome
before the sun bursts on the scene
like a passionate artist
with its gilded palette

Driving to work
in this gray in-betweenness
I note the doves
always sitting on the power lines
like heralds
their plump bodies
of soft sandy colors
framed by the oyster sky

reminding me:
look for the peace this day
live as peacefully as possible
this day

Then, in the strange way
of life
as I drive home
weary and worn
the golden part of the day
nearly spent
what should I see
on other power lines?

Hawks
big and breathtaking
still as statues
painted in shades of rust

They might remind some people
of raw bloodthirstiness
or predatory fierceness
but their beauty
fills me with such awe
that it’s all I can do
to keep my eyes on the road
driving home

as I think about how my winter days
are bookended by birds
and how there’s something
inherently sacred
and profoundly satisfying
in that.


DoveJim, the Photographer. CC BY 2.0

Red-Shouldered Hawkgoingslo. CC BY 2.0

(One of these days, when I can stop the car safely, I am going to get my own photos of my hawks…)

*******
with thanks to Ruth at SOS-Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog
for today’s inspiration to write:
“You are invited to linger in your winter memories, reach deep and pick a golden moment to share.”

A game played long ago

This morning I woke to the sounds of wind gusts and snowflakes striking the window…brought back the memory of my oldest boy and a game we played long ago. A pantoum:

A game played long ago:
Little boy crawling into bed, whispering
“The North Wind will blow,
we will have snow!”

Little boy crawling into bed, whispering
“It’s so cold—I can’t get warm.
We will have snow!
Let me sleep here in your arms.”

“It’s so cold—I can’t get warm.
Until I am grown and gone,
let me sleep here in your arms”
—the memory of these moments!

Until I am dead and gone
the North Wind will blow
the memory of these moments,
a game played long ago.

Winter evening

A winter’s drive
as night falls
colors band the sky-
indigo
turquoise
rose gold-
framed by trees
in black silhouette

stars appear
one by one

fairylights glow
from all the houses
scattered along
the rolling countryside

barns and haybales
swallowed by shadow

the road twists
through woods
past a pond
smooth as glass
reflecting the banded sky
in reverse-
rose gold
turquoise
indigo-
rimmed with silver

patches of snow
along the roadside
sparkle like glitter in
the headlight beams

deer are not out tonight
nor is the big rabbit
that feeds in my front yard

but I am home at last
full of winter enchantment
deep stillness in my soul

ready for a little bowl
of snow cream.

Winter bluebird (etheree poem)

Awe
descends
like snowflakes
in the silence
finding asylum
in the holy places
where it perches plump and blue
a quiescent electric spark
sent to shock the soul from its stasis
with a sudden gasp of winterclean air

Bluebird in the falling snow this afternoon, perched on the birdhouse my father-in-law made when my boys were small. They still call it “Pa-Pa’s bird church.” Those sparks are reflections of my Christmas tree lights in the window where I stood to capture this picture of awe.

Henry writes: Snow love

pressed nose
wind blows
ice floes
poem compose
heaven knows
I love snows

That is all the poetry I have time for today, Dear Readers. I am channeling all of My creative energy into willing MORE snowfall and contemplating how I might lure My People into taking Me out for a romp amid the flying flakes, whereupon I shall be nearly delirious…ecstatic, yes…I ADORE SNOW, it is sublime, exhilarating, the only Thing worthwhile in wintertime besides snuggling close to My People and essentially hibernating although I still expect My meals served ON TIME whilst I experience My own personal hygge.

Deepest thanks to you for pawsing here (oh, I am too punny today! Bahaha! The flakes have made Me giddy!) to read My light verse. But seriously, I have trifled long enough; I have snow to watch…

A hearty fair-weather fare-thee-well, Friends-
HRH
(Henry Rollins Haley)

Winter meditation

with thanks to Stacey Joy, who shared the monotetra form this morning on Ethical ELA’s Open Write: quatrains ending in monorhyme, lines of eight syllables.

Winter Meditation

On this dark morning, falling snow
fills the spirit with candleglow
the bliss-blessed silence, calling so:
Hush. Take it slow. Hush. Take it slow.
 
Claim the quiet for your healing
be free as the hawk, a-wheeling
your crystal-scoured heart revealing
wounds are sealing, wounds are sealing.

For now, nature’s red tooth and claw
newly blanketed, without flaw
is still, peace-covered, filled with awe.
Time to withdraw, time to withdraw. 

Time for a hygge

with thanks to Kim Johnson, who recently reminded me of the word

It really is a hug
that you give yourself
perhaps on darkest days
in the dead of winter

when forecasts of snow and ice
fill the news
or maybe you already hear
tiny frozen pellets
striking the windows

but inside
you have a little crackling fire
jars of dancing candlelight
wafting balsam and spice
a bunch of fleecy blankets
a few brand-new books
and bookmarks
and maybe soft new slippers
(mine say “Sleeps with Dogs”
with fancy scrollwork. They are
blissfully snug)

maybe your Christmas tree
is still up (like mine)
or at least your strings of lights
outside, sparkling
in the bitter cold
where the faint sound
of windchimes drifts in
from a distance

with your favorite brew brewing
knowing you don’t have to be going
anywhere
or doing anything
except savoring the now
with a slothful-as-you-please
slowness

go ahead now,
give yourself
a hygge.

Dennis the dachshund is a master at hygge (pronounced hue-gah).

Originating (or at least perfected) in Denmark, hygge is the act of intentionally creating an atmosphere of warmth, coziness, and well-being, however it works for you, regardless of whatever is raging beyond your own walls.

We are getting reports here that the ice may cometh soon. Dennis clearly has his hygge on. I am preparing for it…got my new books and and my slippers ready.

The sighting

In my various morning readings
I encountered plagues
divine deliverance
fulfilled prophecy
epiphany
and wounded trees
weeping until their blood-sap
crystallizes
into fragrant resin
ancient gift of kings

and in one passage, this line:
It is almost too beautiful to believe

my mind is replaying
all these things
when I catch sight of you there
perched on a wire
against the eggshell sky
an owl! No,
not in daylight
—a hawk
ancient bird of kings
winter sun glinting
on your snow-banded wings

—almost too beautiful to believe
my heart sings

3046 Red-Shouldered Hawk. Ashala Tylor Images. CC BY-NC 2.0

My hawk looked like this one. Stunning.

Hawks have a number of symbolic meanings, such as associations with Egypt, pharaohs, divine power, and salvation from slavery…I’d just been reading about these in Exodus.
I’d also been reading of the Magi.


Hawks, birds of keen vision, are also said to represent the ability to see meaning in ordinary experiences
—if one is willing to become more observant.