242. One crisp fall day

Some days call your name with a different slant of sunlight or a final cricket chirp as you close the windows to your bedroom for the summer’s end. We humans notice sensory changes through the bodily inputs of smell, sound, sight, touch, and taste. Even the subtle ones like lowered humidity or wind direction can trigger our minds toward preparing for the winter or pull on emotional strings of past losses and grief. As I mowed the grass this past weekend I bumped my head against a winesap apple, strode under a Bartlett pear, pushed around sleeping butternut squashes, and came out alongside a heavy grape vine pregnant with zesty purple fruit. Glorious, glorious abundance from little past efforts on my part. But the devilish deal is this: to eat of this fruit is to simultaneously accept the end of the growing season. It’s not bittersweet, but the moment is tangy and crisp, poignant. The older I get, the more I feel the silent sting of these days. I pause just shy of melancholy. Then again, I could be overthinking this experience.

In vain attempts to lengthen summer my wife and I have scheduled warm southern fall trips in October. Last year it was the Gulf Coast of Florida. Wonderful, yes, but it felt like a magic trick to fly two hours and gain a month of growing season, like a rabbit came out of a magician’s top hat and hopped away. This year it’s out to Arizona. I know it will feel fantastic to recapture the heat and feel my body relax in the Arizona desert warmth. The catch is coming back to instant chilly weather, dampness, and dreary low sunlight days. What would you rather do: leave Baltimore or come back to it? Springsteen wrote a song about it, Hungry Heart. What’s an old guy to do?  I can’t stop time or ignore the delicious fruits of the moment I am in. Do I eat and die, or fast like a fanatical anorexic who fears death so much and thereby only prolongs a slow version of it? I suppose the longer I reside in the desert, the more change I’ll come to see. The desert is subtle, blogalinas.  However, no land can be immune to time’s relentless march. No rabbit will hop from a sombrero in Tucson, nosirree. More like a gila monster will crawl out of a boot, to be culturally and geographically correct.
So, as this day warms up into an early autumn gem, I’m confused. My body knows the sunlight is lower octane now; it’s welcome but not celebrated.  I suppose I’d celebrate this  very same day in the early spring, but no. This day promises less not more. So I resign to pull up the squash plants, and yank up the late beans and peppers. I remember one last hill of red potatoes that need to be exhumed. Soon enough even the green grass will fade to muddy brown and then a frosty white. It’s time to draw in the frivolous furniture of summer days and the fragile potted plants on the deck.  Wind up the hoses and drain them in the process. We’ll babysit all of these seasonal items for another six months and do it all again on the other side in April. Yet I find myself pausing longer at these changeover moments. How many times will I repeat these mundane tasks? Not to be morbid, my bloggerators, but to be realistic I count 20 years of life expectancy in my expected assets accounting column.
As I see it, I’ll have about 15 years of retired life if I die on time. That’s an appropriate book end to my life. My first 15 years were spent in pre-tirement, I suppose, with the middle 48 spent entirely in tirement. No wonder I’m tired.  In my first 15 years I learned how to be a functional adult, although there is still some debate about that claim.  So figuratively speaking, my life will be a fat book of 48 years secured by two fifteen year old bronze book ends. On my life’s tome I’d like a nice leather binding with gold lettering, “Burrito Special Vol. 1” deeply tooled into the cowhide. Wait. I think I’m overthinking this thing. Left unsupervised, Irish people tend toward melancholia, tragedy, and the morbid. Halt!!
I actually ate that winesap apple. It was shockingly delicious. I insisted that my wife take a bite…forget the Garden of Eden allusion. Her name is not Eve. Later she made a butt kicking roasted butternut squash soup. And I’m considering harvesting all those grapes for juice or jelly. The pears don’t soften up till October.  Perhaps that’s the answer to my unechoing silence:  enjoy the harvest now. Live abundantly and gloriously. Laugh at death. He is simply doing his job, scything away daily without benefits, days off or any retirement plan.  Death is merely a UPS delivery guy in black, minus the truck. Just sign for the package and he’ll be on his way.
Then there’s that other thing called eternity. I can’t get into that right now, my little chinchillas. I have to do some billing and  then vacuum. Also, there’s someone at my door with a package.
Advertisements

236. black butterfly, hummingbird, seahorse

Walking up the alley to my office today I noticed a lovely black butterfly floating about as butterflies tend to. They flutter and then tack and sail in a random fashion along whatever air currents are available for their fragile little bodies.  This one swooped up and around me. It was an odd little nature moment that felt rather magical. I had been shuttling about for the previous few hours, making a lackluster home visit with a very troubled person. Patience is the only word I heard from on high. “Patience. I’ll do the heavy lifting. Presence.” And now this playful creature swirled felicitously about me like the Holy Spirit. How nice. A visual incense trail lightly touching my tired mind and soul. Ahhhh! I breathed deeply and slowly.  The brighter the day, the more glorious this swallow tailed wonder became with its iridescent patterns. How fine the details on such an insignificant insect. Why would anyone inject so much artistry and perfect symmetry into a dusty moth? The Artist must have recklessly abundant love, humor and beauty, so much that He can splash it around the universe to overflowing levels. A postcard from heaven on a tired day. “Look where I am. Wish you were here.”

Now the other day I watched a hummingbird zipping around the geraniums on my back deck. How strange and entertaining they are. When they actually stop flying and walk about, they make a funny high-pitched chirping noise that reminds me they are birds and not insects. Like butterflies these creatures seem almost comical in their flight, as if God sent them like little breath mints to take our breath away every so often. Sure, I know they fill a niche in the food chain and have adapted to survive; they eat something else and then predators eat them. But that’s so far from my mind when I watch one hover in space,  seemingly defying gravity and physics. A tiny jewel of a miracle with a heart rate of 1260 beats per minute or 21 beats per second! Not as fast as a tattoo gun but who cares. Leviticus 19:28 forbids tattoos on God’s people. What?  Don’t take my word for it. Check it out. There is no prohibition against hummingbird heart beats, however.

Cut jewels reflect light in their tiny facets, slicing the full spectrum  of sunglow into laser lines of fire. These flecks of majesty catch our attention like a figure/ground exercise. “Oh look, there’s a spectacularly lacey hemlock” [in the midst of a primeval forest of awesome evergreens]. We seem to miss the obvious all around us every day, so one leaf or tree or cloud catches us up into a moment of praise.  My black butterfly and ruby throated hummingbird were facets of the jeweled world we live in. In my moment of awe awareness I have to expand my mind backwards to the Light of the World, the Creator of all. I’m so impressed by one grain of sand on an endless beach that I shrink from my own naivete and miss the unwinding beach in front of me.

Let’s dip into the ocean of further consciousness, why don’t we? Ever see a seahorse? The hippocampus is its scientific name and it means “horse + sea monster”. How cool is that?  We have a little brain part called the hippocampus also. Two of them actually, called hippocampi in the plural form. (Here is where an immature writer would make a joke about hippopotamus college or rhinoceros university, but I will spare you, dear blogogi.) The thing is, sea horses are goofy, funny, helpless little things that float about our oceans. They are fish that swim upright and poorly, which makes a guy wonder what good are they. Dried sea horses sold in Chinese markets command the price of precious metals. Why? They are used as medicine to treat impotence, and no price can be too high for treating human impotence. Nosirree. So once again we see a preposterous creature reflecting the endless mystery of the Creator.

I know there are many other favorite weird creatures– spiders, praying mantis, hermit crabs– to ponder. Oh, let’s not forget my daughter’s favorite bird, the blue footed booby, which elicited rolls of giddy laughter from her as a young child. All of them remind us of  our Creator and His endless clues to His character. Behold.

 

229. Summer, Glory has arrived

poppy field of poppies flowerIt finally got here, sum-sum-summertime. And how glorious these first few days of June have been– crisp, clear, perfumed with honeysuckle and fresh cut grass, and all the various trees in fragrant flower. The glacial ice of my marrow is melting unconsciously, just as it had dried and frozen in December. Tension grew in all my cold muscles and achy joints as I clenched up in the long cold months of winter. But now the days are like cream cheese and butter oozing across a toasted bagel, seeping into every pore, healing the squinty-eyed mood moles hidden within. Hold that thought, bloggums: now slather some freshly made strawberry jam all over it. Man! That is exactly what I’m talking about. The simple delights of daily desires quenched. Fire engine red poppies the size of grapefruit halves are standing proudly outside my sunroom windows facing south. No wonder opium is magical; the poppy flower in bloom is a fantasy on a tall stalk all by itself… half balloons pulling themselves high above the garden’s gravity. The fish pond waterfall  behind them gurgles out a call of nature, water music accented by the many birds that happily chirp around our yard. There’s a purple martin sipping a, well, a martini, of course. Awesome. Ohhhh, feel the mountain of tension slide off your shoulders, my tired blog miners. Summer has come like a cold draft beer to our parched senses…aaahhhh!

Glory hallelujah.No, that’s not a picture of my fish pond, but it’s close. Mine is bigger and clogged with maple helicopter pods at the moment. Who cares? It’s summertime and the living is easy. I’ll clean it before you visit. Okay?  So the sun seems to provide psychic energy all around, don’t you think? Not only does photosynthesis stir up the greenery, but something like psycho-synthesis stirs in humans throughout the summer. They get more sensually connected by spending extra time in nature. They sweat away toxins. And happiness shows up like a gold finch or a hummingbird one warm morning. You can’t help but smile at these glorious creatures and their beautiful busyness. They make frenetic two year olds look lethargic. Joy rises as surely as a poised iris in June…magically.

Just articulating these summery things causes my guts to untwist while all the little muscles in my face relax. Deep breathing feels right now and not at all forced. Inflammation deflames somehow. It’s not scientific but beatific. Feeling blessed. There’s a major difference between feeling blessed and feeling happy. Happy just happens. It’s root is hap, or luck.  Blessed implies a Blesser and a relationship; it’s no accident to be blessed or anointed. Imagine walking down the street and finding a hundred dollar bill under your shoe. That’s luck or hap. Now imagine a lovely card with a hundred dollar gift in it from a loved one. That’s a selected, intentional blessing. “I was thinking of you on your graduation, birthday, anniversary.” Naturally you react differently to these two scenarios. The expression “Even a blind pig finds an acorn now and then” reflects luck or happenness. However, if you feed your beloved pot belly pig totally organic Asian red oak acorns from your sanitized hand, well, that’s a swine blessing. Don’t do this at home by the way without diapers on. And look under your shoes. See any Benjamins?Ben looks so dour in his dandy puffy pirate shirt. He could use a double shot of summer’s tonic. He needs to shed some layers, maybe shave his head bald for the season. Wax it.  Tan. Get an earring. Start surfing, Dude. Flow like David Crosby. There you go.

Just flow. “I almost cut my hair… but I didn’t and I wonder why, may be I feel like letting my freak flag fly.” Freaky!

Okay, enough non-filtering about. I have a season to paint like Monet. Hey, how about this one? It’s a beauty.Words don’t do such a painting justice anymore than words capture music, but that’s all I’ve got to offer, blogsmiths. Exotic colors explode in the light better than consonants can explode into mental concepts in one’s neocortex without hallucinogenic flares. Other parts of the brain process color and music, which is only right, far from accounting and bookkeeping functions. And that’s what summer continues to pulse out at us weary humans– colors, warmth, textures, tastes, sounds, smells and sensuality that have lain dormant since last fall. Out they come, not frozen and merely defrosted, no. It’s all fresh produce. So let the bullfrogs croak like lusty blokes. Let the crickets chirrup their little clarinets. Let the neon lightning bugs blush bashfully in humid air. Let the cicadas ge-ge-ge-get going like they da-da-da-do. Big copper moons will rise in the eastern night skies and set like fried cheese by the early morning light. Let wonder wash over us again and again.

 I fully realize that my style of writing is associative and tangential, vinelike  with a cornucopia of images at each tendril. Such growth can easily get out of control and require an editor to prune back the verbiage… come fall, perhaps, but not today. My kiwi licorice limbs are reaching out for support, clinging even to one another in their urgency to thrive before they helplessly collapse. When I was younger I didn’t even possess this much discipline and often drove my sentences into mineshafts and off cliffs while trying to capture elusive moments, feelings, and epiphanies. My artless word bouquets often drooped and decayed without direction or notice. I’m not so sure it’s any different today, I just lack the worry about others’ approval now, which is freeing. I hate having to explain myself to folks who can’t get it to begin with.

So let me finish with a big crescendo, bloggles. In the beginning was summer, and it was good and pure like childhood. And the rest of our lives are spent returning there.