Layers of Life

 

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Just outside my patio there is a large azalea bush. It blooms beautiful pink-orange blossoms for about two weeks each year, usually in May. The rest of the year it looks like most any large green bush.

I was sitting by the sliding glass doors that lead to the patio today and I noticed that there was a small swarm of gnats circling in chaotic patterns over the top of the bush. I had never noticed them before. Then I began to think of all the life associated with that one azalea bush.

There are the gnats, who seemed to find it for the moment entirely fascinating, and also a family of sparrows who make it their year-round home, along with a pair of wrens, and family (the baby who keeps trying to get into the apartment and makes me wonder if it is my Dad reincarnated because he loved wrens and loved to sing) and the cardinal pair who drop by for periodic visits along with the butterflies who arrive happily during that colorful two weeks, and disappointedly the rest of the year and the curious bees, especially the large bumblebees who find it intriguing along with the juncos, winter residents, and the wood doves, who love to sun themselves at the base of it next to the ants who make their homes in the soil and climb the wall beside it to get the larger view while beneath the soil, mixed in with the roots, who knows what denizens lurk—grubs and worms and for 16 and a half years, surely cicadas too, to say nothing of a teeming microbiome wholly unknown to me as I stare out.

Sorry—I’ve been reading Kerouac again.

Life is more than we know.

Attention is a path to joy.

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Every Picture...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me:  Who can this be, I wonder?

Poppy:  It's me.

Me:  No! But this is a good girl. I bet she doesn't turn the garden into an excavation site, or send puthers of cushion feathers over the picture frames.

Poppy:  I'm a good girl, I am.

Me:  So was Eliza Doolittle.

Poppy:  She wasn't up to much.

Me:  Well, she did remember to wash her face and paws. She had an admirer called Henry, just like you.

Poppy:  Oh him. I'm not marrying Henry. His legs are too short. ...Come to think of it, that's quite a handicap.

Me:  Poor Henry, he's such a handsome chap. He'll be heartbroken.

Poppy:  Listen, I'm not marrying anyone. I'm a career girl.

Me:  You mean into the side wall after that cat-shaped item?

Poppy:  I'll give her boundaries! She sashays along the top like she's puffing Vivienne Westwood!

Me:  Knows how to pose, that's for sure. Still, so does the mysterious girl in the picture.

Poppy:  It's me! It's me! It's me! It's my pawtrait! Anyways, I am a career girl. I'm writing a book of furry tails for little pups.

Me:  You don't say!

Poppy:  Yes, I do! I've got an agent and a pawtfolio and everything. And that's my avatar for the fans.

Me:  Unbelievable!

Poppy:  You just can't see me 'cos I'm not lookin' at you.

Me:  I guess you're not looking at the cat, either!

 

 

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We Shall Go On to the End

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On this D-Day anniversary, I have to admit I don’t watch war movies, even very good films like The Battle of the Bulge or Saving Private Ryan. I don’t watch anything violent if I can help it, as I don’t want to invite that into my psyche; these images are far more powerful than we understand.

But recently, by some coincidence, I happen to have been reading war books. First, The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman, about the start of World War II, and the epic mistakes and misapprehensions that led to that tragic conflict. And The Enormous Room by E. E. Cummings, a brilliant depiction of a French prison camp during that war.

And last night, I happened on a recording of Winston Churchill’s stirring speech to the House of Commons following the Word War II battle of Dunkirk, and remembered then the slim thread upon which civilization may hang.

“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

Most in the US Armed Services who have died in action did not do so to preserve our country, or our rights. The US as a nation has not been directly threatened since the war of 1812. But thousands of US servicemen died (in Europe and the Pacific, in Korea and Vietnam, in Afghanistan and Bosnia and Somalia and Iraq and Syria) attempting to save civilization, and more, trying to create a better world. We honor their service and sacrifice most by continuing to do so.

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Days of the Cicadas

 

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There was a 1962 movie called Day of the Triffids, starring of all people Howard Keel, about an alien invasion. That is what it feels like around my home today. Brood X has arrived.

Brood X is the term for this brood of cicadas, which has lived underground for 17 years, to emerge for a short time to mate and lay eggs. There are billions of them all over the Mid and North Atlantic seaboard in the US. And my home seems to be Ground Zero.

A cicada, if you have never seen one, is (in this recent incarnation), a winged insect maybe an inch and a bit long. They are surprisingly gentle flyers, and most prefer to perch on the trunks of trees. Oak and beech so far seem to be the favorites as far as I have seen. The din that they make is loud and exotic, even otherworldly, as if stepping outside you have stepped through to a jungle, or another planet. These are the Days of the Cicadas.

I have been around long enough to have seen them before. I have memories of a high school baseball game, the tall wooden poles of the field lighting almost invisible under the covering horde. There are other broods, but this one is the largest by far.

Unlike other swarms, the cicadas do no harm, but harm comes to them. They are something of a feast for the local bird population. I have heard that they are edible by humans, but I have seldom been more thankful to be a vegetarian.

After they have mated, they descend to the ground, and wait patiently to die. This is what fascinates me about them. Seventeen years in the ground for a few moments in the light. I have yet to unpack the richness of this metaphor.

But something about them I find heroic. Maybe it is that at the end of their lives they find the energy to create. I root for them as I see them flying into the trees, rooting for myself in the process.

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And in Other News

"Stephen Evans’ short story collection, The Mind of a Writer and Other Fables, serves as a loving tribute to Evans’s late father, remembered here as an entrancing storyteller who once toyed with becoming a writer himself.

The stories here are diverse, veering occasionally into magical realism, fantasy, and science fiction, but always literary and tightly written.

The shortest stories comprise single paragraphs. Anne Hathaway Remembers, for example, imagines the title character’s longing for her husband (Shakespeare), who was absent for many years. Mrs. Evans Remembers similarly conjures a recollection of the author’s own father through the eyes of his mother. Each manages a depth and intimacy belied by their brevity.

Other stories include fables, oddball premises, and stream-of-consciousness musings, often rather funny, and ranging from silly to profound: Henry David Thoreau tries in vain to sell a publisher on Walden; children erect an army of animate snowmen to repel a zombie apocalypse; a sensitive boy relates being bullied for abstaining from McDonalds, not because he’s a vegetarian, as it turns out, but because he’s a vampire.

There are serious stories too, rendered with sweet melancholy. In one, a young physician tries to help his hallucinating grandfather, who is haunted not by illusion but real memories, each pleasant but heartbreakingly past tense; as they form recollections together they find solace and connection with one another.

The Mind of a Writer is wide-ranging, and not all stories are equally engaging, but most are quite enjoyable and all are rendered with insight and precision. It’s a worthy memorial to Evans’ father, who supported his art, and a lovely collection, imbued with warmth, wit, and wonder."—Blueink Review

 

Ebook Cover December 2020

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