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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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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The World Says

 

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You are alone. No one will understand.

No one will ever know what you have done

Or ever read a word that you have written.

When you are gone, your work will be forgotten

And every sign that you have lived will fade.

 

I say: Hmmm. Let me think. Yep,

That sounds right. I expect nothing

Less than complete oblivion. In fact, I’m

Counting on it. My work is mine, not yours.

Ha ha. So there. The world pauses, thinking.

 

Then says.  Hmmm. Perhaps I was too hasty.

I say: Available through your local bookstore.

 

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