Dragonfly

I love being with dragonflies by the pond.  They dart about so swiftly, landing briefly before gliding up and around again, playing games of chase and tag.  Their shimmering wings make a funny rustling sound, like tissue paper, when they bump into one another.  Sometimes a hummingbird zips to and from the jewelweed patch, beak needling speckled orange blossoms between them and I marvel at how fast life moves around the pond; except the trees reflected on the watery surface where even the sky is in motion, and there sitting still and hidden upside down is a great blue heron!  Interesting where dragons fly, elegantly delightful, body blue the color of sky, no clouds gathering wool . . . dreamy days flashing by . . .

There’s a story by Doris Stickney that from time to time I tell with slight alterations and embellishments, her tale goes like this:

“Down below the surface of a quiet pond lived a little colony of water bugs. They were a happy colony, living far away from the sun. For many months they were very busy, scurrying over the soft mud on the bottom of the pond. They did notice that every once in awhile one of their colony seemed to lose interest in going about. Clinging to the stem of a pond lily it gradually moved out of sight and was seen no more.

“Look!” said one of the water bugs to another. “One of our colony is climbing up the lily stalk. Where do you think she is going?”

Up, up, up she slowly went …. even as they watched, the water bug disappeared from sight. Her friends waited and waited but she didn’t return…

“That’s funny!” said one water bug to another. “Wasn’t she happy here?” asked a second… “Where do you suppose she went?” wondered a third.

No one had an answer. They were greatly puzzled. Finally one of the water bugs, gathered its friends together. “I have an idea. The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk must promise to come back and tell us where he or she went and why.”

“We promise”, they said solemnly.

One spring day, not long after, the very water bug who had suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk. Up, up, up, he went. Before he knew what was happening, he had broke through the surface of the water and fallen onto the broad, green lily pad above.

When he awoke, he looked about with surprise. He couldn’t believe what he saw. A startling change had come to his old body. His movement revealed four silver wings and a long tail. Even as he struggled, he felt an impulse to move his wings…The warmth of the sun soon dried the moisture from the new body. He moved his wings again and suddenly found himself up above the water. He had become a dragonfly!!

Swooping and dipping in great curves, he flew through the air. He felt exhilarated in the new atmosphere. By and by the new dragonfly lighted happily on a lily pad to rest. Then it was that he chanced to look below to the bottom of the pond. Why, he was right above his old friends, the water bugs! There they were scurrying around, just as he had been doing some time before.

The dragonfly remembered the promise: “The next one of us who climbs up the lily stalk will come back and tell where he or she went and why.” Without thinking, the dragonfly darted down. Suddenly he hit the surface of the water and bounced away. Now that he was a dragonfly, he could no longer go into the water…

“I can’t return!” he said in dismay. “At least, I tried. But I can’t keep my promise. Even if I could go back, not one of the water bugs would know me in my new body. I guess I’ll just have to wait until they become dragonflies too. Then they’ll understand what has happened to me, and where I went.”

And the dragonfly winged off happily into his wonderful new world of sun and air…….”

There’s a dragonfly snippet from a larger poem I like called The Two Voices by Alfred Lord Tennyson that says . . .

“Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.”

Garden of Life

The garden is popping and lively now at the height of summer.  Echineacea and zinnias provide a place for butterflies to convene and sip while sitting.  The zinnias are beautiful.  I love how their petals curl open from the center, forming swirl upon swirl of soft tongues that shape a whole flower head.  Amidst them the zucchinis and squashes are growing bigger than ever, thriving off the straw and shavings we spread in the beds last autumn from in the chicken coop, and the bees are heard and seen climbing around inside their bright yellow blossoms.  Lamb’s quarters are sending silvery powdery seed clusters out and the mint is running rampant.  When we walk through the bed and brush against them, they release refreshing scents all around.  This year the broccoli and cauliflower grew big but bolted right away into bitterness; feels like it’s the year of squashes, beans, cucumbers and tomatoes, as the lettuce did much the same as the brassicas, and the peas kind of grew and dried up really fast as well.  So far, this year’s medicine is showing up as lots of yarrow, Queen Anne’s Lace where ants climb about; less bee balm than ever, hardly any prunella.  Changing climate in these mountains, after eight years of feeling out the growing pattern, it’s shifted.

Eight years it’s been since we found our homestead and moved to make our abode here.  It’s been an experience with much learning and unlearning too.  The past two years we’ve shared our hens eggs with black snakes.  This year we found one had moved in again, and it was eating all the eggs.  We disturbed it enough to keep it going before coming back again and again to the nesting box, eight feet up off the ground in the chicken run; it would lay coiled up hissing and striking at the long pole we’d poke in there.  We’d hoped to scootch it out and into a bucket to relocate, but it got the better of us every time, all seven feet of it lunging out before it would drop and slither away into the underbrush.

While I wrestled with how to get it out of there without ending its life, it sealed its own fate when one day Layla went to feed the chickens and found one of the chicks that Goldie had hatched out, eight weeks old, stretched out in the shape of a snake from head to shoulders; the black snake coiled up above having regurgitated it probably after constricting and attempting to swallow it . . . .was it too big to gobble past the wings or had Layla interrupted it while it slowly sucked, I don’t know, but this was a bit too much for Layla.  She’s been caring for our chickens since she was around seven or eight, and is now, at fifteen, our primary chicken keeper.  When she found the chick in this state, she took the pitchfork in her hand and went for that black snake with murder in her eyes!  She stalked it for a half an hour before she got it, after which Anousheh spotted a second one coiled up in a nesting box!  Layla stabbed that one too, her outrage at the dead chick greater than seven feet of hissing striking intimidation coming at her and this time when it dropped out and tried to get away, our dog Clover had come by to see what was going on, and was on that snake in a second.  Her method is very interesting:: she throws the snake in such a way that it falls hard and is somewhat dazed from the impact.  She does this repeatedly until the snake is too stunned to do anything and then she gets in there and bites it quite dead.  Two snakes in one morning.  We moved their extremely long bodies to a bower of bee balm and yarrow to lay to rest intertwined with respect.

I feel a twinge of regret every now and then, wondering whether there was another way, and then I realize this is part of unlearning and learning:: an attitude perhaps around death and endings and beginnings and life that meets you in your face and shows you that it’s all part of a whole, and how you greet it is where an essence lives, what comes after springs from that, coiling and uncoiling, neither this nor that but this and this and a bit of that as well.  I wrote a short poem afterward, may work on it some more, later . . .

It comes together
At the tip of a pitchfork
Thrust just so and it whips
Like a Rudyard Kipling tale
Wrapped around the tines
Mouth open wide fangs bared
Hissing and striking
Until there’s no more
Thinking, grappling, or hooks
Only dueling
Only deliverance.

. . . . in the meantime I am thankful for the eggs we now enjoy and find it ironic that our hens flew into the peach trees and ate up all the peaches, save the ones ripe enough to pick and ripen a bit more in a brown bag.  They have moved on into the boughs of our laden apple trees, where they’re pecking at the fruits.  Snakes eat eggs and die, do we eat the chickens now that they’re eating up the fruit?!  Fair trade for eggs laid?  Many questions, how many variations of response, is there reconciliation?  Sooner or later we go to the river and swim with trout and in those fluid moments there are neither questions nor answers, just so many leaves fluttering above in layers between us and the blue sky floating by, snakes on rocks nearby sunning, and we are all together in a spiral, dancing with and part of a garden of life.

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Mid-Summer Swinging

O will you lay with me
Beneath a shady tree,
On a ship we’ll set a sail
Row out to meet a whale,
Under the clear bright skies
We’ll swing and shut our eyes,
O will you come with me
Out to the apple tree.

summer days . . . rains washed out the patchwork shovel mending of the driveway, re-rutted and grooved them anew, similarly in the garden . . . the bales of straw we so cleverly laid out on pathways have kept the weeds down, however, they have also sprouted! What a chortle!

the beds are giving chard and peas,
hairy motherwort, nuzzling bees,
the ‘new’ garden flower
blooms magenta hour after hour,
ladybirds spotted inside the fold
sit dark red on yellow quietly bold

the old mulberry tree fallen over long ago has rejuvenated and sprouted shoots, with a bit of pruning and clearing of thorny thicket we climb around and upon the gnarled intertwined trunk . . . in crevices where bark has decayed there’s plants sprouting and down low from out of cracks, mushrooms climbing; what a tree, majestic is she!! . . . we enjoy fruit and shade at her side where she does abide with a bramble left behind her where rabbits reside . . .

this solstice we gathered and celebrated mulberry, hummingbird, hollyhocks, and daily lilies, simple pleasures with daylong arms and firefly nights.

Some like it hot

 

It’s heating up quickly here in the Blue Ridges; showing in the garden where peas and lettuce, in past years their pods swelling with sweetness, leaves juicy and fresh at this juncture, are already beginning to bolt.  We’ve had downpours, lots of rain all at one time, deluged with water after a dry warmish winter with next to no snow.  Mixed up into this are mood swings, from warm to cold to warm to hot to cold and wet to hot, fluctuating differently than comfortable predictable patterns.  Which asks the question,  to ponder ponderously the preponderous until it’s preposterous?  Or the other question comes a calling with fish in tow:: how then to fluctuate with the flow, swim with the current, surf the wave?

We’ll  be popping in tomatoes and cucumbers along those pea trellises, they love the heat in which they grow and thrive rather than bolt away, sow beans and squashes;  water in the evenings followed by rain dance . . . which requires mortar, pestle, shells, and firefly’s . . . wait and see what happens . . .  could be ‘the’ year for heat loving plants rather than cool season ones in these mountains for a change.

The cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower are under cover, cloaked in stealth away from the sight of those agents, those cabbage butterflies, so white and dainty, yet devastating once they get to setting eggs that hatch green camouflaged caterpillars that creep and crawl and devour the leaves, leaving behind dainty green lace.  The row cover also gives them a bit of a buffer from the heat, keeps more moisture in as well, so we’re hoping to enjoy them and who knows, the peas may yet get to springing up.

In the meantime, there’s quiches with eggs from the hens and asparagus, nettles, lambs quarters, mint tea, and best of all, though the driveway was flooded and battered, a little stirred and partially fried:: twas nothing a few boys with shovels couldn’t patty cake patch back into ship shape, dare I say, better than before 🙂

Springing Along

 

Lilac has perfumed the air and blossomed; the wind and rain have blown away spent blooms but not before we gathered flowers to infuse in a syrup that’s handy to soak pound cake with, drizzle over pancakes, or add a splash to lemonade later in the year, a reminder of lovely lilac days.  Spring is moving along fast.  Knotweed, garlic mustard, and burdock are all big and past their tender tasty prime.  Lambs quarters are popping up with milkweed shoots, asparagus is on its way to ferning, and we’re on our hands and knees turning over wormy dirt where cabbages, broccoli, chard, kale, and lettuce are being given homes.  The roses have begun budding and yellow jackets are buzzing around looking for a spot to make their nests. Little Leif has come and gone.  He spent many a day away from his desert home in these lush mountains, waking to the sound of Lordly Cock crowing, popping out to gather eggs.  He’d put things down on the grasses, where they would disappear from sight, swallowed by the tall greenery  . . . . and oh, his expression, then the search!  Fingers parting the swathes, peeking, crawling nose to ground, looking for his marbles!

 

 

Too quickly the days are passing, one day to the next, one week to another, year to year; again we’re doing a garden, and though gardens are being done yearly, they’re never the same, giving what’s given to them . . .  piquing curiousity, for in a garden is made visible the fluctuations all around.  Even while the earth feels sure beneath the feet and hands it is turning turning and we with it, pulling cinquefoil here leaving it there, choices being made moment to moment, peas or dock?  Is there room for both?  Where to make the cuts with chicory and evening primrose, both beloved by bees and butterflies so beautiful, yet they’ll outgrow and crowd out chard and swallow the basil; choices choices that shape a patchwork crazy quilt that shows fully its story later, as the days and weeks and months keep turning.

Today under the row covers we found ditches formed by the downpour a few days ago, a rain so hard it flooded the driveway, making it un-driveable until early evening.  Surely it would have remained flooded, three creeks instead of one, had the leaves, logs, and branches not been moved out where they were damming up the flow, sending water bursting through the banks, frothing and rushing downstream into the big river at the bottom of the mountain, which in turn flooded out through porches and swing sets onto the road.  Though the driveway’s cleared, it’s scarred and marked, rutted by the passage of water eroding the earth; here and there are sand and gravel islands.

When I drive it, I’m reminded of the Karachi roads where I learned to drive; zig zag zoo, together up together down, around a pothole here, a mountain of a speedbump there, another ditch and groove, year round bump and go dirt roads . . . . though I’ve heard tell in the years between now and then those roads remain only in my memory, having been smoothed out and paved by machinery and advancements in that land; ironic that I live on a country road in an already advanced country that rivals those roads now!  Turn turn churn, East to West, West to East, sometimes it feels like we’re all wildly whirling in opposite directions from where we originate, thus shifting and moving this to that and that to this, eroding being eroded replenished absorbed reshaping where we are based on where we’ve been in a musical chairs medley until Haughty Heron flies overhead and lands on a swaying branch, peers down his long long nose and says, Hmm, I’ve seen this all before, now where are the fish?  Corn Woman grins at him in response.