in the middle of planting grasses he flew in. i turned and he was perched on the fence, studying us. we looked at each other – eye to eye. and this hawk sat still, just watching. before i could get d’s attention and have him turn to see him, the hawk flew off, eventually landing in the higher branches of the east neighbor’s tree, where he stayed for quite some time. we could see him there and he could see us.
from his vantage point i ponder what else he could see. the horizon stretched out before him, his high flight giving him an edge for observation, clarity. his eagle eye taking in the flow around him, the circle of life ever-present.
now it makes me wonder if he knew what was coming, how grounded we would soon need to be. things change in a moment and moving forward requires determination and some acuity. perhaps it was there to let us borrow some of its vast abilities, its confidence, the sense of being in control.
i stared at the hawk. the hawk stared back at me. peacefully, focused. i was just a little astounded at how close it was. maybe it was a little astounded at how close i was. no matter, we both stayed put and the moments slowed down until he took flight.
“it’s the circle of life and it moves us all through despair and hope through faith and love ’til we find our place on the path unwinding in the circle the circle of life”
(circle of life, elton john, tim rice)
“it can all unravel so fast,” he said as we watched footage of erin burnett (cnn) in a van in ukraine, trying to find a border that was open, a border that did not have a fifty-six hour wait in line. the absolutely devastating reality of families trying to leave-and-go-where? is sobering.
we have written each day, because that is what we do. most of the time we write ahead so that the blogs publish early in the morning. sometimes that means that we are not writing of the moment in time, not writing of the crisis, not writing of the emotional and physical upheaval of others in the world. sometimes we are simply writing about something simple, something mundane, something inane, something that may not seem plugged in.
we walked out front the day we pushed littlebabyscion down the driveway so that big red could be threaded through the space between the wall and the xb and driven across the yard to the street. as i stood there, ready to inform d about clearance on either side, i looked down at the wall and the copper ring, standing on edge, was there. it took me by surprise; it had surely stood on its edge for months, through rain and snow and wind, not moving. we realized it was a fitting from the water line replacement work we had done, as the line installed in the ground was copper. the ring had withstood some time and definitely some weather. steadfast. and there it was. a circle of copper.
russia’s invasion into ukraine is the mightiest of disasters. a human-driven catastrophe intended to hurt others, intended for cataclysmic fall, turmoil, shakeout that will last decades, utter grief to a country that has rebuilt, that has risen up in strength and great fortitude.
the mortal politics of this ugly invasion aside, it is abhorrent to watch as families pack a suitcase from their house, their home, their life and split apart – men staying behind, conscripted to fight. we cry again and again, watching as they hug, exchange goodbyes – not knowing – and leave to go mostly to places they do not yet know. the point is to leave. the point is not yet to know. the point of these incredibly strong, stalwart and courageous people is to have hope through the despair.
every bit of news we watch and read brings into focus, yet again, the flimsy grip we have on living. what we thought was important can drop away in mere instants. what we thought was necessary becomes superfluous. what we thought was solid becomes nebulous, untenable.
there are days i really miss the littlehouse. perched right on – merely truly feet from – the shore of lake michigan, it was the sweetest house with a gentle spirit. we both felt it the first time we walked in. a reassuring sense of home filled with light. the lake right outside was moody, as lake michigan is. there were nights i could not sleep, its non-rhythmic crashing keeping me wide awake. and there were nights i could feel its powerful presence, quiet, calm, gigantic potential laying in wait. lake michigan is no weenie lake. it is full of peril and demands respect. but its latent power is potent and gives rise to unparalleled energy.
living near lake michigan off-island is different than on-island, but we still feel the lake. a couple nights ago, windows open, we could hear the surf pounding. wave after wave – with a beach hazards warning on our weather app – crashing onto the rocks. and the other day, walking along the shore, the surf rose high and jewels of water caught the light as it motored into the seawall boulders. an unrelenting and dispassionate force of nature.
monday night we received a facetime call. david’s sister-in-law dialed us so that we could see his mom visiting columbus, his dad. columbus, who has been an unrelentingly sweet force of nature all his life, is failing. this has come on rather suddenly, though he has been traveling the road of dementia now for a time. it was shocking to see his face, thinned by weariness and ailing. it was shocking to not really hear his voice, to just gaze at him, oxygen-aided, to try and talk to him, to say all the words – the important ones – in an unprepared moment. it was shocking to hang up so that they could call his next child, so that he could hear another beloved’s voice.
we don’t know what will happen next. we have the wisdom of hospice personnel and their perspective from years of experience. we know columbus appears lost now, not a lot of acknowledgement on the face that used to light up around anyone he loved, well, truth be told, around people in general. we watch and wait now. completely at a loss, gravity driving the tide, a mystery. we sit in the grace of the gift of columbus’ life and the sun rises and sets and the harvest moon is full. and the waves keep us awake.
just like lake michigan, though, columbus’ power is ever-present. his intense love is deep and unwavering. his family will carry him wherever they go. every day. he is a jewel glistening in the light.
susan and i played hopscotch for hours. we’d toss a bobby pin or a rock and hop to our heart’s content, nothing else pressing on us in the summer sun.
the summer sun seems a bit escalated now. temperatures are soaring across our country. it is astounding to open the accuweather app and see places i have saved having highs in the upper 90s or even topping 100 degrees. extreme weather. it’s only june. summer literally just officially opened its season. and yet, there is article after article about drought and rapidly dropping water levels and severe storms and the beginning of oppressive fires and people evacuating.
this morning i awoke to an alert on my phone. pitkin county in colorado sent out an emergency message about a wildfire. i didn’t remember having these alerts but, now that i think about it, i must have initiated something either during avalanches over the winter or maybe when the high mountain county was sending out news about covid. either way, my beloved girl is up there in those mountains so i will not be likely to take the alerts off now.
climate change in all its iterations is upon us. weather pattern changes and global warming are pressing in on us. it would seem that we should pay attention, especially if we want this world to continue into future generations.
yesterday i was forwarded and read an article in the new york times about the giant redwoods and sequoias, trees that have been individually standing for perhaps as long as 3000 years, as a forest for millions of years. the peril faced by these enormous and wise giants of the forest is imminent. old-growth forests are critical, yet there are now less than 10 percent remaining in this country. we are stewards of the future earth. we need pay attention.
summer stretches in front of us now. the stuff of outdoor adventures, barbecues in the backyard, camping in national and state parks, faraway roadtrips and lazy beach days. coming upon the hopscotch chalked on the sidewalk i couldn’t help but hop. the joy of remembering, the muscle memory of the 1-2-3-45-6-78-9-10 or 1-23-4-56-7-89-10, whatever the template, hopping, hopping.
for that same delight, that same closely-held set of childhood memories, it is my hope that concentrated effort and dedicated budgeting is placed upon incredibly important research, on the threat of climate change, on the sustaining of our environment. we must pass on – to our children and our children’s children and our children’s children’s children – a world that is healthy, an earth that can support the drinking water needs of its people, a country that takes responsibility for its ecological challenges.
in the old-growth forests, the trees have somehow survived “fire and clear-cutting, new growth…death, death and life again.” the author continues, “the power of the tree isn’t in forgetting, but remembering.” (nytimes, lauren sloss)
maybe we need grab a bobbypin, toss it into a chalked hopscotch and hop. maybe that will remind us to remember.
this butterfly must have known. my heart was aching and the steps i was taking down the trail were heavy. and then it appeared.
the glimmer of its wings caught my eye, this iridescent blackish-blue, a red-spotted purple butterfly, inviting me to stop, watch. it flew around me and i twirled in place watching as it circled. it landed on the trail time and again, close enough for me to video it opening and closing its wings, a greeting of sorts. my breathing slowed down. beauty exists.
even in the midst of everything negative, even in the midst of worry, angst, missing, deconstruction, transformation, reinvention, heartwrenching choices, beauty exists. even in the midst of a pandemic and unrest and a country in chaos, beauty exists.
a little research: apparently, my little friend, the red-spotted purple butterfly, looks much like a pipevine swallowtail. the swallowtail butterfly deters predators by being mightily distasteful. the red-spotted purple butterfly has piggybacked onto the swallowtail’s predatory resistance by its similar markings, albeit without a tail. predators sometimes shy away from this butterfly based on the vulgar taste of its close-but-not-related twin. a good scheme. and yet this butterfly – beautifully exquisite, and, although somewhat protected, is still vulnerable.
this red-spotted purple butterfly visit was serendipitous. i needed to slow down. i needed to watch this creature as it invited the sunlight to warm its wings and aid in its nectar-picnic. i needed to be reminded of the butterfly in all its transitions – its metamorphosis through life, its graceful acceptance of its own life-arc, its changes, its patience, its endurance.
the next times i walk on this trail i will likely think of these two butterflies: both beautiful and both trying to sustain, to gather nectar, to complete their own circles of life. but one with such a vulgarity to it, such an acidity that predators stay away. very few are lost in the lesson that predators are quickly taught about its toxicity; animals learn to avoid them. i wonder about these swallowtails in community with other butterflies. and i think about the red-spotted purple, sans toxicity, trying courageously to protect itself in its habitat. it looks a little like a swallowtail, but it’s not. it doesn’t poison the animal who consumes it.
much like people. we look much the same. each of us, beautifully exquisite. and yet. some pipevine swallowtails, toxic and cunning. some red-spotted purples, pure and vulnerable.
ick. i would much rather be thought of as “swell” than “moth-eaten” or “chic” rather than “dowdy”. good grief. this is full of possibilities for an emotional breakdown, an inferiority complex in the mixing bowl.
in the show schitt’s creek, moira (the ever-present, loving and compassionate mom -NOT-) is speaking to the dad (equally as despicable in his own right.) she states that to their children they are “the polar antonym of hip”.
hmm. is this not a defining characteristic of parenthood? we simply cannot be hip like them. we are not them. our children have different hip-ness than we do; our children are swell – and will be swell – in different ways than we have ever been.
i hardly think that the well-practiced eyerolls that my daughter has given me (in my view or from a thousand miles away) are because she thinks i am “modish”. nor do i think the radio silence in-between my equally sweet love-professing text messages to my son are because he is thinking, “wow! my mom is supercool!” it is part of their job to think we are un-hip. it is part of their journey in life to think we are “antediluvian”.
it IS the circle of life. forget rafiki and mufasa and the lions and all. the circle of life is the circle of hipness. you are hip until you are no longer hip. the line is foggy and you will not be notified until it is too late. there is no expiration date or deadline for payment. it just happens. the crease between your eyebrows is deep and the waistline on your jeans slowly creeps up from your hips. un-hip.
but such is life, as my sweet momma would say. maybe it’s time to embrace being ‘the polar antonym of hip’.
i will not be whipping out the credit card to try and stay ahead of it. ‘hip’ is untenable. the silky threads trailing behind it escape grasp. my boots and flipflops and black shirts will have to be my new ‘hip’. my philosophy of less-is-more will have to be my new ‘hip’. driving big red and littlebabyscionwithhundredsofthousandsofmiles will have to be my new ‘hip’. listening to john denver and james taylor and carole king will have to be my new ‘hip’. trying to keep being an honest artist in this world of machinated stuff will have to be my new ‘hip’. and my jeans, sitting sort of on my hips, will have to be my new ‘hip’.
and i will hope-against-hope that maybe, just maybe, my children will think, “wow! mom’s pretty hip.” (only even the word ‘hip’ isn’t ‘hip’.)
in this great mystery of the circle of life, i can think of no better prayer, no better mind-heart-talk, no better statement of living, than these words. there is no partisan leaning, no self-serving ask, no specific request of a higher being. just words to aid the step-step-step of life…words to accompany a walk on this good earth in wonder, in love, in light.
this great mystery, pointedly mysterious in moments high above canyons, on shores where waves crash upon the beach, in the hues of a new day stretching as far as you can see, in the million stars reaching further than you can imagine…a mystery of existence…the question why-am-i-here looking for an answer.
the answer of this great mystery? never one thing. the answer is found in hospital rooms and hands joined in hope, in gales of laughter shared with loved ones, the highest joy moments in one’s life, the lowest crushing moments in one’s life, holding a newborn baby, embracing a failing parent, hearing the voice of one’s grown child, walking side-by-side with another on a path, the about-faces and circular confusion on those paths, love at its best, love at its worst.
in every corner of the globe are people living this mystery. each of these people breathe in and breathe out in the same way. it is part of this great mystery that this breath is even possible. if we can breathe in light, in strength, in love, in peace, in wonder, as one family, we will have embraced the prayer. the mystery will continue to be.