#4 ~ looking up
It was summertime, and I was at Church – my ‘church’, the 2 stall barn that houses our hooved girls, Tempest and Molly, my ‘home’ place of grounding and peace that is filled with the woody, earthy scent of horse and hay. The mares had been turned out to pasture for the morning and I was in the paddock picking up manure, chatting with my shadow companion Djuna Cupcake in that finely tuned place of moving meditation from which I could hear everything round me … a nuthatch sending out a distress call … the operatic wren, and the slight wind whispering through summer oak leaf that offers shade as the sun strides towards it’s zenith … squirrel thumping a tree branch in mock warning to the big black dog snuffling below … loud nestlings begging from the barn rafters , probably the 3rd brood of the summer for Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow … and the lawn mower humming somewhere 15 or 20 acres away – I could almost smell the freshly cut grass.
And then, I heard them coming – like a flock of unruly teenagers laughing and yelling or maybe singing their way home from school, pushing and shoving in fun, a random elbow sending one, and then another, careening out of orbit. I could hear wings whirring – and a sort of laughter – and thwack. “LOOK UP” they called. Thwack. I looked up, just in time to see them tumbling in air from the cover of trees behind me. It was a small skein of Canadians, maybe only 8 of them. But this was not at all something of the ordinary. It looked as if the geese were playing in the air. And it sounded like they were flying in fits of laughter. The thwack was the sound made when one goose shifted feathers and lifted a wing, a move that sent it staggering into it’s neighbor, thwack, sending it, then, into a shallow but out of control dive – just for a moment. More goose laughter. They HAD to be playing. One or two would cut suddenly under the others and like dominoes falling, they each began to flip and flail, turning, one after another, into a whole round sideways somersault and this flying ball of gosling somersaulted its way directly overhead and into the veil of trees beyond. Of course, my camera was sitting by the computer, in the house, in the office, 100 feet away.
I had seen this phenomenon before, years before, but only on television – some Discovery or PBS special about geese, most likely. Yes, they play. Pups and kitties play… and piglets … lambs, foals, fawns, calves … humans … every species’ young plays. Why not geese?
Of course I told Paul all about what I’d seen, I went on and on like a little girl who has seen the Faerie Queen in the garden, and he nodded politely and smiled. Thankfully, he too eventually bore witness to the shenanigans of the giggling, upside down, gymnastic geese … a few summers later the same thing happened again. We have large flocks of Canadians here, some migrate, some stay put for the winter, but there are always geese in the vicinity and they are so delightful to watch that one can’t help but become familiar with their antics, their sounds … In air they are quite precise, orderly, there obviously is reason for what they do up there, and why they do it but what I heard when they came somersaulting my way that second visit again had no order to it, whatsoever. It was an absolute, joyous cacophony, like kids laughing hysterically at fart jokes. I looked up to see them coming, flying low and then directly over my head (did they do this just for me?), giggling and bumping into one another and flipping in the air. And there I was, hooting and hollering and cheering them on. Laughing.
It is these little, sparkling gems, these gifts of astonishment that light up this cover of darkness for me, the murky pallor that envelopes the world now. They act to save me from a grave sense of helplessness in turbulent times – or from myself – and can lift me into a clarity, helping me to remember to breathe when the air just seems too filled with sorrows.
I tend to have a need to linger upon each of these moments of wonder with all of my senses … am desperately compelled to remember every sound, every scent, and to stare like I can’t seem to get enough of it, until it feels as though I am seeing with ‘other’ eyes that are really sight and sound, feel.scent.breath.life.beauty all bundled up together … to take them in, like life, with each breath as if drawing every bit of essence from an experience will place it somewhere deep within, somewhere safe, perhaps safe within my heart, my own personal bank that is filled only with Peace and God and Beauty, and when Peace, or God, or Beauty is needed I can close my eyes, make a withdrawal of a bit of the bounty there, to get me through. This wondrous awe fills me with smiles, laughter, a moment of purity, like seeing or sensing something as only a child will – all that banishes the dark …
A few mornings ago, on my way to the barn through the cool grey of late spring mist I happened to look up. Actually, I always try to remember to remind myself to look up, now – if I don’t I might miss the color of the newly rising sun on the fresh leaves of spring, or yet another otherworldly cloud formation I’ve never seen – or those geese! So, instead of watching my feet trace the path I’ve walked almost every morning for the last14 years, I looked up. There is a huge, round bush of wild tea rose that grows close to the barn – it volunteered itself, rising like a phoenix from the ash of a burn pile years ago, grown now to 10 feet tall and 20 feet in circumference. It goes threadbare through the winter, leaving only enough of it’s leaves to help the deer with their forage and gives the goats something to do with their obsessive compulsive selves (they trim it to perfection and to total nakedness up to 3 feet and the deer take it from there.) … it is awaiting it’s brush with spring now, but still offers a bit of cover to the small birds that like to do their bird things amongst it’s branches during the day. So I looked up – to see this stately rose bush all a’glow … with blue balls! No. What? Yes, there were fluffy vivid blue balls of something set against the starkness of barren, winter gray branches, like strange ornaments or an exotic fruit. As I approached one of the balls quivered and flapped blue wings and as it flew off I realized that this was the family, newly fledged, of one of our local pairs of nesting Scrub Jays. 7 of them in total, Mom, Dad and babes, thinking they were hidden so smartly there in the naked bush! I stopped, stared … with those other eyes. Settled softly … Drank it in. Electric Koolaid Acid Blue Balls Of Fluff In A Winter Rose Bush. This was one of those moments. For me at least. Would this excite everybody? Probably not. But I was delighted, and stilled myself, took it in. Breathed it. Banked it. One by one the babes flew clumsily, all a’flutter like tweety bird, to the branches of the oak just beyond. Will I ever see this again? (Camera? Sitting by the computer, in the house, in the office, 100 feet away.)
If I’d not looked up, I’d have missed it. It made me smile. It makes me smile, still as I write this. I banked it, and it’s coming to me in it’s maturity now, in spades … no, in gold.
So, in these times when fear is being handed out like candy and spreads like a mutant virus, when the hard things are all around us, when many of us are losing so much, and so many, I hope that you will please try to remember to look up. Literally. Metaphorically. Even in the city, every sky offers up breathtaking clouds, each new day’s fingerprint, unlike those of any other day… or you can find the magic in an old woman’s face, brightening with the gift of your smile, or in the bounty of good blessings you feel seeing a homeless person gently caressing a beloved dog companion – or in that hawk riding the thermals above or taking it’s park-catch home to it’s own nestlings at home somewhere up on a sky rise’s ledge … You may see things that take your breath away and in some strange way, fill you instead with hope … Looking to the goodness doesn’t mean that we need to forget about all of the hard stuff that is out there for us to pay attention to – it just means that we are taking care of ourselves. Filling up so that we have something to give back. Please, look up and take whatever crazy, beauteous moment you find and with all of the senses you can muster, bank it away deep in your heart – it may come in handy the next time you despair, or the next time someone needs a bit of a lift from you. It will pay you back well, I promise.