Friday, June 17, 2016

Peonies ..... and Life

Sometimes I think it would be good to lock myself away in a windowless cell for a few decades like the Buddhist nun I recently read about. I wouldn't have to hear of the appalling things human beings are capable of doing to each other, and regularly do. I wouldn't have to see pictures in the newspaper of handsome young men, fathers of children, and mothers too, who can gun down innocent people who have done them no harm and feel that they are the heroes. I wouldn't have to twist my brain into knots trying to understand how a person could evolve from an innocent baby to a gun- or explosives-toting killer. I saw a poster once of a down-at-heel homeless man wandering the streets of Paris. The caption said "We All Come From Lovers." The puzzlement is in how the love gets lost and the baby grows up to be a psychopath.

I got peonies for my birthday last month. I know that must seem like a non sequitur but I hope to show you that it is not. At first this post was going to be just about the peonies.....and then things happened wasn't.

 They looked like dirty little golf balls on stems when they arrived. But, the card assured me, follow the instructions and they will blossom into beauties. I followed the instructions and was rewarded with this -

It was like an extravagant explosion of pink. My eyes drank them in. My nose o.d'd on the heavenly scent. I placed them where I could see them no matter where I was --- cooking, or cleaning, reading, or watching television.

They were beautiful. 

Each morning I changed the water, clipping the bottoms of the stems to keep them fresh. They lasted for several days but each day was like a different decade in a human life ---

--- the newborn stage when they were first delivered, looking like old golf balls;

--- the unfolding into the unblemished beauty of childhood;

--- the full flowering of youth;

--- on into middle age, still beautiful but drying out a little;

And then the inevitable dropping off of petals.

Finally, all that remained was a bowl of crispy remnants that are nevertheless still beautiful and retain much of the beauty of their first day of flowering.

And how does this relate to my opening paragraph? It made me reflect on life. I'm older now than my own parents lived to be. It is sometimes tempting to groan at the prospect of another birthday, to grimace at the bathroom mirror when faced with the incontestible proof of time's passage, to bemoan the dryness, the sagginess, the bagginess, the long-in-the-toothedness, the wrinkles.

The peonies reminded me of what I knew all along  --- that each phase of life has its own beauty. No moaning or ollagoaning* this year. I'm too busy embracing each minute, with all its creaking joints, and multiple blessings. I'm too busy being grateful for my life and its few remaining petals.  I'm sure the victims of  recent events on the world stage would gladly accept a few sags and bags, creaks and aches, if they could only have lived to evolve into them from their snatched-away youth.

As our teacher says at the end of yoga class --

"May you be well,
May you be happy and peaceful
May you be free from all danger,
May you be filled with loving kindness."

(And treasure all your petals no matter what stage they're at)



 # 1. Thank you Tigey!

 # 2  Mr. Google failed me in that I could not find an official spelling (or even acknowledgement of it as a real word) for "ollagoaning" which was in common use in Ireland when I was growing up as a synonym for "wailing."  This is my own, unassisted by Google, effort at writing it phonetically...

Sunday, June 05, 2016

The Return of Sir Hiss

Have I mentioned Sir Hiss?

He came to live with us oh, maybe eighteen months ago. We found him on the porch. I love to sit on the porch and read. Fortunately, I was not sitting when I found him. I had just lifted a cushion from one of the chairs to shake off some leaves when --- Surprise! There was a snake coiled up on the seat, keeping himself warm no doubt. After the initial discovery we were careful to check under the cushions before sitting down. To sit and, too late, realise something reptilian had bagged that seat before you --- well, the mind boggles!

 I sat there reading a few days ago, my mind on my book, not on the possibility of an encounter with Sir Hiss. In fact I'd forgotten all about him. My chair was nestled into the corner, a window on my left, a wall on my right. Suddenly something black flicked by from behind me, on the ground, not on the chair. Had it been on the chair I'd be writing this from my hospital bed --- on account of the heart attack. No heart attack, but I did leap with youthful speed and agility out of the chair. He stopped at the corner and looked back at me, then off he slithered along the front of the house.

I galloped inside for my phone and gave chase.

He was proceeding at a leisurely slither and I noticed how he'd grown. No longer the skinny juvenile we'd met last year, he was now as thick as a rope and five or six feet long. He stopped as I approached and turned to look at me.  "Wanna a piece of this, Lady?" he seemed to be saying, holding his head up regally with the rest of him in langorous loops beneath. For added emphasis he rattled his tail. He's a black racer so I wasn't really scared. He keeps lizards and rodents from taking over the world. Humans are not on his menu and he'd obviously been dining very well on our local lizard population, none of whom were in evidence, though we're usually tripping over them this time of year. Smart. They'd scarpered up the walls and into the trees. I dropped back to a more respectful distance and followed him around the side of the house. He stopped again by the barbeque to check my progress. I maintained my distance and clicked away, wishing I'd had time to get my real camera and not just my phone.

As he advanced across the patio I crept along behind, not spooking him but trying for a better shot. Eventually he tired of me and slithered off out the back. I puttered around in the garden for a while and eventually made my way back to the front porch, remembering my abandoned book. All thoughts of my book evaporated  when I looked at the front door. Not to be deterred by the presence of humans Sir Hiss had circled 'round and stretched himself out the full length of the threshold. No picture for obvious
reasons. Whatever alarming noises I made they were enough to scare him off once more into the bushes.

It was an instructive encounter for me. I tend to forget that we share our habitat with reptiles, not all of them as helpful and benign as the racers. Today we were picking wild blackberries out back, a mission the OC likes to accomplish with military precision. He likes to be thorough. I flit. Between us, nevertheless, we had gathered up a fine bowl of shining black jewels.

I was AWOL, off behind the bamboo, having a last gander at some outlying straggler bushes when I spied a slinky blackness slither in among the canes and disappear. Sir Hiss, I presumed, and backed off to safety. Or perhaps it was Lady Hiss this time. Whatever. The bamboo is way back behind the house. A much better location for Hiss and his ladies than on the porch chairs or across the front threshold.

 Florida's been home forever to snakes, lizards, tortoises, alligators, panthers and all manner of creeping, crawling creatures --- and, in recent times, humans. I feel bad for these critters that, because of us, their habitat has drastically shrunk. I respect their right to their space; I'll stomp, shuffle, sing, whatever it takes to give them fair warning to vamoose when I'm picking blackberries out back or just wanting to enjoy the shade of the bamboo. However, it is difficult to sing while reading, and I can't follow the plot if I'm dancing so I hope that Sir Hiss will stay off my porch for the rest of the summer so I can read in peace.