Crime and Punishment

She swept in, piercing his calf with scissor-like mandibles, spreading the blades to sever capillaries. At the same instant, a quick injection of burning saliva, to make the blood flow. Her plan, to zoom away with the prize before he knew what hit him.

 

Sadly for her, she was dealing with the lightning reflexes of my husband.  Which is how she ended up under my magnifying glass.  A greenhead was she, horse fly of coastal marshes.

 

Her pain is over, and my husband’s is abating.

 

Reminds me of the time something flew into our son’s blond hair. Instinct bade him grab it, whereupon it unrolled its sucking mouthpart and gave his finger such pain as to light up the neighborhood with his screams.  They don’t call it assassin bug for nothing.

 

As with the greenhead, the encounter ended badly for the bug. Which is how it came to be under a magnifying glass.  Which is how we know what it was.

 

I will say this: the burning agent of an assassin bug is meant to liquefy its hard-shelled insect prey, for ease of consumption.  It didn’t intend to liquefy David. It was simply defending itself.

 

Whereas, the greenhead acted with malice. At least from the perspective of a human leg.

 

She would say on the stand that she needed that blood, just a few drops, to make more greenheads.

Keep Watch. Take Heart.

On my way to the kitchen through the dark house I caught a glimpse of brightness in the southern sky. Heading to the Keurig, anticipating coffee/planet research, I walked into the open door of the dishwasher. Undeterred, I started the coffee and looked up morning sky for May 23.  Then to the patio where I sat on the concrete with brick wall at my back and trained binoculars upward.  I framed Jupiter and Saturn between two power lines and listened for a while, not least to retrograde Phoebe of Saturn, who reflected on my shin:  “You know that June prayer calendar you’re working on? I believe it’s called “Keep Watch. Take Heart.”?

 

Scanning to the east, I found red Mars, shining through the branches of the Chinese elm.

 

When the sun’s up I’ll close the dishwasher and check on mama robin outside the kitchen window.

Mid-May, Evangeline West

“Active but secretive.”

 

Good description of the behavior of the Carolina wren.

 

His song is another matter.

 

5:45 this morning I was at my computer trying to edit a newsletter when suddenly there arose from the dark outside a merrymaking so loud as to make further editing impossible:

 

“GERMANY GERMANY GERMANY!”

 

“CHEESEBURGER CHEESEBURGER CHEESEBURGER!”

 

“GERMANY GERMANY GERMANY!”

 

This curiously timed exuberance went on for ten minutes or so.

 

Finally a mockingbird at the other end of the yard had enough and began one-upping him.

 

“GERMANY GERMANY GERMANY!

TWEEDLY TWEEDLY TWEEDLY!

BEEDLYOOP BEEDLYOOP BEEDLYOOP!

CHEER CHEER CHEER!

GERMANY GERMANY GERMANY!”

 

It was still slap dark.

 

The wren rollicked, the mocker retorted, a top-volume airing of expertise.

 

A yellow-crowned night heron emitted one KOWK.

 

At last they all fell silent. For now.

 

As the sky lightened I heard a nestful of unidentified babies cheeping for their breakfast.

 

The wren cranked up again.

 

Pretty soon the chickadee family rolled out of bed – two parents and four trainees:

“SEE BEE SEE BAY!

CHICKADEEDEEDEE!”

 

Then the blue jay, the REAL blue jay, raised his merry BEEDLYOOP!

 

Later at the kitchen sink I spied Mama Robin starting a new nest in the magnolia tree.  Sticks she brought and shreds of plastic.  Round and round the cavity she ooched, making the perfect circle she’s known for.  A squirrel crept too close.  She erupted into a brick-breasted ball of fury.

 

Now it’s early afternoon. The cardinals are caroling.  A redbellied woodpecker is tentatively tapping the gutter. The wren has resumed.

 

By some miracle I’ve finished my editing.

 

New Phoebe

When my niece was born, her paternal grandfather decided to call her New Phoebe.

This he did to distinguish her from another Phoebe, born some time ago. Which is to say, his daughter Phoebe.  Which is to say, me!

Today is New Phoebe’s birthday.  I pay tribute:

 

Phoebe turns 26

By Aunt Phoebe

 

Lore from my bird books:

Eastern Phoebe, found in open areas, usually near water

 

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They choose low, conspicuous perches

and dip their tails in a characteristic motion.

Persistent tail-wagging is a sure call.

 

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From their perch they dart out to snag a tasty insect, then return.

 

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Nest:  A cup of mud, moss, grass, on ledge, bridge, building.

Eggs, 4-5, white

 

Voice:

Song of two rough, whistled phrases usually alternated

Seeeriddip, seebrrr, seeriddip, seebrr…;

also gives clear, whistled weewor tiboo

and abrupt wijik

year-round.

Common call a distinctive simple chip: high, clear, and descending.

 

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I have a niece named Phoebe

Near the Pacific she doth dwell

Dipping and wagging her tail

What she’s thinking, who can tell?

 

I imagine she’s living her life

Though perhaps the days seem long

Doing her very best

To sing her special song

 

Bright eye, white throat, dear head

Dreaming of purpose divine

Tuning her voice to what’s hers to sing

As surely she doth shine

 

So Seeeriddip, weew and tiboo

and a chip for punctuation

A happy birthday to you

With lots of jubilation!

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Love,

Aunt Phoebe

 

 

 

What Rhymes with Purple?

Answer:  Not Much

 

Our color-tour continues.

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Part of the mystic lure of purple:

It has no rhyme except for hirple.

‘Walk with a limp’ is hirple, defined,

So let’s hirple along and see what we find.

 

 

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When Hubble revealed this scene of purple,

My heart did verily sing and burble.

 

 

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Closer to home, I turn to my sink—

With such fine gloves, why should I shrink?

 

 

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Bumbling bee upon my duranda

Found more pollen than he planned ta.

 

 

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Catalogs are full of purple—

With all my soul I want this myrtle.

 

 

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Image by Katy Hambright

Purple persuasion, tightly it clings—

tiny Spring Vetch–affection it brings.

 

 

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Image by Katy Hambright

A Prairie Nymph blooms just one day—

One blink of an eye, then goes away.

 

 

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Pinewood Lily, or Purple Pleat—

The flair of this one’s hard to beat!

 

 

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Image by Katy Hambright

Here I stand on Blazing Star—

A Katydid is what I are.

 

 

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Image by Katy Hambright

Birdfoot Violet, gentle and small

Arms wide open to bless you all.

 

 

 

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Purple cow upon the lea,

A few more rhymes and then you’re free!

 

Violet shrinks while lavender twinkles,

Magenta inks and periwinkles,

 

Likeable lilac, quiet mauve,

Orchid blooming ever suave,

 

Thistle-cones by country gate,

Tasty grapes upon a plate–

 

May our hearts be lifted by myriad purples,

May our steps be strong, with minimum hirples.IMG_1525.jpg

Scarlet and Crimson and Ravishing Rose

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Breath-taking surge of rich and bright

Red on my windowsill catches the light

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Wondrous show of Nature’s art

Red on my patio catches my heart

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Dapper fellow knows it’s true

A dash of red can work for you

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Red can cheer the chilliest scene

With red on a tree, who needs green?

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Festive red my sons did wear

What handsome lads! What savoir-faire!

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Lads grew up, and who could have known?

One has a red-wearing child of his own

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A rousing color, glowing so true

One grandbaby, and now there are two

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As for cars, I was happy with gray

But then I saw Ruby, and hey hey hey!

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Scarlet and crimson and ravishing rose

And one more thought before I close:

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When days are long and hope has fled

Try a sparkle of sprightly red!

 

A Prayer for Good Health

April 24, 2020 – All but one of these images are from my little corner of the world.

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No better news than this I think

To hear that you are in the pink

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The pink of health a rosy glow

Is what we all would like to know

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Pink azalea in the spring

Blooming, fresh as anything

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Glory lily on the vine

Glowing bright and feeling fine

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Pink caladium by the door

Smiling, cheerful evermore

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Pink curcuma in the ground

Hale and hearty, safe and sound

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Like a grandma with her first

Tickled pink, and fit to burst

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Roseate spoonbill in fine feather

In the pink, whatever the weather

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And when to slumber down we sink

What better friend than a friend who’s pink

 

Balm to Wounded Hearts

April 18, 2020

In today’s paper I read an editorial by Wendy Paulson titled “Nature helps us heal and cope.”  Her words were beautifully crafted.  One sentence in particular spoke to me:  “Nature offers balm to wounded hearts, peace to troubled thoughts, light and life that outshine the darkness and the gloom of the daily news.”

Balm, peace, light and life.  Three families of my acquaintance could use some of that.  But only time can fully bring it.  Three families in pain.  Worlds shattered, lives turned strange, ground beneath them fragile.  One person lost his wife, one person lost her husband, one family lost a beloved son.  (None to the virus, not that it matters.)

And so, the vigil continues.  Nursing a slightly pulled back — I moved something I shouldn’t have — I reach for my best stationery and write some sympathy notes. My portion today of balm, peace, light and life.

In the meantime, the robin family outside my kitchen window is thriving. Two hard working parents. Three little fuzz-tops, beaks sticking hopefully skyward.  Each day they take up more room, and they’ve begun jostling and elbowing each other.

We’ve had a couple of windy days.  I was a little worried about the babies.  But then I remembered that robin nests are fortified with mud. “A mighty fortress is our nest, a bulwark never failing!  One day we’ll grow up and go forth and build our own.  No one will have to teach us, either — we’ll just know what to do.”

Long years ago I wrote an essay about robins.  It seems worth repeating!

American Robin

 

Just at first light, or a little before,

comes a caroling.

 

Sweet notes, simple and pure.

 

Not the ardent “cheer!” of the cardinal.

 

Not the jubilation of the jay, that blue bandit.

 

Not the mocker, whose repertoire this year

includes an especially fine “chickadee-dee-dee.”

 

 

No, here is the robin,

“a very familiar bird;

recognized by its gray back

and brick-red breast.”

 

American robin, sturdy fellow.

Commonly seen on grassy lawns.

Not too forward, not too shy.

 

In song, just a few short phrases, rising and falling.

Just a few sweet notes, simple and pure—

and robin has delivered his message.

 

Beyond that, he has little to say.

 

But all day long, his hard work speaks for him.

“Work, for the night is falling!”

 

I take his message, and try to apply it.

 

 

 

 

New Life

Saturday, April 11

I’ve been watching the back hedgerow, where ten stalks have risen from our Queens of the Nile, aka agapanthus.  Ten stalks, each topped with a bud.  They’re taking their time to bloom, which is part of the pleasure.

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As my attention has been trained on the above and on the usual backyard birds flashing about their usual activities,  I missed a major development in the magnolia tree just outside our east-facing kitchen window: stealth-robins have built a nest!  Didn’t know it till this morning when a movement caught my eye – mama rearranging herself on a pile of twigs, a structure just barely visible in the dense array of dark magnolia leaves.  Which makes sense.

Since then I’ve been spying on her, catching a flash of orange, a yellow bill glowing in the morning sun, alert black eye ringed with white. I’m imagining a clutch of blue eggs under her breast.

So much depends on her faithful tending and his faithful meal-providing.  Blessings, my dears.

 

For Holy Week, a New Poem

Isolation Oscillation – Bearing the Darkness

by me

 

My breath in my facemask fogs up my glasses

I’m just one of the many, one of the masses

Separated, six feet apart

Yet all in one boat and part of one Heart

 

I’ve long suspected we need each other

We children of God and Earth, our mother

Now all the more I’m less distracted

From facing the fact that we’re all impacted

 

Less distracted, but more confused

About how to live with so much to lose

How to cherish each shining hour

When something so lethal holds such power

 

Breathing in, my glasses clear

Breathing out, more fog, oh dear

And so it is, this oscillation

Twixt confidence and consternation

 

A rise and fall, a variation

A surge of certain, then hesitation

A creative wave, then, why should I care?

A vexing vibration, twixt hope and despair

 

I live on a spectrum twixt yes and no

An alternation, an ebb and flow

And in my emotions I glide on an arc

From light and hope to fear and dark

 

And now Easter comes with resurrection

But joy must be mixed with sober reflection

Joy must be tempered and pain not shut out

As we raise our jubilant Easter shout

 

The robins rejoice but take nothing for granted

They search for their food with one eye slanted

They scurry along then freeze, stretching high

To scan the yard for reason to fly

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Robins rise with cheerful song

They do their work the whole day long

They have a method that keeps them steady

A confident practice that keeps them ready

 

And so I manage my oscillation

With Methodist determination

To practice the gifts that I do best

To rise with resolve and then to rest

 

I doubt I’m protected from all alarms

But I know I’m sustained in loving Arms.

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Okay, so that poem we’ll call my version of

faith, in the age of pandemic.