A Marvelous Understanding

I was sad one day and went for a walk;
I sat in a field.

A rabbit noticed my condition
and came near.

It often does not take more than that to help at times—
to just be close to creatures
who are so full of knowing
so full of love
that they don’t chat,
they just gaze with
their marvelous understanding.
~St. John of the Cross, Love Poems From God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West, trans. Daniel Ladinsky, p. 323

It would be good to have an understanding
that helps people feel better
just by being near.

Knowing that you can be comforting
simply by being who you are
in that moment.

Even if you are a little afraid to be there.

The Solace of Slugs

“Girls are like slugs—they probably serve some purpose, but it’s hard to imagine what.”
― Bill Watterson, in Calvin and Hobbes

Slugs appear out of the ground after a drizzle like seeds that plump and germinate miraculously overnight. The slug crop burgeons, and with it, oozy trails of glistening slug slime.

We live on a hill, which means I need to walk downhill to the barn for chores.  On one particular day, the path can include a slug (or three) under each foot. That produces a certain memorable squish factor.

I’ve learned to don my rubber boots and just squash and slide. There will undoubtedly be more slugs to replace the flattened lost, like watching freeze-dried shrinky dinks spontaneously rehydrate.

The trip to the barn for chores becomes a hazardous journey, slipping and sliding on hordes of slugs that have surfaced everywhere like pimples on a teenager’s back. They crawl out from under every leaf and every stray piece of wood to bask in the morning dew, replenishing the moisture lost over weeks of hot sun. Somehow I always suspected there was a secret world of organisms out there, oozing and creeping in the dark of the night, but preferred not to think about them if I didn’t have to. But they would confront me regularly to remind me of their existence and my own.

At dawn, the cat food bowl sometimes contained clues that parties were being thrown at midnight by the back porch, with glistening slime trails in and out of the bowl and in concentric circles all around. When I would grab a handful of green beans in the garden, some of them would be slippery with slug slime and neat little chunks would be missing. The tidiest stealth invasion was a tomato that looked invitingly red and plump from one side, but when picked, was completely cored, hanging in a dangling half shell from the vine with mucus strands still dripping. There was some serious eating going on right under our noses.

Actually the chewing is under the slug noses, all four noses to be precise. With that much sensory input, no wonder a slug knows about the transparent apple peelings lying on the bottom of my tall compost bucket outside the back door. I think they traveled for miles to find this particular stash, climbing up the bucket sides and slithering down into glorious apple orgy. The party lasted until morning when I discovered them still congregating and clinging, gorged and immobile in their satiety on the sides and bottom of the bucket. I had unwittingly provided the means of their intoxication, having now become an accessory to minors in possession.

In my more tolerant older middle years, I now appreciate slugs for what they are. No longer do I run for the salt shaker as I did in my younger, more ruthless days. Instead I find it strangely reassuring that a land locked amorphous invertebrate can survive weeks of summer heat, weeks of no rain and still thrive to replenish its kind. If something so homely and seemingly inconsequential to the world can make it in spite of conditions that conspire to dry it to dust, then maybe I have a chance as well. I too may not be presentable at times, and sometimes leave behind evidence of where I’ve been and the havoc I’ve created. But then someone puts out a sweet meal for me to feast on, allowing me a celebration of life, and spares me when what I deserve is the salt shaker.

It is solace indeed: if the slugs are loved, than so am I.

For a Real Twitter

photo by Josh ScholtenAs I headed out to do farm chores this morning, I heard unusually loud bird vocalizations from the woods near the barnyard.  They were distinct twitters and trills–friendly and engaging sounds being answered between the woods and our lone fir up on our hill.  I stopped a moment to look and saw two mature bald eagles with at least one younger eagle swooping back and forth over a few hundred yards between various perches, clearly enjoying a winter morning together.  Their sounds were very much like what you can hear clearly on this video from the Eagles of Hornby Island webcam video starting around the 2 minute mark.

Eagle Vocalizations (Doug Carrick webcam from Hornby Island eagle nest)

These were happy family sounds; there was an intimacy and comfort in their back and forth that made me assume I was probably seeing and hearing a conversation between a mated pair and their grown offspring.  I’m more used to hearing the raptor screech of the local hawks and eagles as they threaten others in their territory or they announce a kill but this truly was a delicate and melodic twitter one would expect from a much smaller (and less intimidating) bird throat.

I’m rather relieved to know the bold bald eagle has a softer side–almost canary-like–when they are together as a family.  All that talon action, screeching, ripping and shredding of prey can get a bit overdone.  Instead, an eagle can use Twitter to communicate the important things without ever needing a keyboard.

I’m grateful all I have to do is step outside my back door to get the latest Tweet.

photo by Josh Scholten