Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gifts from the Sky

My grandmother once told me, “Mary, you’re like the water. If you can’t go one way, you’ll find another path.” I like to think this was her way of blessing me, of discovering the silver thread running through my life. If I am like the water, it’s surely better to flow than to be spreading and stagnant. I’m not always good at cutting my losses, but I can certainly flow in a new direction with enthusiasm. That’s what happened with Ursula’s Frisbees. She loves chasing them, and if I’ve learned one thing about my puppy, it’s that letting her run off her abundant energy is almost more important than feeding her. If she doesn’t get her half hour of chasing the Frisbee at least once a day, she gets a little crazy. But she devours her Frisbees almost as soon as I throw them, filling the yard with plastic shards. The plastic wasn’t working, so I decided to try to crochet a disk., several actually, since I like doing it, and she often loses them.

The softer, floppy disks are a little heavier. They fly more slowly, and don’t sail quite as far. For Ursula, they’re perfect. If I toss one at a high angle, she can catch it in the air. It’s a treat to see her run out and gracefully leap to catch the colorful circle. There’s a tree at the edge of the yard, and every time I tossed the disk, a small herd of Monarch Butterflies would scatter from the tree. The dog would tear past, and then the butterflies would settle again until the next throw. I got caught up in watching the tiny ballet. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I actually wore her out instead of the other way around. She taught herself to retrieve, and generally will bring her toy right back to me. We’re still working on “drop it,” and “leave it.” After 20 minutes or so, she dropped the disk about 6 feet away from my feet, and then came up to be petted. I thought it was an accident, so I retrieved it myself and threw it again. She did the same thing, but I just wasn’t getting it. When I threw it once more it landed in the newly shorn bean field. She casually walked in the other direction, and lay down. Playtime was over.

In Birdland for the past several weeks we’ve had visitations from the sky. At certain times of year we used to get a small but busy bunch of enormous dragonflies. They would zoom around the area above the little marshy part of the yard where the daylilies and cattails grow. They would fly in erratic patterns, like the bats who come at dusk, so I imagine them catching bugs up there. Now that we’ve changed the drainage of the yard and the cattails are gone, or maybe because of my new minimal mowing policy, their airspace has spread out—about 20 feet up, but covering the entire yard—they are like tiny helicopters chasing their frantic prey.

Next came the butterflies. We’ve been hosting various kinds all summer, of course, the small, yellow and white ones, the tiny blue ones, most recently some petite russet ones. Then last week I was mooching a ride to town from my dear friend, Barb. On the way down the driveway a flutter of orange and black caught my eye. There on the mulberry trees were hundreds of Monarchs resting with folded wings, hanging like the rusty leaves of autumn. I yelped, Barb stopped the car and we both got out, then went back in to retrieve cameras. We did a clumsy dance with the butterflies, trying to get close enough to focus a picture without disturbing them. We’d step forward, and the branches would explode with color. We’d step back, and they would settle, folding their wings and showing the muted undersides. We stood a long time, sharing the wonderful sight. Then we got back in the car and drove to town.

Yesterday, as I walked out into the field to get Ursula’s discarded toy, the butterflies scared up again. Not as many as last week—it must be the tail end of their migration—but a few linger in the trees. I thought about the gifts from the sky.

Fly in Peace; Flow in Beauty: Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is fascinated with flying things.

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