Tag Archives: nature

Another post on transformation

I’ve been out of sorts lately. Feeling overwhelmed, overtaxed, under appreciated.

I notice a heaviness in the middle of my chest.

Now, I can’t remember a time when the heaviness wasn’t there.

“There’s a lot of change going on,” W says.

Our last two have left the nest. One just got his driver’s license and started community college. The other is off to college in Georgia.

“How many caterpillars do you have?” W asks.

“I don’t know,” I say. “Ten?”

At first, I don’t know what my caterpillaring has to do with my heavy chest. But then it hits me.

“Ugh,” I say at the obviousness of it all.

Every year, I grow milkweed in our yard. Monarch butterfly caterpillars only eat one thing. Milkweed.

The butterflies lay their pinhead-sized eggs on the underside of the leaves. I take clippings with eggs or newly hatched caterpillars into the house and put them into an empty 20-gallon aquarium where they’re safe from predators.

Our cats take turns sitting on top of the cage like furry mother hens.

How many caterpillars do you see?

The caterpillars gorge on the milkweed leaves. If you put your ear close, you can actually hear them chomping away. Nom nom. True story.

IMG_2555When the caterpillars get big and fat, they climb to the top of the cage and hang down in a J. They shed their skin and wrap themselves in a chrysalis. Inside this light green sac, they consume their own bodies (gruesome) and then emerge 10 to 14 days later as black and orange winged beauties (beautiful). It’s a narrative I can relate to.

Usually, I find one or two eggs or caterpillars.

This year, I lost count at 10.

That’s a lot of change, transition, transformation.

There’s so much out of my control right now.

It makes me feel unsafe and vulnerable.

I need to have faith that everything will be okay.

That everyone will transition according to plan.

Me included.

That we will paint ourselves the colors we like best, grow wings and fly.

More transformation, ugh, ugh, ugh

I released a total of 12 (I think) monarch butterflies. The last one flew away today.

IMG_2560

Meet Alvin

I have a new friend, though. This toad that my son named Alvin.

He lives somewhere in our front yard and hops about when I come home at night.

Toad means crossroads, camouflage and watching and waiting before you make a move.

Toads are small but have loud voices. Toad’s message is don’t underestimate the power of your words.

Toad means transformation.

And I have to wonder if this is a stage or if this is just life.

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Love birds

downloadOn my way home from my writers group, I saw two black crows by the side of the road. Giant crows with blue-black feathers and full, rounded breasts.

As they walked around inspecting the ground, each held a mouthful of dried straw, wild and tangled like a pile of fried noodles. No doubt, they were building a nest.

I smiled thinking about how nice it is to have a partner in life. Someone to share a cold gray March day. Someone to help build a cozy nest.

Today’s feelings: happy, grateful

* * *

What makes you happy these days? What are you grateful for? 

What I learned from some blue jays

imagesYVV4JR9TA few weeks before Christmas, I saw three blue jays in our backyard. Three blue jays lined up on a white picket fence, their painted crowns poking into the morning sky.

I knew there was some meaning in my sighting. I went to my computer and looked up the blue jay as an animal totem.

“If you have a Blue Jay totem, you must learn to use your personal power properly. Be careful not to become a bully. The word ‘jay’ comes from the Latin word ‘Gaea’ which is Mother Earth. A Blue Jay totem links you directly with the power of the Earth itself. It can link the heavens and the Earth and give you access to universal energies and power.”

I try to remember to be a partner and a parent and not a bully. Sometimes the line is blurred, especially because I am a person who admires strength as both a physical and mental quality.

I watched the oldest child do his second load of laundry. Ever. I wanted to yell at him to go through his pockets first.

This is the kid who carries around lighters and pocket knives, paperclips and disassembled pen parts, and other shiny detritus he finds on the ground.

But then I see him sifting through his blue jean pockets without my nagging.

The middle child always tells me what I want to hear. He has figured out that this is one way to get me off his back.

“Did you bring your dishes downstairs?” I ask.

“Yes,” he tells me.

I find his dirty dishes in his dresser drawer.

“You know that drawer doesn’t actually wash the dishes,” I say.

“Oh, I didn’t know,” he replies.

We laugh.

Laughter is a better sound than yelling.

After all, they are just dishes. Discs made out of clay.

We are made out of clay, too.

We can cut each other with our words.

Or build each other up so that we are so tall our heads poke into the clouds.

* * *

I saw another blue jay on Christmas Eve.

imagesBKLFD6HVOn the day after Christmas, I saw a red fox.

“Since the fox lives ‘between times’ — on the edge of land, visible as dusk and dawn, and can guide the way to the Faerie Realm. A fox can teach you to control your aura so that you can be more in harmony with others and the world.

If you have a fox totem, learning to be invisible is very important in your life. Imagine yourself blending in with your surroundings, becoming part of the background. Be very still and quiet. Through practice you can be unnoticed even at a party or in a crowd.

A fox totem also teaches good eating habits; the fox eats small amounts frequently which medicine is now telling us is better for our health.”

* * *

What about you? What are your animal totems?

The information on each animal totem comes from Lin’s Domain.

The lesbians and the land beaver

I thought I’d back up and explain that whole groundhog thing yesterday.

It all started last Friday.  I was walking down the steps to the basement when I saw him.  He was about as big as a football and walking in a nonchalant manner across the middle of the basement floor.

“Oh, hello,” I imagined him saying in a voice quite like Winnie the Pooh.  “Pleasant day, isn’t it?”

Holy shit.

I rounded up the kids to act as my human shield share in the adventure and learn something about animals and nature.  Further inspection revealed that the groundhog — also known as a woodchuck, whistle-pig or land beaver — was living in a mass of insulation wedged under our oil heater.  We heard rustling in this “nest” but were unable to see the critter, even though the kids shined the  flashlights at the nest and then into each other’s eyes.

Translation: There’s a land beaver inside our house!

I called W at work.  When she didn’t answer, I texted three letters: OMG.  Because texting “there’s a land beaver in our basement” seemed too weird and where was the surprise in that?  I like to keep that woman on her toes.

I finally got in touch with W and told her about the groundhog.

She e-mailed contact information for a wild animal removal company.  After a quick phone call, I learned that it would cost $295 to have someone come out to the house and set a trap.  Each additional trip back to check the trap would cost $95.

When W got home, she made some additional calls.  Our options were:

1. Live with the groundhog (Yes, someone actually suggested this.  As if having a groundhog roommate was a sensible idea.  Really, he’s very polite and quiet, even though he might have rabies, eats a lot of salad and poops in a very random manner.)

2. Hire an exterminator.

3. Buy a humane trap.

We eventually decided on #3, although I was leaning toward #1.  I mean, it would make a great book and all — The Lesbians and the Land Beaver — and we already sleep with a bunch of cats in our bed.  Let me tell you, this little guy would have looked adorable in a striped nightcap.

W went out to buy a trap.

I should probably add here that I apparently told W to handle this.  I didn’t mean it in a I-take-care-of-everything-around-here kind of way so small, rabies-carrying mammals trapped inside the house are your purview.  I just had a full plate that day and was delegating household responsibilities.

W wondered out loud why her big, strong butch couldn’t handle one wayward land beaver.

Anyway, W bought a trap for $34.99.  It even came with a free trap for chipmunks and other small creatures.  Bonus.  I mean, who doesn’t love a good BOGO sale?

We baited the trap with apple slices and waited.  And waited.

The weekend came and went, and there was no sign of the groundhog.  Nothing on Monday or Tuesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, I was working at my desk when I heard scratching on the inside of the French doors that we use to close off our front room.  I had assumed that one of the cats was trapped inside.  As I walked toward the doors, I saw that it wasn’t a cat trapped in the room but the groundhog.

I called the youngest kid to go into the room with a broom, a bucket and a bed sheet help me trap the critter.  By this time, the groundhog had scurried under furniture in the room.

The child wanted to know why I was the only person to see the groundhog.

I started to wonder that myself.  Was there really a groundhog trapped inside our house?  Was I going crazy?  Or maybe I was the only person who could see this land beaver (sort of like the Sixth Sense only with groundhogs instead of dead people).  Maybe I was the land beaver whisperer.  It was all so strange and confusing.

I called W at work.  “I can’t come home now to take care of it,” she said, as if I had designated her  house groundhog wrangler for life.

“I know, I’ll take care of it,” I said.

I sent our youngest inside the room to place the trap.

“Don’t worry, I’ll close the door behind you and hold it closed so that the groundhog can’t get out,” I assured him.

After the trap was set, we barricaded the door.  Just in case the groundhog decided to go all Ninja on us.

And then we waited.  I went back to typing at my computer to maintain an air of normalcy.

In a bit, I heard some noise, and there was the groundhog trying to get the bait from the wrong end of the trap.  This little guy needed GPS.

I sent the youngest back in the room to leave a trail of lettuce and snow peas leading to the entrance of the trap.  I was hoping the the critter wasn’t familiar with the story of Hansel and Gretel

“Don’t worry, I’ll close the door behind you and hold it closed so that the groundhog can’t get out,” I assured the child once again.

Again, he wanted to know why I was the only person to see the groundhog.

About 20 minutes later, I heard a loud snap.  There sat the groundhog inside the cage.  I had captured the elusive land beaver.  I was a hero.  A land beaver tamer.  I felt very brave and very butch.

The elusive land beaver

* * *

Lesson learned:

A land beaver in hand is worth two in the bush.

Don’t try this at home or how I fell down a mountain and lost a shoe

“Tell us about something you’ve done that you would advise a friend never to do,” today’s Daily Post commands.

This thought came to me immediately: Never attend a keg party held on the top of a mountain.

Sure, the bus ride to the foot of the mountain is a lot of fun.  Everyone is in a good mood, chatting busily about the excitement and good time that is certain to follow.

Did you know that you get drunk quicker at a higher elevation?  Those on the bus are discussing the finer points of alcohol consumption and altitude.  Because we are college students, and this is science, people.

Regardless, everyone will get crazy drunk tonight because the idea already has been planted in their brains.

You begin the trek up the mountain with great gusto and enthusiasm.  Now this is what college is all about, you tell yourself.  School spirit, camaraderie and beer.

About half way up, you wonder why you chose to subject yourself to such torture.  It’s a fucking mountain, for crying out loud.  When you fall behind the guys carrying the kegs, you know that you are in trouble.

This is the actual mountain that we hiked up.

Initially, they shout words of encouragement in a show of collegiate brotherhood.  Then they consider carrying you and your friend up the mountain.

“I should stop smoking,” you say out loud so that they think  your lungs are working at 30 percent capacity and not that you are woefully out of shape.

Then they start sizing you up.  It’s college, so I’m about a buck 25 or 30.  Ok, a buck 45 when you add the freshman 15.

Somehow, you make it up the mountain.  Taking many, many breaks and cursing yourself for signing up for this stupidity and torture.

Beer.

At the top of the mountain, you are rewarded with beer.  And hot dogs roasted over an open fire.  You are happy.  There is beer.  And food.

You party on into the night.  Songs are sung.  Kegs are kicked.  You venture into the woods to relieve your screaming bladder.  It’s rustic fun.

People dance precariously close to the fire pit.  Just like a participant at a Tony Robbins seminar, they don’t seem to mind the hot coals.  You take a time out to put out your friend.  You remember “stop” and “drop” but what was that last part?  You end up just beating her legs with your fists.

At some point, it’s time to head back down.

You learn a very important life lesson: It is difficult and dangerous to walk down a mountain in the middle of the night when you are drunk and don’t have a flashlight.

You wonder why you never thought to bring a flashlight for the trip down.

You are not walking but stumbling.  And falling.  Down a mountain.  In the pitch dark of the night.

The shoe looked like this.

You lose your left shoe and it falls down the mountain.  A brand new Nike low-top tennis shoe with a baby blue swoosh.

“I’ve lost my shoe!” you yell out to your friends.  “I’ve lost my shoe!”

One of them tells you that she has it.

You continue falling down the mountain, now on one foot.

Somehow you arrive at the bottom and climb aboard the waiting bus.

You find your friend, and she tells you that she was just kidding.  She doesn’t have your missing shoe.

When you and your friends get together, you still tell the story about the mountaintop keg party, especially the part about the missing shoe.

When you ask your friends if they brought you anything like, say, a cup of coffee or a newspaper, they tell you no, it must be on the mountain.

It’s a running joke with no end in sight.

It’s been nearly three decades, and you still haven’t gotten over that lost Nike.  You probably never will.