I was sitting out on the porch this morning with Belle (Tinker prefers the cooler air inside), doing some reading, and just enjoying the beautiful day. We had an unexpected visitor who darted in and started hovering about three feet in front of me…and then cautiously proceeded up to the feeder hanging on the porch. The first time I ever encountered one of these mighty mites, it was the sound that got my attention. There was a loud buzzing above me, and I thought to myself, “that’s got to be a very LARGE bee.” But seeing one of these birds, in this case a Ruby-throated hummingbird, especially up close, is really a sight to behold. Their aerobatics are nothing short of astounding. They spend the summer here…but somehow have the strength to migrate to Central and South America during the winter months. If you listen closely, you can hear the mouse-like squeaks the bird makes. Just wanted to share this…
Sharon loved hummingbirds. When I was inside the house later this afternoon, one of these hummers came right up to the window in the living room…hovered as if peering inside…and then just as quickly sped off again. I think someone might be checking on me…
We all carry around models of the world in our heads…representations of reality…or what we perceive to be reality. Geographers call these models mental maps. We build our mental maps up over the years, slowly filling in the details…eventually becoming accurate enough so that we can use them for navigation in our everyday lives. We provide the most detail to those areas that are the most meaningful for us…the neighborhood where we live…the daily route to work…the weekly trip to the grocery store.
In bygone days, when a mapmaker didn’t have sufficient knowledge of a place to accurately depict its nature, he would leave empty spaces, lacunae, and would fill in these spaces with fanciful depictions of sea serpents or dragons…or would simply inscribe something like…”Here be Monsters.” Over the years, our maps have been getting more detailed. There is little of the Earth left that hasn’t been mapped in great detail.
I think the concept of mental maps also applies to the relationships we have with other people. Those who are closest to us…those we love the most dearly…naturally figure prominently in our mental maps. They become the landmarks in the landscape of life through which we navigate on our journeys, as well as our reference points to find the way back home.
Lately, my own mental maps have been changing. Details are fading…like holding a dry, fading, ancient parchment map that is quickly crumbling to dust in my hands. Things aren’t holding together as they once did…the destination is receding into a fog, and the maps are becoming quite useless. I find myself in a strange land, with my most familiar landmark no longer visible.
There’s an old saying…”the map is not the territory”. What we perceive in our minds to be an accurate model of the world, may in fact, be a quite fragile, ephemeral, and even illusory representation of reality. I suppose that, over time, new details will start emerging out of the mist, and a new map will slowly but surely be constructed. But, in the meantime, it’s a bit disconcerting to be in familiar surroundings…but at the same time…feeling completely lost.
In our living room there’s an old steamer trunk…has to be over a hundred years old. It belonged to my grandparents…Frank and Sophie. They packed all their earthly belongings in it when they made the journey from Poland to the new world in the early 1900’s …passing through Ellis Island…eventually beginning a new life in Chicago. It must have taken an enormous leap of faith to leave everything and everyone else behind…and start off on an adventure that I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to live through.
More recently, the trunk has been our memories and keepsake box. Over the years, Sharon and I have been stuffing any kind of memorabilia that we’ve acquired into this trunk. Photos, souvenirs, tickets…birthday and anniversary cards. We had been planning to sort through this stuff ‘one of these days’.
I finally worked up the nerve the other day to crack the lid and take a quick peek inside. On top was the last anniversary card that I gave to Sharon…and a photo of her…taken at the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas, about ten years ago. This was our ‘getaway’ place when we lived in California. Not that we were into gambling, or any of the usual seductions that Vegas had to offer. We just enjoyed the atmosphere of the place…the very thought of staying in a pyramid…riding the ‘Inclinator’ up to our room…looking out over the landscape of that desert city at night.
It’s funny…I don’t think my grandparents could have ever imagined what their little trunk would contain over the years, or the peregrinations that it would take…across the Atlantic…to Chicago…to California…to Florida…to California (again)…to Florida (again)…to North Carolina…to South Carolina. It leaves me wondering…where to next?
Tomorrow will be seven months…although I’m not sure at what point I should stop counting. It brings to mind an old saying…I think it’s Buddhist…or Hindu…I’m losing track these days…
The past is but a dream,
the future…a vision.
Look well to this day,
For it, and it alone…is life.
I recently came across these beautiful lines by Charles Wesley…
If death my friend and me divide,
Thou dost not, Lord, my sorrow chide,
Or frown my tears to see;
Restrained from passionate excess,
Thou bidst me mourn in calm distress
For them that rest in Thee.
I feel a strong immortal hope,
Which bears my mournful spirit up
Beneath its mountain load;
Redeemed from death, and grief, and pain,
I soon shall find my friend again
Within the arms of God.
Pass a few fleeting moments more
And death the blessing shall restore
Which death has snatched away;
For me Thou wilt the summons send,
And give me back my parted friend
In that eternal day.
The moon is nearly full this evening…rising above the trees into the indigo blue sky…with a faint glow of the sun, already set below the horizon. Just the sound of tree frogs calling and answering from different directions, with a chorus of crickets in the background. I’ve detected a slight change in the air the last few days…the daytime temperature ‘moderating’ into the low 90’s…and at night ever so slowly creeping back down into the 60’s. There’s even a somewhat cool, though still humid, breeze blowing after some thunderstorms moved through the area.
When I took the dogs out this morning in the darkness, I heard a screech owl calling nearby, sounding like some kind of ghost-like horse with its spectral, descending whinnying. This was the first one I’ve heard since we’ve been here. I hope it stays in the area. I occasionally hear a barred owl hooting off in the distance during the night, especially during cold winter nights when not much else is stirring. I’m highly anticipating the cooler weather that comes in the Fall. It was our favorite season…
But tonight…it’s just the golden moon slowly…and silently… sailing across the sky…
I’m always on the lookout for surprises in my natural garden. I noticed these ephemeral beauties entwined with a tiny juniper seedling…
‘Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
(Simple Gifts by Joseph Brackett, 1848)