How do you stay connected, I wonder as I watch the spider dangling from her sticky silken web. She climbs up to the roof overhand and then free falls back to the rosemary plant, only to ascend again and repeat the action over and over, moving a millimeter over each time, until the web stretches six inches wide. She never loses her place, weaving with infinite patience, spinning the threads into fine design.
At sunrise, a bee hovers around the purple salvia on the deck, bending her furry body to the thin slender stalks. This bee roams the earth on its own, seeking flowers, honey, sweetness. There is no roadmap other than the scent of flowers, the color that lures with its bright promise. With connection to a distant queen in a hive hidden somewhere under an eave, behind a shed, on a piling at a deserted marina, the little insect savors the wild purple, leaving a smudge of yellow pollen on the drooping leaves. Intent on its work, it sips until sated and then flies home.
Pelicans beat languid wings as they fly along the shore line, connected to the flock by some silent language. How do they, or the geese, or the osprey, know at migration time which way is north, how to aim for the polarized star that guides them? How do they know when to lead and when to follow, when to drop down by a cooling lake and when to rise again, in one fluid motion, wings beating toward the sun?
One of the prompts at the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild free write this morning was “What do you miss when you’re away from home?” I realized that a week from that moment I would be on a plane heading for New Mexico, so it seemed like an appropriate topic for me.
When I am away from home, I miss normalcy, the spaces I know, my couch, my kitchen. The ring of my phone, the slam of my front door. Next week I will travel to Taos, New Mexico. There is no ocean there, no skirt of foam rolling in with the tide, no constant rush and whisper of the surf. I won’t see gulls or sandpipers, or those pale sand crabs that burrow into the wet sand as a wave recedes, leaving a tiny hole behind. Last evening’s high tide carried in dozens of jellyfish, transparent creatures the size of dinner plates or Frisbees. Always surprises. I will miss them.
Next week I will drive along the highway that borders the Rio Grande running narrow between rocky gorges. I will sit in the shade of cottonwood trees that canopy over the patio of the Mabel Dodge House. There will be adobe walls and curved doorways, turquoise window trim and thinner air. I will smell the sage bushes that grow along the fence and hear the drumming from the evening ceremonies of the Pueblos. I will look up to the snow-capped top of Taos Mountain that watches everything below. I will trade sand and blue ocean for the fire colors of a land baked by the sun. There will be surprises. I will treasure them.
Driving fromVirginiato the beach a few days ago, a truck driver behind me on the road honked to tell me to move into the left lane so he could pass me on the right. Fifteen seconds later we were all stopped at the same red light. What’s the rush? Everyone is busy, engaged in perennial haste. To-do lists, agendas, deadlines. We don’t take the time to just sit and look out a window, to perch beneath a tree and watch the interplay of light and dark. To breathe in the myriad of sounds. I can remember yelling at my kids to hurry and get ready so they wouldn’t be late for….preschool. I had to stop and ask myself, “What are you doing? What does it matter?” Maybe we should all sit on the floor and take five minutes to scrunch a foot into a sock.
A couple of miles from my house, a heron lives on the banks of a stream that pulls in from the bay. I have to look carefully to find her, because her blue-gray plumage is neatly camouflaged to match the broken tree trunks that rise from the tall grasses. She can stand still for hours, almost invisible, a shadow among shadows. There in her stillness she watches, her eyes wide open or shuttered or even closed. Around her the world is busy. Insects skim the surface of the water or hover in buzzing clouds. Traffic whooshes by on the road, spitting asphalt, burping exhaust. Frogs gurgle and slip in and out of the cattail curtains. Air bubbles rise as fish dart here and there in their zigzag navigation. All around her is chattering and croaking and splashing and whirring. And she stands still, balanced perfectly like a calligraphic stroke.
When I think about the heron, I grow still. I think of T.S. Eliot’s line in “Burnt Norton” – “the still point of the turning world.” This morning I woke up and even without stepping outside I knew that the heavy oven heat of the past week had cooled in the night. The quality of light that came in my window was different. Patterns from the trees shimmered on the wall as if the sun had diffused itself into dancing sparks, pale and gold and alive like millions of tiny wings. I thought of what I had to do – that inevitable endless list – but I chose to wait, to taste the stillness, to let it fill me like honey. The image of the heron came to me, the way she wraps herself in her feathered arms and lets the world spin around her. I resolved to enter the day not as the impatient driver racing to beat the light but as the regal bird who takes it all in and makes herself a calm center.