I like to consider myself a well-rounded individual with lots of different interests, but I do admit that I occasionally develop certain preoccupations that might be considered a bit left of center or even downright odd. My kids like to say that I’m like a podcast app where listeners select a topic and I then provide all the details of my research and empirical data. Recent episodes range from top beauty creams to keep your forearms looking youthful, to the countless benefits of a new sound app called Endel that will help you have the best night’s sleep ever, to the reasons why avocados may just be the perfect food. As you might expect, cocktails and astrology are the largest tabs on my touch screen with far too many episodes to count. In the last year or so, one of my most recently played podcasts has been about vultures. Yes, you are reading that correctly. Where on earth did this interest come from? Well, let me tell you a story. As the youngest member of my family, I have been without almost all of my older relatives like grandparents, aunts and uncles, as well as my own parents for quite a while now. They are all resting peacefully in the same cemetery, and when I would go to visit them I had a favorite spot where I would park my car and could have a conversation with all of them at once. It was next to a very pretty line of those tall tombstones that always seem to have strong Italian names on them like Garibaldi or Lanza. As a person whose 23andme profile indicates 97% Italian ethnicity, it’s okay for me to say that. As I was sitting there one day offering up some prayers to whoever was listening, an enormous black vulture came and landed on one of the stones with his wings spread out in what I later learned is called the horaltic pose. He was basking in the sun. What a photo opportunity, right?? Believe me, I tried, but I was so startled that I ended up snapping an absolutely lovely shot of my dashboard and a flash of blue sky. My new friend looked at me with a disdainful scowl, and my chance at capturing the best photo ever flew off in a powerful whoosh of black feathers. I was left wondering if he’d been real or just a figment of my imagination. In that moment, my fascination with vultures began.
Since I had the opportunity to be away for a few days this weeks, I decided to reprise one of my favorite vacation posts that I wrote back in 2018. It was actually part of the Monday Poetry in a Glass series I was doing at the time. The poem I chose was a haiku poem about a dragonfly, written by Matsuo Bashō.
The dragonfly Can’t quite land on that blade of grass.
I was struck by the poem’s simplicity back then in much the same way as I am now, but I remember the that there was something additional that made me gravitate towards this particular one. I felt compelled to write about it. There was an incident that happened while I was at the beach that August involving a dragonfly that flew into the house one night in the midst of a bit of chaos. It was, without a doubt, the largest dragonfly that I’d ever seen, absolutely beautiful in shades of iridescent blue and green, and it caused quite the commotion as it tried to navigate its new surroundings. My daughter has a no-kill policy when it comes to most insects, and so we’ve all become very adept at catching things carefully and helping them find their way back outside. This dragonfly, however, tested all my skills. After 15 minutes of Herculean effort that probably should have been captured on YouTube, I managed to coax it into a colander and return it to safety. After things calmed down, I couldn’t help but think about how incongruous it was that it had found his way into the house in the first place. Dragonflies are not nighttime bugs. It should have been sleeping in the marsh somewhere. Did this one have a particular message for me?
Two days ago the biggest super moon of 2022 graced us with its fullness. This particular July spectacle is called the Buck Moon because it coincides with the point in summer when the antlers of male deer have reached their largest size. As many of you know, every moon also has a symbolic interpretation that’s closely tied to the name assigned to it by The Farmer’s Almanac. Sometimes these meanings are a bit obscure, or their correlation is very broad, but that’s not the case with this moon. We can grasp its signification fairly easily, and we quickly understand that it’s all about channeling our own potential for growth while recognizing what might be standing in our way. The energy of any full moon, in general, is always about releasing that which does not serve us. This particular full moon pushes us to let go of the impediments that are preventing us from taking the next steps on our journey, the ones that will challenge us to grow and become what we’re meant to be. Does this all sound a bit over the top to you? It should. Full moons are loaded with drama, especially those that are incredibly big like this one. Not only do super moons outshine other full moons in terms of clarity and brightness, but they also score higher on the energy and impact scale as well.
Last week I decided to reread Ghostwritten, one of my favorite books by David Mitchell. If you’ve never experienced his work, you absolutely should. Very soon. This particular novel was his first, and although it has always been highly praised for a level of complexity and finesse not often found in debut fiction, the one fault expressed by critics was that it was considerably reminiscent of books written by the Japanese author, Haruki Murakami. Because I love Murakami, I’ve read a fair amount of his writing and could certainly see how the comparison was fair, but rather than dissuade me from reading Mitchell, just the opposite occurred. I have been a fan ever since. Ghostwritten is a collection of interwoven narratives placed in many different settings that are linked together in a way that creates a very satisfying puzzle with the just the right level of challenge. In the second chapter, two characters are having a conversation in a Tokyo record store when one of them looks wistfully out the window and says, “The last of the cherry blossom. On the tree, it turns ever more perfect. And when it’s perfect, it falls. And then of course once it hits the ground it gets all mushed up. So it’s only absolutely perfect when it’s falling through the air, this way and that, for the briefest time…” Mitchell’s language is extremely simple here, and the concept he is expressing is equally comprehensible, but something about these lines gave me pause, and I found myself wanting to think about their deeper meaning a whole lot more.
My daughter Wendy and I were recently away for a day or so, and we had one of those deep conversations that mothers and daughters tend to have when they find themselves sharing a bed late at night when the rest of the world seems to be sleeping. There is something about the darkness and the quiet that makes it the perfect time for remembering secrets long forgotten. I feel this way about late night talks with any of my kids. They always make me think of the countless hours spent together when they were very young, and I was the one who could make them feel safe from all the things in the world that had the potential to truly scare them. This particular discussion didn’t really begin as anything spooky, but it quickly moved in that direction as soon as Wendy brought up the house that we lived in from the time she was born in 1989 until my mom died in 2011. She described it as an epic place to grow up, which made me smile because I knew exactly what she meant. The house was anything but epic in size or stature; in fact, by many development house mini-mansion standards, it would be considered quite small. Yet if you looked at it from overhead you would see that the yard had many different areas: a pool, a deck, a vegetable and a rose garden, and two shady spots with benches, giant hostas, and ivy. There were flowers everywhere, a butterfly garden, a front porch, a back porch, a garage, and a row of large fir trees that bordered one entire edge of the property suggesting more seclusion than was ever true in reality. The inside of the house was similar with lots of nooks and crannies, making it seem so much larger than it appeared from the street, and there was a definite swirling energy that seemed to move as if on a current of air, rushing into this corner or that one and holding in places that became palpable for all of us at different times.