Reflections on Preparing the Patio for Winter

The winter is coming and I sweep out the dry bones of leaves and blooms, once alive and so full of expectation.  Some are half-bloomed, still daring to hope.  It was a good run—We had a good season, the pinks and reds began subtle, then bright.  They leapt to life with enthusiasm. Then, grew and stretched up, loving  the hell out of everything.

And now everything on my patio is tidy and neat.  I sit in my chair by the window with the cool breeze stirring through the windows, open now where once they closed against the summer haze.  I haven’t fully seen the beauty of it, this dying season.  I still want the pinks and reds and the greens of new growing.  I haven’t quite lost the hope that things can be more than they are, whether it be the season, or the hope that there might be, for me, another shining dream just beyond the horizon.

This is the season of intermingled youth and age and it has always left me wistful.  It is the time of year, where the two dance together while moving in opposite directions.  One looks forward and the other back, but for the moment, they move together hand in hand.

 

Herbert Makes a Daisy Chain

Everyone knows that Herbert loves clover. It his favorite thing next to ice-cream, warm bubble baths and the Guru. Even though Herbert loved clover and the clover kind of liked being nibbled, Herbert also liked daisies when he was in the mood for something slightly more adventurous. However, the daisies were not as receptive to Herbert’s munching and they were not very shy in telling him so.

One day, Herbert was strolling through the meadow on a very bright and shiny afternoon when he came upon a clump of the yellow and white flowers winking in the sunlight. He went in for a nibble only to be accosted by a loud bellowing from the flower below, “Nooooooooooo!” the flower sang out in what was (actually) a very healthy baritone. Herbert jumped with a start, nearly flattening the flower’s companions.

Herbert fell back toward the large copse of oak trees where the pixie-sprites lived. He knocked his little noggin and fell back in a swoon against the welcoming arms of the fatherly oak. When he awoke, he found the pixie-sprites in a circle around him. They seemed o be debating something of great importance to them. The red-haired pixie seemed particularly upset and kept spinning around in a circle, silver glitter flying everywhere.

Herbert slowly gathered his wits (very hard to do) and rose to his hooves to ask what was the matter. They told him in very distressed tones that someone had eaten the Queen of the Pixie’s floral crown. Without it, she would not be able to get the sun to go down and bring out the evening stars. Without the nighttime, the pixies would not get to rest and restore their magic. The stars would dry up and fall from the sky and the world would be lost. The beautiful, red-haired pixie sprite was beside herself with worry.

In an instant, Herbert realized what he had to do. He walked gingerly up to the hill where he had met the daisies just a little while before. He asked them if they would mind being part of the crown for the beautiful pixie. They thought about it for a while and then something wonderful happened (because something magical always happens when you talk to enchanted daisies.) They began to fly in a circle above the beautiful sprite’s head, weaving this way and that until they had completely encircled her head. The baritone decided his singing could weave them together for as long as the daisies survived. In a burst of joyful glitter, the beautiful, red-headed pixie-sprite enchanted the kind-hearted daisies, so that they would never wither. They spent the rest of their known days with her.

Cathedrals

Vaulting upward arching in supplication

Reaching inward in gentle longing

For life’s keenest lacks

In the gray morning no poem sang

Within me for grief or love

For all that had died or

The soul’s broken circles

Vaulting upward reaching inward

Through the rose window

Facing south to Our Lady

Healing comes in grace with grace

In silent cathedrals

Herbert and the Singing Roses

Roses aren’t, as a rule, supposed to sing. Well, they do when they are *really* very happy, but no one had heard the roses in the meadow break into song for many long years in Herbert’s magic meadow. Herbert didn’t know why the flowers had been silent. The sun still shown warm on the grass and the trees. The rains still came and the birds still built nests and the arms of the strong oaks that grew at the borders of the lush countryside. Everything seemed perfect to Herbert. Yet, there was no song lilting on the summer breeze.

The more Herbert thought about it, the more he worried that something was amiss with the beautiful flowers whose heads waved to and fro in the breeze. They never said a word to him, no matter how much he asked them. The red ones smiled. They yellow ones fluttered their eyelashes (Yes they have eyes if you know where to look!) The white ones stood serene and dignified in quiet little rows. Herbert was perplexed. When this happens, you know that Herbert becomes even more obsessed with finding the answers.

Herbert asked the Guru who wisely advised him to let the flowers be, that they knew what they needed and would sing when they were ready…when the conditions were just right. Raymond, the squirrel tried to distract Herbert with a game of tag, which worked for a while until Herbert came to a skidding stop at the edge of the garden. Bettina, the bumblebee tried to sing a buzzy song of her own, and Herbert thought it was beautiful and what a lovely duet it would make….

Herbert decided to do what he always did in perplexing situations. He thought the pixie-sprites knew much more about this kind of thing than he did. In fact, he realized that they were the ones who planted the lovely flowers, so he made ready to visit them in the great tree where they lived at the edge of the great forest.

Herbert walked and walked. He skipped part of the way when the trek got boring. He sang a little ditty and did a few dance steps on the tippy-toe part of his hooves. Soon he was there.

“How do I get the roses to sing to me?” He pleaded with the beautiful red-haired pixie with the green gossamer dress. She looked at Herbert with kindness.

Before I will answer you, dear Herbert, I would like you to stand on your head and say the alphabet.” Herbert knew the alphabet, but sometimes he got lost in all the confusing letters in the middle. He didn’t want to look silly in front of the beautiful fairies. Herbert looked down at the turf and scuffed his hooves.

On the way home Herbert thought about all the things he didn’t want to do and the reasons why. Then it came to him that maybe the roses had reasons why singing wasn’t what they wanted to do either. He thought he was ok with the fact that maybe the roses didn’t want to sing just then. The flowers nodded their beautiful heads, smiled and started to hum quietly.

Herbert and the Beautiful Swan

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Herbert woke up to a day that was bright and clear. The sun was up shining strongly by the time he chose to peep through the window of the bungalow Herbert shared with his friend, the Guru. Herbert was happy when the sun came to visit him in the morning. The Guru had gone to the forest to pick berries for Herbert’s breakfast and Herbert was all by himself. Sometimes, Herbert liked to have company in the morning. He would ask the sun riddles until the sun went laughing on his way to warm his other friends in the meadow.

Herbert waited for some time for the Guru to return. Since there was no sign of him, Herbert set out on his way to the great forest to search for his friend. He traveled up hills, around a large copse of daisies, over more hills that looked remarkable like the hills he had just passed and through more daisies. Herbert had a feeling he might be lost, but he didn’t want to alarm anyone (himself included).

Eventually, Herbert got tired and decided to rest near a lovely crystal lake. He though it looked so lovely shimmering in the sun’s light and Herbert wondered for a moment if his friend, the sun, had just visited there. Out if the cool mist emerged a beautiful bird floating across the glassy surface of the water. Herbert thought she was very beautiful, so beautiful that he was almost afraid to talk to her and break the magical spell that seemed to fade into the silence. Herbert wished he could float that gracefully. He admired the lovely silver-white bird with her elegant neck and soulful eyes.

Herbert called to the swan, effectively breaking the spell with a Herbert-like “pop”.

“Hey! Hey, pretty swimming bird,” he rang out in his playful singsong voice. At first, the swan took no notice, but after the third attempt to catch her attention, craned her lovely head elegantly in Herbert’s direction.

“Can you please teach me to swim? Herbert pleaded. “I would love to float like you do, but I am afraid I am too clumsy and the water would soak my fleece. I would sink right to the bottom!” “But I so want to learn to swim!”

The swan took one look at Herbert’s fleece, his rather shiny (but heavy-looking) hooves and made a strange noise in her throat. Herbert wasn’t sure, but she might have been giggling. He really didn’t mind. How many times has anyone seen a swimming sheep? Herbert started to laugh to himself at the idea and soon doubled over with the hilarity of it. The swan waited patiently for Herbert to pull himself back together. There is nothing sillier than a sheep with the giggles.

The swan bent her head back and plucked a magic feather from her wing and placed it on Herbert’s nose. Herbert tried really hard not to sneeze. He started to change gradually. His fleece became silver and he was growing feathers. In a few short moments Herbert noticed that he looked almost exactly like the beautiful swan. He walked to the water tentatively admiring his reflection. His feet were bright orange, which almost started another round of giggles, but all Herbert heard was the honking sound of his own voice. He sat in the water flapping his great wings and swishing his feet madly. He seemed to knw exactly what to do.

Oh what fun he had! He did several laps around the lake. He and the beautiful swan ran races, something very new since swans mostly sat on the water looking elegant. Herbert was happy that the swan had allowed him to know what it was like to really swim. When Herbert became tired from all the swimming, he bounced back on the shore of the mighty lake and back came his fleece and shiny black hooves. As a sheep again, Herbert thanked the beautiful swan who nodded her head kindly. When Herbert got home the Guru was there with berries and Herbert told him al about his eventful day.