Dawn, Dusk, and Doves

Dawn

Dawn (Photo credit: Daveybot)

Simple questions trigger deep realizations and happy observations. Several Facebook pages and blogs that I follow have been brimming with questions that seem easy to answer, but once you do, you’re letting the genie out of the bottle. Or opening Pandora’s box.  A few of the questions I’ve seen this week:

  • What’s your favorite cereal of all time?  For me, Frosted Flakes. Hands down.
  • Old rock stars – cool, or should they hang it up? One person mentioned her son was taking a class at college about “oldies” music – and it’s music from the 70s and 80s. I almost cried. In my mind, Elvis is oldies. Prince is not! However, Paul McCartney can keep singing as long as he has a pulse and I will be thrilled.
  • Next week is Leap Day – what are you going to do with the extra 24 hours?  This, courtesy of Ellen DeGeneres. I feel a separate blog post coming on…

My favorite question this week, though, came from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.

Dawn or dusk?

Some people are not morning people, and miss the dawn. Some people work late, and come home under streetlights. Some people don’t care one way or the other, or have never thought about it.

Dawn and dusk inspired the name of my blog.

My favorite thing is being outdoors. I enjoy maintaining my garden – and other people’s gardens – and walking through the parks in our area. It’s still cold, but in the morning I take the time to watch the sky brighten and the clouds and vapor trails turn pink in the rising sun. As soon as it clears the roofs of nearby buildings, the light glitters on the frost on the fence and deck.

Last week, a pair of mourning doves began courting and sunning themselves on the deck railing in the early hours. I call them George and Gracie. One morning, they snuggled wing to wing, and from my vantage point by the back door, their heads and bodies formed a perfect heart.

Though the front of the house takes the nor’easters square in the face, the back of the house faces southwest. All year, the backyard basks in the sun. In the summer, I am up with the sun, and my coffee and I pull up a chair in the yard, facing east, and wait. Light and warmth inch over the rooftops and fence, find their way between the branches of trees, and starting with my feet, they wake me up and bring me to life.

I’m never alone at that hour. Robins, finches, and sparrows hop along the fences and sing in the trees. When the red bee balm and purple butterfly bushes bloom, hummingbirds swing by, sometimes pausing for a breather in the branches of the poplar over my head. All the birds dive for cover when the red tail hawk coasts through.

The sun’s color shifts from yellow-white to gold to peach to orange as it dips west. The sky darkens from bright blue to cobalt to purple to ink blue. The light makes the needles of the white pines shimmer as if dusted with gold.

A house on the next block has a massive, towering maple tree in its yard. Every autumn, I look at the very top of the tree, searching for a single leaf. The uppermost. The one that is first to see the sun rise and the last to see the sun set. I envy that leaf. It has a long way to fall at the end, but in the meantime, what a glorious view!

In the evening, I stand on the deck or sit in the yard and watch the sky darken and the first stars come out. Sometimes my youngest daughter will sit with me, and we’ll get stiff necks gazing into the cobalt blue overhead, and between the salmon and purple clouds, looking for the first star. We find constellations. Scorpius, with its red Antares heart, travels right past the yard all summer. When we can’t see it anymore, we know autumn is coming.

Winter sunsets happen right outside my back door. At certain times, the sun or moon settle in a nook between two distant trees, as if they are being held by the trees themselves. I could be fixated on a project or task, but the sun, before it sets, finds my eyes and my face and says:

“Over here. Look at this. You’re going to miss it.”

And for a few moments, nothing else matters.

And again, I am not alone.

In those still moments, at dawn and at dusk, even if they aren’t quiet, miracles become visible. Spirit is present and alive in simple, simple things. Earth breathes and begins again. At dawn, I give thanks for another chance and promise to do my best. At dusk, I put my burdens down and give thanks for everything good.

Breath Prayers: a flash fic photo challenge

She watched the neighborhood children laugh and run as the bubbles swirled in the sigh of a breeze.

The sun inched higher, closer to noon. She’d been sitting on this bench since dawn, unsure what to do with herself. Not used to solitude, but not wanting to be alone…or worse, feel lonely.

Two of the older girls blew through the wands, and the younger ones chased after the sparkling spheres, clapping hands to capture them, stepping on them when grape clusters of soap sank to the grass. One girl in a bright yellow dress and jet black hair, charged right through the middle of a bubble cloud, spinning to catch as many as she could with her body but her twirling only seemed to push them toward the sky.

She picked up her lukewarm cup of coffee for a sip. For something to do.

If I laugh, I’ll cry, and I’ll never stop. She swallowed everything and took a deep breath, followed by a slow exhale. Warm leaves and freshly cut grass lingered in her nose. Flowers popped in a rainbow of colors against evergreens and boxwood hedges. Somewhere overhead in the oak tree, a cardinal trilled.

“Hi!”

She startled at the perky voice next to her on the bench. It belonged to the girl in the yellow dress, who gazed up at her with a dimpled smile and bright green eyes.

“Hello.”

The child studied her for a moment, then said, “You know, my pastor says that we can use bubbles to pray. When you blow the bubbles, they float up to heaven so Jesus can hear them.” She unscrewed the lid of the bubble juice and fished out the sticky wand. “And the prayers are real simple and short. And all you have to do is blow.” She puckered, blew through the circle, and a river of bubbles of all sizes burst from the wand, catching the wind and swirling with pinks and purples in a beam of light.

Her heart skipped. And her eyes prickled.

“What…what did you just pray for, sweetie?”

“Oh, I said thank you for the sunlight, and for summer vacation.”  She blew again. “Thank you for my friend Stephanie.”  Another puff. “Thank you for my mom and dad and my dog.”  Another puff. “Take care of Mrs. Grady while she’s in the hospital.” Clouds of bubbles hovered around them before climbing for the sky.

The familiar knot lodged in her throat and she chased it away with the last of her coffee before trusting herself to speak.

“What happens if the bubble pops?”

“I don’t know.” She shrugged, and stirred the soap with the wand. “I s’pose the prayer is inside the bubble, and if it pops, the prayer goes to heaven on its own.  Maybe the butterflies take it.”

“You’re very good with…bubbles.”

The girl grinned, “Thank you! You know, sometimes it’s easier to think a prayer than say it out loud.  Here. You try.” She held out the small blue bottle.

“Oh! No, I don’t…”  I don’t pray. Anymore. “…I don’t think I’d be very good at it.”

She giggled and rolled her eyes. “Grown-ups always say that. They say that about swinging on swings and hop scotch too. Jesus knows what’s in our hearts anyway, before we even say it.” Her gaze shifted toward her friends, who were running toward the playground. The girl hopped up to chase after them, but turned back, setting the bottle of bubbles on the bench. “You can keep that to practice.  I have lots of bubbles at home.  Bye!”

An odd stillness settled on her skin. No heat. No cold. Just an awareness of existence. Like her whole Self was waiting.

In her fingers, the small bottle weighed next to nothing. She held it to the light and saw, with surprise, that it was full. Slowly, she unscrewed the cap, and fished out the sticky, pink wand. She hesitated, and blew.

Three or four weak orbs drifted away and collapsed into nothingness.

Fine. Just proves I can pray till I’m blue in the face and it won’t matter.

Trying again, she blew harder. More bubbles this time, in chaotic clouds and different sizes.

What do you want me to say, Lord?

I’ve lost everything. What do I do now?

What am I going to do?

She kept trying, whispering breaths through the wand, as the knot in her throat and the ache in her chest expanded, and tears rained down her face.

Help me understand why this is happening.

Forgive me for any wrong I’ve done to deserve something like this.

I don’t want to hurt anymore.

Please, Jesus, make the pain stop.

Soon, all of her breath collected into sobbing.

“I miss him so much,” she whispered. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

Sunlight cleared the branches and warmed her cheek as she watched the bubbles drift higher. Glints and sparkles penetrated her tears. It looked like a hand reaching out, scooping up the cloud of crystal prayers, and lifting them away.

And the more she cried, the lighter she felt, like she could follow them up on the breeze. The knots and aches were gone. Breathing felt like breathing should. It just was.

She looked toward the playground. The children, including the girl in the yellow dress, had gone.

The bottle of liquid – for all her desperate breath prayers – remained full.

She twirled the wand inside again, and blew gently.

Tell John I love him and I’m glad he’s not suffering anymore.

And…thank you for hearing me.


This is for the Week 11 Prompt of the Short Story Slam by Bluebell Books.

Aside

Spiritual Detour

Please visit The Walkabout Chronicles to read my latest blog, Spiritual Detour and check out Liane and Steven’s chronicles of their Blue Ridge Walkabout.

Keep smiling!

Elizabeth