A Secret Heart Broken

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…And I think
They know my strength,
Can gauge
The danger of their work:
One blow could crush them
And their nest; and I am not their friend.

And yet they seem
Too deeply and too fiercely occupied
To bother to attend.
Perhaps they sense
I’ll never deal the blow,
For, though I am not in nor of them,
Still I think I know
What it is like to live
In an alien and gigantic universe, a stranger,
Building the fragile citadels of love
On the edge of danger.
~James Rosenberg from “The Wasps’ Nest”

 

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Anger is as a stone cast into a wasp’s nest.
~Pope Paul VI

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The nest was hanging like the richest fruit
against the sun. I took the nest
and with it came the heart, and in my hand
the kingdom and the queen, frail surfaces,
rested for a moment. Then the drones
awoke and did their painful business.
I let the city drop upon the stones.

It split to its deep palaces and combs.

The secret heart was broken suddenly.
~Michael Schmidt — “Wasps’ Nest”
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It hung undisturbed the past few months as its busy citizens visited our picnics, greedily buzzed our compost bin, shot bullet-like out of the garbage can when I lifted the lid.  In short, their threat of using their weaponry controlled all our moves this summer.

This nest is their nighttime respite for a few more weeks before a freeze renders them weak and paralyzed in slow motion.  A thing of beauty outside harbors danger inside. I must not touch this tissue paper football nest with its beating buzzing hornet heart.

Let winter deal the devastating blow. As I am not in or of them, I cannot cast the first stone.

In a few short weeks, as they sleep, the north winds will tear it free from its tight hold,
bear it aloft in its lightness of being, and it will fall, crushed, broken, its secret heart revealed and all that stings will be let go.

 

 

waspnest11

 

waspnest10

Time to Hatch

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It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird:
it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.
We are like eggs at present.
And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg.
We must be hatched or go bad.

~C.S. Lewis
Our destiny is to fly free,
whether soaring alone
or arcing and sweeping together as one organism.
It starts in the nest, protected and warmed.
No view of sky
until shrugging off the shell,
then fed until our wings
spread beyond the edges,
readying to carry us
to places beyond imagining.
morningswans
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Brooding Over a Bent World

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Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
~Gerard Manley Hopkins from “God’s Grandeur”

This morning springs in beauty, in hope for a new day and I am grateful again for another chance.

That could be me bent and broken on the hard ground, as defenseless as the baby swallows tumbling helpless out of their crowded and soiled nests in our barn rafters, left to die cold and featherless and alone.

Thank God for His brooding breast keeping me safe.   Thank God I am still in the nest waiting to test my wings.

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

Wholly Weaned

personaluse_8445264-FBThe usual peace and quiet on our farm has been anything but the last few days. The time has come to wean foals from their mothers and they are all protesting loudly about the separation, day and night. This is always a difficult time every year, rattling my senses more than usual because I am in the process of being weaned as well. Their cries echo deeply in my unsettled heart. As the mares stand at the field gate calling to their babies stowed safely in the barn, I know they want them back for their own comfort–mostly to relieve swollen painful udders. They also need to know their babies are safe and content. This feeling I know all too well.

We’ve recently delivered our second child back to college, even farther from home than our first child chose to go. It was a difficult leave taking in many ways, primarily because I wasn’t as prepared as I hoped to be. I still want that comfortable feeling of knowing my children were tucked safely under my wings. It just doesn’t seem possible they don’t fit there as easily as they used to. My children certainly understand that better than I as they are the ones feeling crowded and anxious to leave, ready to embark on independent adult lives.

An unexpected preparation took place recently when we took several of our Haflingers to a regional fair for a week’s stay. We moved into covered outdoor stalls that stand empty 51 weeks of the year, but for this one week, the stalls are decorated and built up with fluffy shavings, and the horses shined to a gloss. The night before the fair was to open, I was sweeping the area in front and discovered a barn swallow’s nest had been built in the rafters right above where the public would be standing to pet our horses. The pile of bird droppings had heaped high on the cement and the nest was full of chirping fledglings all prepared to produce more where that had come from. It was an inconvenient and potentially messy spot for a nest’s front porch so I carefully lifted it and its chirpy contents from the front rafter and placed it on a back rafter above one horse’s stall. It was a minor move of about 10 feet, but that proved to be a major obstacle for two dedicated swallow parents who had five noisy hungry mouths to feed. I hoped I had not completely disrupted this little family’s world.

It took about an hour for the swallow parents to decide they couldn’t bear to listen to their displaced babes’ cheeping any more, so they swooped into the stall with insects to feed five gaping mouths, putting aside their indignation at the semi-eviction and the objectionable human and horse smell all over their home. They felt compelled to care for those offspring, no matter what the dangers may be.

It became quite the show stopper during the week as people leaned over the stall gates to pet our horses and a swallow would swoop right past their ear on its way to the nest. We watched those five babies grow fluffier over the course of the week, and several times had to rescue one or another from a horrible fate under a horses’ hoof as the birds bumped and jostled each other out of the crowded nest. By the end of the week, they were not yet flying but they were able to sit independently next to the nest on the rafter beam and a few days later when I went back to check on them, they were already gone, the nest feather-lined and poop filled, looking a bit forlorn and terribly empty, no longer a comfortable fit for a family that had outgrown it.

A barn swallow is more resilient than I am about letting their offspring go. Even my mares are slowly settling into the knowledge their youngsters are now on their own and perfectly capable of taking care of themselves in the big world. I am not nearly so settled with my children’s transition to adulthood. Yet I know it must come. It’s not just about the inevitable resolution of the uncomfortably swollen udder, but in time to feel the calm and quiet fullness in the heart of the wholly weaned.