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Monday Photo Meditation: Bright Spots

Ladybug 2 050618 Resized

We are at last entering the downward slope of the hardest season of the year.

I am well known for [mostly] despising spring: Here, it is a far more laborious slog than the depths of winter, and very often just as cold (although this year, “just as cold” is relative, thanks to a winter too warm and wracked by drought). But spring is the changeable season, moody and capricious, with vast temperature swings and weather changes occurring in a matter of hours, even moments; with gale-force winds that rattle the windows beneath walls of dust, and occasionally take out the roof of a stable. All this unsettledness is hard on the joints, on the temper and spirit. It’s hard on the animals, too; the horses are far more prone to colic now that at any other time of year, and their hooves suffer from the mix of intermittent wetness and warmth.

On this day, no rain is expected, nor predicted, but the skies are a dull yellow-gray. The air is not especially humid, but it feels heavy, oppressive, as though its very existence is a burden unto itself, one that it seeks to offload onto our weary bodies. I am a child of the storm, and I love cloudy days, but I can see how our current weather might be a source of depression for others disinclined to such meteorological moodiness.

But there are bright spots.

Our weather this spring has been utterly disordered, no seeming rhyme or reason, and no adherence to the usual patterns. Some plants have bloomed far too soon; others are still struggling to open far after their usual leafing. The wild creatures are equally confused; we have birds out of season, while others have yet to show even as their migratory window draws to a close.

But one visitor we have in abundance this year is an old childhood friend: the ladybug.

In my own lands, ladybugs were ubiquitous in summer. They did not overrun the area, as occurs in some other regions, but they were both common and friendly — the latter, in the sense that they were regarded as helpful in keeping more destructive small creatures at bay. When I was a child, they were about the only bug that didn’t bother me; I was happy to let them climb onto my hands and rest until ready to fly away. Part of it, no doubt, was their lack of long legs or antennae. But part of it was the beauty of their hard crimson shells accented with black dots in perfect symmetry: little drops of fire in the shape of tiny petals. Their absence has always been one thing I’ve missed about summer living in other parts of the country.

Until now.

We have always had ladybugs here, but they are generally few and far between. We might see one or two relatively early in the summer, again perhaps toward the waning days of the hot season, but not much more than that, at least in recent years. This year, they are here in sufficient numbers to make them noticeable, bright spots in long grass and gray days alike.

They are friendly spirits, too: Wings and I have both had them crawl up onto our hands and feet, content to spend time in proximity to our much larger selves. That’s unusual for such tiny spirits, and such trust feels like a blessing, a gift of grace.

This is a fraught time, one when the physical obligations of and to the land threaten to overwhelm much else, particularly in such days of drought and scarcity. The gray days are welcome for the hope of rain they hold out, even as we know that they consist mostly of false promises; the gray moods are harder to accept, or to banish.

At such times, we hang onto the little things, even something as small as the trust of a tiny insect. It is the bright spots that will carry us through these last difficult days of spring into the warmer, easier winds of summer.

~ Aji










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