The Sounds of the Seasons

Lessons from the Universe,

The Sounds of Seasons

         One day in mid July, I was walking with Sparkle up into the hills, the air not yet too heavy with humidity, when I stopped. Sparkle was intent on a particular scent that was exciting her snout, and as I stood still I heard the first of summer's tzzch, tzzch tzzzching. The sound of the cicadas. The sound of peak heat and sultry stillness. The call spoke of mid summer more than the hottest days sunshine. And I thought about the various sounds that signal to us the seasons: there is the chorus of the peepers in spring, music I can't imagine is not welcomed by all. It speaks of renewal and life and hope. A small miracle unto itself that these frogs continue to persevere.

          In summer, heat brings out the sound of cicadas and the buzzing of insects. There's a laziness, and a carefree feeling as well. As July turns to August, I feel glimpses of autumn: a few dogwood leaves turning red, the change of light and that certain something in the air that speaks so clearly of late summer with hints of the cooler weather and brilliant clarity to come. And fall, beloved fall. The crickets take up the torch, testing even the strongest patience when chirping out their songs behind your dresser at night. Finally winter. There is no quiet, quite like the silence of falling snow. The earth and her sounds grow hushed and purity blankets the world.

          The sounds that mark the seasons are as familiar and welcome as certain symbols. Towering sunflowers dot our yard now, and their brilliant light-filled faces smile down at us. There are smaller ones too, perfect for cutting, bringing part of the vibrant outside in. I filled a vase and put in one sole sunflower, its radiant yellow so uplifting in our home, so perfect. Until there came over me a sense that this happy flower belonged outside, not in. Wouldn't I rather be outside on the breeze-filled day? I carried the vase out and plunked it on a table. I plunked myself down next to it, and as I looked upon its infectious joy, I noticed something moving. Something tiny. There, making its way across the sunflower terrain, was an inchworm. As I marveled, I wondered if maybe this was why I'd felt compelled to take it out.

           For a long time I watched as the inchworm made one flower its home. For a long time I sat and saw that the world is not what we think it is. For the inchworm the world was the sunflower. And it wasn't rushing around, it was simply being true to its inchworm nature.




          The dogs were all outside. Olive, who's been diagnosed with renal disease, was feeling good, hunting down rodent road, with Isabelle and Sparkle both assisting her—Isabelle miraculously digging with three legs, and Sparkle making very loud noises. Sasha was by my side, content, like Ferdinand the bull, to sit and smell the air. Or maybe she was just hoping for food.

          Every day, I'd walk out the kitchen door and check on the sunflower and the inchworm, and for days there they both were, a beautiful symbiotic relationship that demanded nothing except each other's presence. The inchworm inching around, content with its flower, not lusting for bigger flowers in distant fields. In their easy relationship I saw not only the wonderful web of connection, but also felt the power of humility, that little speck of inchworm so confident and strong. We each inhabit our small universes, whether a home with racing children, or a solitary cave on a mountain top, whether a hospital room, an ocean or a sunflower—sometimes oblivious to or forgetting there lies a greater world beyond the room of our own: our entire planet, and a greater world even beyond that, and that, and that….

           After a week or so, the sunflower began to wilt; and then, so too did the inchworm stop moving, even when I lightly prodded, yet it remained on the flower. Eventually I lifted the faded flower and placed it on the compost pile; its seeds would feed the birds. The inchworm was still right there.

           The dogs are aging but right here beside me in our small universe. They decided to take a break from giving me lessons. I had to get my lesson from a tiny inchworm instead.

Gallery of nature and dogs: