Saturday, 27 July 2013

It's in the dance

They sat for a moment while Mandisa looked around the inside of the packing shed. She watched as the workers sorted through the fruit and quickly packed it in the crates. As the sun grew stronger, it pierced through the slates of the wooden walls and cast blinding highlights across the dimly lit sorting stations.  Beams of light flickered across the scene in a quick and rhythmic dance as the workers kept their steady pace. The interplay between shadow and sunlight cast what seemed like choreographed silhouettes foreshadowing the morning ballet that Mandisa had been so eagerly awaiting…   

“So are you ready?” asked Neo.

“Am I ready?” Mandisa responded cheerfully.

“Okay, then… Follow closely!” and like a bolt from the blue Neo was off!

Mandisa was in hot pursuit of Neo, but he was so fast and a far more experienced flyer! She quickly dashed forward with the phased-stroking and the ‘clap-and-fling’ of her wings, using both techniques to generate the lift that she needed and thrust to catch up with Neo. As she carefully alternated each of her strokes with the calculated twisting between the supination and pronation of the ends of her wings, Mandisa quickly gained momentum. Neo was aware of her effort and began to synchronise his stroking until his wings halted their careful beats and fell into an updraft glide so that she could catch up and join in the pulse of his aeronautical adventure.

“Well hello again!” said Neo once more as they met up side by side.

“Hello…” responded Mandisa coyly.

“So, shall we race to the end of the slow-movers?” ask Neo in his ever so charming tone.

Mandisa, besotted with Neo even before he had asked her to join in the morning’s adventure, hesitated out of shyness.

“Well, come on then!” said Neo playfully tempting her.

She then excitedly joined in his good-natured rivalry “Alright then…On your mark, set…” she called out, and before shouting ‘go’ she was off!

But it wasn’t long before Neo caught up and appeared right in front of her in a masterful stunt combining asymmetric wing strokes which spun him on his axis and into a free glide bringing him face to face with Mandisa. He hovered for a moment and began reflecting her forward motion in his own backward counter-stroking flight before dropping off in another synchronised stroke to the left. As he rushed back up, he circled Mandisa before racing off into the chain of swaying legs and arms of the workers. With a quick clap-and-fling, she charged forward and regained her momentum as she followed closely behind Neo.

As they glided through the legs of the first worker and shot up to the right, they flipped on their axes and twisted their way up between the tight opening of the next worker’s arm and the crate he was holding.

Although she was a novice in this game of Neo’s, Mandisa was an exceptional tracker. However, her curiousity and naiveté was something that Neo had not accounted for as he continued along unaware that he had lost his pursuer. Mandisa’s curiousity often got the better of her, and in this moment, as she breached the tunnel between the worker’s arm and his crate she came face-to-face with the slow-mover and could not resist a closer inspection. She glided toward the orbs of the giant being and gently darted from side to side and swayed back as the slow-mover took its labouring steps toward her. At that moment, Neo sensed the loss of his partner and as he retraced his flight caught sight of the giant being’s arm rising up to swat Mandisa out of the way.

“Mandisa move!” shouted Neo as he darted towards her.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Welcome Alphabeasts

“If you will learn to listen to the wind when it calls,” she said, “and discover the language of other animals than ourselves, you will never lose the center of yourself.”

Interview with Frank Water, 
Lessons from the Indian Soul
Psychology Today, May 1973.

This marks the first week of the Alphabeasts series. Hop, skip, swim, fly, jump, run, walk, swing or simply wander on over to the Alphabeasts page to meet the Aye-Aye...

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Flight of Fancy

via Wikimedia Commons
It was early morning on the farm and the workers were busy packing fruit for the midday shipment before the heat of the afternoon sun. It was hard and heavy work stacking the crates into the truck. There was a packing shed where the shipments were closed up before they were passed on to the first in a string of workers that made up the supply chain for the delivery. Each worker would walk a short distance to hand off the crate to the next. As they walked, they kicked up the undergrowth beneath their feet and tiny clusters of flies would be disturbed along the path. This was a great place to find an easy meal and a bit of a hidden adventure for a group of dragonflies that enjoyed the game of weaving in and around the slow-movers.

This was Mandisa’s first time out accompanying the slow-moving animals that disturbed the little flying insects that would be her morning meal. Neo, who was a regular adventurer, had invited her along with some of the others. He had lured her in with his thrilling stories about diving through the packing shed and zigzagging through the supply chain that were the slow-movers. She had only just recently met Neo and his friends, but had specifically taken a shine to him and was quite flattered to have been invited along for the morning’s escapade! When they arrived to the site Neo told Mandisa to stay close to him. He would show her around the place and essentially teach her the rules of the game. They sat together on a nearby branch on the edge of the plantation as Neo described the surroundings and the course that should be followed to ensure a great hunt.

As Neo described in detail all of the directions to Mandisa, she sat in awestruck excitement at the thought of beginning this thrilling chase. She always enjoyed a good hunt and this new site for a foraging game that Neo had brought her to was abundant with exhilarating feats of flying prowess and narrow escapes.

“Now, Mandisa” said Neo “watch me as I go through the sequence and then meet me at the packing shed.”

Mandisa was always ready to take on a challenge and this new game was nothing different. She had had narrow escapes in the past but she was known as one to chase a quest. She reluctantly stood on the branch and waited to watch Neo go through the sequence of the course. She was eager just to jump in, but he knew better, he’d done this before and rather than take haste she thought maybe she should take a moment to experience the chase through sight before taking it on through flight!

In a flash, Neo burst through the opening of the packing shed rising up above the slow-movers before he dove down behind them and followed just inches from them as they sauntered along the path… Then, without warning he veered to the left and Mandisa could see he was clutching a wriggling fly before he quickly devoured it in mid -flight. Her wings twitched with excitement as he shot the right and resumed the pursuit of the slow-movers. As he snaked through their legs, he made his way along the supply chain and hovered for a moment motioning to Mandisa to meet him back at the shed.
She was so flooded with the anticipation that her flickering wings beat so fast that her legs nearly didn’t have the chance to fully let go of the branch before she rose to the air. She hung above the branch for the briefest moment before whizzing forward to meet up with Neo at the shed!

As she soared through the air she could not contain her enthusiasm. She rose to heights and dove down at staggering speeds before coming to a pause and hovering gracefully in a way that made her feel like everything around her was standing still. The whirr of her wings was all that she could concentrate on when Neo playfully darted behind her.

 “C’mon Mandisa! I’ll make it there before you!”

She quickly snapped out of her momentary trance and quickened her flight to catch up with Neo. They flew side by side before splitting their paths just before meeting the front of the shed and raced at either side to meet up at the other end. They were completely in sync and arrived together as though they were a mirror image of the other and softly landed on the pile of bright green tubes that the slow-movers were placing in the crates.  

Monday, 8 July 2013

Is it a dream…?

"We live in a world made up more of story than stuff. We are creatures of memory more than reminders, of love more than likes." ~Jonathan Safran Foer 

In my post before last, I mentioned two seminal works that had shaped my connection with nature. One was E. B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan, but the first was Watership Down by Richard Adams. This week, I was reminded by a friend’s blog and through the class I teach about the importance of stories and how they connect us in our relationships. And so, I wanted to share my connection to Watership Down. This particular narrative by Richard Adams is quite personal and touching for me as it is associated with the bond I had with my grandmother. While The Trumpet of the Swan was one of the first books that I read that really impacted my ecological beliefs; Watership Down was the first film that I remember having a similarly profound influence on the values I would carry with me into adulthood. I read Watership Down years later, but the film rendition is quite heart-wrenching for me. I remember going to see it in the theatre as a child; one of those lovely evenings when an outing to the movies was a rare and treasured experience. 

There a few scenes in the film that deeply moved me and that remain in my psyche to this day. The first scenes are in reference to Fiver’s dream and Captain Holly’s telling of the destruction of their warren. This first scene is the one that led me to critically examine our actions as human beings and how they affect the well-being of both the environment that surrounds us, and all of the beings within… The scene that has an interpersonal connection for me is the first introduction of the rabbit of death when Fiver is guided to Hazel after he has been shot by the farmer. The lyrics from the song in the background of the scene sung by Art Garfunkel are equally powerful. Before my grandmother passed, I put together a tribute book to her from her children and grandchildren. The lyrics from Bright Eyes were part of a quote that I included in this book of family narratives honouring my grandmother for her role in our lives. We each wrote our cherished moments and accompanied our piece in the book with a picture of our youthful selves. It’s been quite a while since she has passed and that clip and the song on its own still move me to tears… 

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