Paradise - There or Here?
Look up - and see Paradise
I am sure that all of us would love to find ourselves in Paradise. There are times, depending on one's attitude, when, if we open our senses to the world around us, we will realize that perhaps Paradise is a lot closer than we think.
I often find myself awake in the middle of the night, and instead of tossing and turning, I decide to get up and go for a walk. I live in an apartment complex and it is easy to feel cloistered by staying inside too long. I quite enjoy my walks in the dark (it is never very dark living in a city), and sometimes I take a slow stroll, whilst at others, a brisk walk. The weather, at the moment, is temperate and the heat and humidity has not yet set in. It is quiet and I don't feel rushed when I explore the complex during these night hours. I often find that this is when I will see nocturnal creatures and the cats that try to eke out their existence in this environment, know me, and will sometimes shadow me when I walk, or will come to me for some affection and something to eat.
Super-Moon May 5th
On the 5th of May, the Moon was at its closest orbit to the Earth (perigee) and as the full moon rose in all its orange glory, it was truly a wonderful sight to behold. I have seen some marvellous photos of this full moon rising, and I made an attempt to photograph it myself, just using my Canon Powershot, and even though I could not capture the beauty with my camera (although the end result wasn't too bad), I put the image in my own memory banks.
As the moon rose and continued its arc around the heavens, it shone down in brilliant whiteness, bathing the surrounding area in its light. I am excited that on Sunday, there will be an annular solar eclipse, however, due to the moon being closer to Earth than normal, it will not fully obscure the sun. I read that the eclipse would be visible from the Oregon/California border, southeast to Lubbock, Texas. Lubbock is further north and west to where I live (in Corpus Christi) and I am wondering whether the eclipse will be visible from here. It has been almost twenty years since a solar eclipse has been visible in the United States. If you watch the eclipse, you run the risk of blindness, as the concentrated infrared radiation can burn you retina and you wouldn't even feel it (no nerve endings there). Sunglasses won't even protect your eyes enough. One needs specially made protective glasses or I believe one can make a pinhole in a cardboard box, but even then, one needs to proceed with caution. I would definitely find out more before trying to observe the eclipse.
Two weeks later, another heavenly passage occurs, when Venus (planet of love) will cross the path of the sun - a rare occurrence which is named the "transit of Venus." I have always loved looking up at the stars or appreciating clouds and rainbows and the like. In Johannesburg, perhaps because it is 5,500 feet closer to the heavens, the stars are bright and fascinate me. The weather and climate in this city is wonderful, with cold, dry winters and summer rainfall. Usually cumulonimbus thunderclouds develop in the afternoon and grow darker until the anvil forms at the top and produces a storm with thunder and lightning. The rain pours down to feed the grasses, flowers, trees and rivers and then it is over and the sun shows its face again while the air feels fresh and clean.
Solar Eclipse Sunday 20th
Grackles drinking at dawn
Walkabout in the wee hours
On my walkabouts, I enjoy the stillness of the night. Depending on the time of day, I so appreciate listening to the birds which have congregated noisily before dark and chatter together about their day as they roost in the trees within the complex. Their chorus of voices fills the air with song that rises into the darkening sky and then, suddenly quiets as if, all at once, they have nodded off. At night, I am often up before the birds stir. I walk quietly so as not to disturb their slumber. I looked up into the trees this morning, and could see their shadowy, still forms as they roosted before break of day. Before even the first rays of the sun, it cheers me to hear them begin their morning twitterings and break into excited birdsong as the day approaches.
I have tried to photograph many of the birds at my feeders, but without a blind or a zoom lens, my presence often scares them away. There are pigeons, mourning doves, inca doves, sparrows, grackles and various other blackbirds with beautiful songs that have been visiting lately. I also had a pair of cardinals that took up residence nearby, and were grateful for a steady supply of seeds for a few years. Sadly, there are some children that have taken to destroying some habitat here,forcing the birdsto flee and to find homes elsewhere. I so enjoyed seeing that beautiful red male sitting atop the shepherd's hook from which the feeder is suspended, and hear his "tsip, tsip" noises as he prepared to take sunflower seeds to feed to his pinkish-gray mate. At least the hummingbirds are not deterred by human presence. I put up my feeders this last week and have had a couple of birds visiting now and then. One is more likely to see them in the earlier and latter parts of the day.
Squirrel gets her fill
Squirrels are hungry too!
My feeders have really connected me to nature. When I first arrived at this apartment complex, not even birds came by. Over time, I added two birdbaths and began to supply seeds and hummingbird nectar (one part white sugar to four parts boiled water) and the birds came steadily by to visit. In addition to the birds, squirrels popped in and their determined efforts at feeding from the stash were always a real treat to watch. My neighbors thoroughly enjoyed watching their antics too.
Sometimes, when there is a little food left in the bowl that I put out for the cats, the pigeons come up to finish it. The bowl is near the living room window and it amuses me to watch my cat, Mr. Hobbes, slowly stalk towards the window as he watches those little pigeon heads bobbing up past the window frame. Then, he launches himself at them, only to realize that they are safe from his clutches because of the window pane. He is learning not to hit his head, but will still stalk and watch. It keep him quite occupied.
Magnolia refreshed after the rain
Magnolia seedpods fresh with raindrops
Friendly faces on my walk
Heavenly little faces
Heavy rains and threats of a tornado
About two weeks ago, we had some heavy rains. I ventured out after the rain stopped and delighted in the raindrops decorating the Magnolia leaves, flowers and seedpods. As I walked about, I took photos of various flowers growing near the walls, either in pots or planted in the soil. Their pretty faces smiled at me and I could only delight in the beauty and variety of these lovely plants.
I wrote this piece while at work, sitting in a show house waiting for interested parties to arrive. I was feeling extremely tired in the afternoon, and not ten minutes after I walked in to my apartment, my cellphone rang. My brother's voice was on the line and I knew before he said a word that my darling Father had died. I had spoken to my Dad that morning on Skype. When I saw his face, I knew that he had taken a turn for the worse. I had made a point of speaking to him on Skype regularly. His wonderful caregiver, Maggie, was at his side and told me she had just given him a nebulizing treatment so he was able to talk. Lately, Dad had been telling me how much he felt the cold. The Johannesburg winter can be cold indeed. I told Dad how much I loved him and relayed messages of love from both my son and my cousin. Dad said to tell them he sent them love too. I did not make the call long and was finishing the call by telling him that I loved him and God bless (as I always did). Just then, the Doctor walked in to examine him and start some antibiotics. I greeted the doctor and asked him to take care of my Dad. It was late afternoon. Dad died in his own bed, peacefully, just after 9 on Friday night, attended by his wonderful night-time caregiver - Peter. Peter was rubbing his back which was very sore, and had given him a hot water bottle. Dad thanked Peter for all the kindness Peter had given him through his care. Earlier on in the day, Dad had looked at the postcards I had sent from Texas, always telling him that I loved him. Dad had a final coughing fit, then died.
Heaven, there and here
I launched into action and booked flights, woke up at 4:30 a.m. to pack and got to the airport (with the help of some dear friends) to rent a car to drive to Houston. More about the journey in another hub, but suffice it to say that I arrived in Johannesburg, exhausted, on Sunday night, in time for the funeral, which was held on Monday.
There were many friends in attendance. Friends of both my brothers, my father's and mine. Prayers were said at his grave, right beside my Mother, who died in August 2010, and the most wonderful words were spoken about this quiet, sensitive and very intelligent man. I was heartbroken, and when the clods of earth hit his coffin, I closed my eyes. It is almost midwinter in Johannesburg, but the sky was that bright blue I have only seen in this city, and the sun was shining warmly upon us. Two of my good friends, one on either side of me, held me tight. My one friend, whom I have known since high school, recently lost her mother. She whispered helpful words in my ear. I felt the sun on my face and saw bright red hues behind my eyes. A breeze sprang up and lifted my hair and brushed against my face. My friends felt like wings, lifting me up and I will be forever grateful for their kind and loving presence.
I have no doubt that my Dad, my friend, my support and my comforter, is at rest and has joined my Mom - which he so badly wanted. I am comforted by that. The timing of this writing is unusual. I began it thinking about Heaven, while I sat in Corpus Christi, Texas, and I end it sitting here, in the middle of the night in Johannesburg, mourning the loss of my beloved Dad. Were it not for the company of family and friends, I would be truly desolate. I am, however, home - in almost the middle of winter in Johannesburg. This season has its own kind of beauty. I am wondering whether this will be the last time I visit home.
Want to see Paradise? Look up!
I am filled with memories and thoughts. My Dad would joke that it is not the cough that carries you off, but the coffin they carry you off in. Dad died after his coughing fit and was laid to rest, with dignity. He rests peacefully now and I just know that his soul has ascended and that he is with me still, in a far more powerful form. He is fit and strong and no longer has body aches and pains and the vagaries of old age that plagued him. He sees, now, better than ever and joins my Mom from whom he hated to be parted. I can only be glad for my Dad and thankful that he was the ever present light in my life - and will be, always. A cousin of mine sent me a message to say that she remembered how I used to dance around the lounge and how proud my Dad was of me. She said that I made him happy. Now, as I think of Dad, I think of the arms that would hug and comfort me, the hands that would stroke my silky hair and the light that shone in his eyes when he looked at me. Thank you for your constant belief in me, Dad, and the words of comfort you always had for me. Rest in peace, dear heart! The sun will rise again tomorrow, and you will live on in my memoryforever, as also in the memories of those who loved you. God bless, Dad.
One of those synchronicities has shown itself yet again. This is my 18th hub, Dad died on the 18th.