Come August

September 6, 2022

I live in the Southeastern United States where I am graced by the witness of Ruby-throated hummingbirds.  Each March, the scouts (males) begin to arrive here, searching for hospitable courting and nesting grounds.  Around late April, early May, the females arrive, and I spend a good part of my summer keeping two hummingbird feeders clean and filled with fresh sugar water.  The tiny, mosaic birds delight as they dart past my windows, light in my flowers, and divebomb each other.  (How they ever mate is beyond me.)  I love to listen to them twitter to each other. I love the sound of the buzz when they zoom over my head.  I love when they hover in front of me, as if to say, “Thank you.”

Come August, I notice the males sipping the nectar more frequently and staying longer at the feeders, and I know their return trip is approaching.  Each year, these birds, weighing no more than a paper clip, make the autumn migration across the Eastern part of the country and down to southern Mexico where they winter before returning in the spring.  Most stay along the coastline of Texas as they fly south, but some of the more intrepid will fly the 600 miles across open waters over the Gulf of Mexico.  Come August, my heart turns melancholy.

First the males will depart, then, perhaps a month or so later, the females will follow as will the young birds, and the feeders will be empty.  I will take them down, wash them, and store them, my sign of faith in the birds’ return.  While I understand the persistence of instinct, I still marvel at the risks these most delicate of creatures take and wonder how many will perish along the way.  I look at my own life and consider what masses of land, what bodies of water, I have not dared to cross and what I have lost because I didn’t simply take the first step.

Come August, as the birds depart, the flowers that fed them die, and the leaves begin to turn and fall, I think about all the courage it takes to let go and to trust a leap (or even a few steps) of faith.  I pray that when the scouts return next March, they will find me on the other side. Blessings ~ Rosemary

Come August

Swathed in crimson & emerald, the hummingbird returns,
again, to feed, his delicate, cool tongue sipping
the nectar in preparation for his long journey
ahead. With just a turn of his head,
his glistening gorget changes from red to black
in the shifting light
before he buzzes away, to return in a few brief
moments.

The sun sets earlier now, the saffron verbena & purple torenia
beginning to fade while some early leaves
tinged in orange
are ready to carpet a path through the woods.
It is time for the hummingbird to leave, flying solitary
along the pathway mapped in memory
beside the Texas coastline or across the Gulf of Mexico,
flying solitary—male, female, young—low by day
to a winter home two thousand miles
away.

In just a few days, my window will be empty,
and I wonder. Where does the resolve to relinquish
come from, where the will to go forward,
to abandon all, to propel gossamer wings
into the wind
and turn?

© Rosemary McMahan

Photo credits: Turner Matthews, Decatur, AL USA

Sacred Cycles

New Hampshire woods, Fall 2021

Nov. 17, 2021

I have been extremely fortunate this fall to see so much colorful foliage.  Here in the southern states, the leaves typically dry up, turn brown, and tumble away, but this year, perhaps due to all the summer rain, they transformed themselves into muted reds and vibrant yellows.  In New Hampshire, the autumn foliage stunned me at every turn, and even outside of Chicago, on what used to be prairie land, the leaves and grasses lit up in color.  The problem with all this beauty is that I don’t want it to end.  I don’t want the trees to drop those rich, warm hues of delight, and yet they will.

New Hampshire Fall 2021

Autumn is the most subtle of seasons.  With all its beauty, it knows what is next—the letting go.  It is also the season that most stirs my soul and touches my heart.  When I had young children, autumn marked the start of school, an exciting time of growth, and a recognition of another year gone by, preparing me, like an autumn tree, for that not-so-distant letting go.  Now that I am older, autumn reminds me where my days will eventually take me, to a final letting go, and letting go of those I love.  Autumn demonstrates for us the truth that life will be different in the future.  The wheels do turn.  But if wheels did not turn, we’d be stuck.

Autumn also offers us an opportunity to assess our lives and to discern in the early shadows of the afternoon what we might be holding too tightly, so tightly that we are keeping ourselves from opening a space for something else.  It could be anything—an emotion, a grudge, a fear, a lost love or opportunity.  It could be a material possession to which we are too attached or perhaps a lost dream begging to be let go in order to let a new dream breathe.  Autumn invites us to trust the open palm that understands something has to be released in order for future birth to take place.  Creatively speaking, autumn invites us to consider letting go of an art form that is comfortable and familiar in order to embrace and create something new.

Chicago, IL Fall 2021

I wonder how this season of fall presents itself to you, in your life, in your creative work, in your daily work, and in your spiritual journeys.  What memories surface?  What experiences?  What feelings?  While pondering, don’t forget to to relish a final glimpse of the colors and listen to their wisdom before they tuck themselves in until the next turn of the wheel. Walking with you~  Rosemary    

Sacred Cycles

Long narrow roots of the maple stretch
like old slender fingers grasping the leaf-
littered ground, fingers fumbling over saffron
scarlet brown offerings of time
evidence of sacred cycles.
Branches themselves evolve into bare black
arms that know when to release
to let go, to set free, a black made vivid
by its bareness.
It is the bittersweet time of year—
everyone knows this—
bidding goodbye to all that came before
within another turning of the wheel–
but no not a dead season.
The multi-hued tapestry spread on the ground
becomes food for moss and mushrooms.
Empty branches recognize the slow sap
circling in anticipation of the next
creation. And though we do not
see them as well in summer through the shady
canopies, autumn stars still light
upon bare black limbs
and ancient slender fingers.
© Rosemary McMahan
20rosepoet20@gmail.com

Outside my window, after the leaves have let go.