Posts Tagged ‘heroes’

I just want to be clear – I have nothing against bugs for the most part.  In fact I generally find insects very fascinating and typically have my little bug lab going on my kitchen counter all summer long.  Beloved JR says he doesn’t mind, really.

I guess I come by this this interest naturally – my grandmother was an entomologist, even discovering a new species of colembolla, which was named after her.  She got married before she finished her doctoral thesis, though, which, in those days, in 1915, was the end of that.  I will probably write more of her another time – she was a spritely character.

So, bugs.  I watch them.  I watch them hatch, I watch them eat, I watch them poop, I watch them mate, I watch them lay eggs.  I also squish them, when necessary.  I carry my ‘bug bucket’ with me into the garden (maybe another post on this, too, one of my can’t-go-without garden tools) and don’t hesitate to handpick any manner of bug that is abusing my perennials.

EXCEPT Tomato Hornworms.     I HATE Tomato Hornworms.

These grotesque creatures are the most camouflaged creepy insect, and you never, NEVER see them before you almost touch them.  Enough to make you jump right out of your skin.

I’ve learned to look for the signs, like de-nuded branches and half-nibbled baby green tomatoes and the tell-tale little black droppings on the leaves below.  I’ve learned to search assiduously – before I begin picking the fruit, so as not to be surprised.  When I find the critters, hiding in plain sight along a little leafy branch, I can’t bear to touch the icky things – besides, they cling tenaciously to the branch and it becomes a tug-of-war.  So, I pull out my handy garden nippers, hold the bug bucket underneath, and just snip off enough of the branch so that the whole thing – worm, twig and all – drops Plunk! into the sudsy water.  Easy-peasy.

Unless, after harvesting at least half a dozen juvenile-sized hornworms, and double-searching to make certain you haven’t overlooked any, you begin to pick the ripened tomatoes – even popping a plump red cherry one in your mouth, warm & juicy & delicious like nothing but a fresh ripe tomato can be – when POP! There is the Mother-of-all-hornworms right at your nose!  *** S H R I E K ***

When I finally caught my breath, I was able to comprehend that there was no way this huge hornworm and the branch on which she(?) was hiding would even fit in my little bucket.  It would require a different sort of mega-method.  And I couldn’t even bring myself to imagine what that might be, I was still trying to keep my stomach from turning inside out.

That’s when I called over my personal handy Hero.  To my knowledge he has never worn a cape, but my beloved JR obliges me by dispatching troublesome little rodentia and slimey rotting watermelon with equal chivalry, and he was willing to help out this damsel in distress.

I was handing him my clippers to remove the whole branch, when he suddenly reached in and took hold of that revolting monster with his bare hand.  I. FREAKED. OUT.  By the time I quit flapping around and had stopped hyper-ventilating I was half-way across the yard and JR had already successfully wrestled the beast into oblivion.  I’m so thankful he wasn’t laughing, because non-violent, peace-loving me might have punched him one.  What he did was, he came over to where I was twitching and emitting rapid little squeaks, and wrapped his big arms around me and said, “I’m sorry.  Next time I’ll warn you to look away first.”

It took a few moments to calm down.  Quite a few.  This morning, warily cleaning out under the overgrown daylilies, I actually picked up a slimy slug with my fingers and deposited him into the trusty bug pot.  And I gently remembered yesterday, and JR, and I smiled; and I thought of how God looks on my irrational fears, and His arms are always there too.  But I haven’t been back to the tomato patch.  Maybe I don’t even need to put up any more sauce this year anyway.

“Do not be afraid of sudden fear…For the Lord will be your confidence.” (Prov.3:25)

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Ah, Summertime….

Conjures images of children splashing in the swimming hole; carefree, broad days of endless imagination playing pirates and cowboys and knights and dragons; and late, starry nights of Hide-n-Seek in the shadows.  Memories of stomping down the next-door field of alfalfa into mazes to play tag (sorry, Mr. Farmer…); games of Five-Sticks with the neighborhood kids on the front lawn, after the chores are done.  (Do these memories date me??)

Actually, some of my favorite summer memories are the long hours spent curled in the big armchair in the cool of the house, reading.  Hours at Gramma’s, stretched out on her smooth, green velvet carpet, reading.  Hours in the hammock under the apple trees, reading.

I read everything on the bookshelves at home – Alcott, Austen, Baum, Cooper, Dickens, Eliot, Kipling, London, Maugham, Shakespeare, Steinbeck, Stevenson, Thackerey, Tolstoy, White.  In alphabetical order.  Gone With the Wind, Sherlock Holmes, Robinson Crusoe, The Count of Montecristo – over and over again in no particular order.  I was Scarlett, I was Jo, I was Dorothy, I was Mowgli.  Every once in a while, I would discover a hero, but I don’t think I understood it at the time.  I only knew that something inside of me stirred and shifted; grew bigger and more hopeful; and I seemed to find myself crying for no reason that I could understand and had to put the book down until I wore myself out and fell asleep and then woke up and could start reading again.

C.S.Lewis says that we read to know we’re not alone.  I must have been a lonely child, for reading was my best companion.  When we recognize ourselves or are stirred by some deep, indistinct longing put out there in words, I believe we aren’t so much shaped by what we read, as by what is revealed and exposed in us.  It is a vulnerable thing to read a book.  Heroes, perhaps, help us to know, and believe, the unknown, un-accessed, terrifying part of our better selves.

Now, thinking about those long summer days, there are fictional heroes that come to mind from those pages.  Not the everyday hero with a sword; I mean the quiet kind.  But only a few, really, still stir me.  For today, here are my top five:

#5 – Polwarth

#4 – Sydney Carton

#3 – Rose-of-Sharon

#2 – Cordelia

#1 – Bishop Bienvenu

Polwarth is the unassuming gate-keeper in George Macdonald’s trilogy of parables about the curate of Glaston. He goes about his business quietly, kindly and with his eyes and heart open. Though a dwarf in stature, his simple honesty and wisdom have a gigantic impact on those who tarry with him.  One curious scene, in The Lady’s Confession, portrays Polwarth’s benevolent and humble character as he absorbs the fastidious re-arranging of his familiar old bookshelves by a well-meaning young lady who is slowly recovering from a terrible trauma, and it is a year or more before he manages to get his beloved books  “muddled into order again.”  This scene quite unsettled me for awhile; I recognized my own fierce desire for control even of my ‘messes’, and the agitation that comes with their disruption. I wrestled with what I took to be, at first, cowardly dishonesty on Polwarth’s part, to not, respectfully, ask the young lady to leave his bookshelves alone.  But in a moment of compassion, I was able to grasp what Polwarth understood; her “usefulness” was an important part of her healing, and he graciously set his preferences aside, for her sake.

Sydney Carton, the alcoholic lawyer who steps up to the guillotine instead of his look-alike and love-rival who is the true condemned man in Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities, says that it is “a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done”.  It may be argued whether his death is noble or suicidal, but in any case, he humbly and bravely is willing to sacrifice everything so that another man may live – the condemned husband of the lady he loves. It is suggested that he lived a “worthless” life, but perhaps the honest worth of one’s life is determined by its impact on another, and in this story, Sydney Carton certainly gives back life, liberty, love and family to a doomed and hopeless couple.  And this isn’t even talking about the hope and courage he is able to impart to the imprisoned little seamstress at her death.  You’ll have to read the book.

Rose-of-Sharon – such a delightful name, one of the Okie Joads suffering in The Grapes of Wrath.   She was a self-absorbed, petulant, skinny girl, too soon pregnant, and as the migrant family finally lost every last shred they owned struggling to survive, she too lost her baby.  Barely escaping in the swirl of a muddy flood, they stumble upon someone closer to death than they, and Rose-of-Sharon’s new milk is the only hope of survival. I first read this book when I was 13, but I knew about breast-feeding.  It was a frightening awakening for me that summer, that a young woman could set aside her own dignity and modesty, and, for the first time in the story, despite her own need offer herself for another’s life.  I think the terror was that it might be required of me someday.  This was a scene that never made it into the movie.

Cordelia, of course, is the youngest daughter of Shakespeare’s King Lear.  Her simple statement of loyalty to her father cannot compete with the extravagant protestations of love and flattery offered by her two sisters, and she forfeits her reputation, position, share of the kingdom and, ultimately, her life, for her honesty and integrity.  How I hate to be misunderstood!  How quick I am to defend myself, attempting to secure what I believe I deserve – maybe pardon, sympathy, esteem, good feelings…   Cordelia reminds me that I can “entrust my soul to the one who judges justly”.

Monseigneur Bienvenu, the Bishop of Digne is one of my most favored characters, described thoroughly and delightfully by Victor Hugo in Les Miserables.  Not altogether human, meaning that he is too perfectly good and humble, he lives without disdain and always with serene benevolence.  He once said of a big, black, hairy horrible spider, Poor thing, it is not his fault.  He is the one who restores to paroled convict Jean Valjean both his freedom and his dignity, in the form of two silver candlesticks that he forgot to steal. Free from any need to protect his own safety or possessions, the Bishop treats the tramp Valjean with unexpected respect and kindness, thus shifting the entire course of his life. Forget not, never forget, he blesses, that you have promised to use this silver to become an honest man.  I find inspiration in the character of this humble Bishop, showing me what it could be to live as a peacemaker in the small moments of every day.

These are the heroes I gathered from the summers of my youth.  Not understanding their importance, or knowing what to do with them, I returned them to the shelf and went outside to splash in the sprinkler or play Tarzan in the woods with my siblings; but they each one stayed with me.  Only in time have I gone back, re-read and re-remembered.

Popularly, we tend to think of heroes in the sense of a mighty deed for a mighty cause, a Dragon-Slayer.  My little collection of fictional heroes are unsung people, unnoticed for the most part, doing simply what they each must do to be true to themselves.  They relinquish something that is dear to most of us – life, livelihood, comfort, dignity, reputation, security, – so that some one else can be set free. Someone who may never know, either the gift or the cost.  Yes, reading books helps us to know we’re not alone…. and comforts us in the companionship of humanity.


The GOOD PRIEST  Les-Miserables-Movie-Clip-The-Good-Priest.html

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