We are in the midst of another week of 100+ heat. There will probably be another two or three before the season is finally spent. It makes for quiet mornings. Few birds chirp and those that do murmur soft and low from high hedges. For a few hours this morning the air will be smooth and cool but as the sun climbs once more into the sky its piercing white rays will blanket the earth and iron it flat and silent. The smell of burning tar will rise from the roads. People will retreat behind closed doors while air conditioners hum and TV’s roll out reruns of the Olympics.

This morning I open the door to collect the newspaper and see near the doorstep the same large black beetle that had been lying there yesterday afternoon frantically kicking its legs. Twice in passing I had turned it over so that he could get upright and make its way out of the 104 degree sun.  I am astonished that it is still here but this morning only two legs are pawing the air and those feebly.

While I was lying quietly in bed last night, the small fan drawing in some of the night’s coolness, had this beetle too been on its back, its legs pumping in a race it would never win? Had the moon’s lullaby closed its eyes at midnight as it did mine?

Even in this most simple and primitive creature I recognize the same drive for life that beats in me. My heart turns over and this time I get a stiff piece of paper, scoop it up and deposit it under some nearby bushes. Its hard black shell blends into the background of the mulch. It is temporary upright although unmoving. At least it can now die in the shade.

I am reminded that everything of form eventually dissolves back into the formless. Out of the porthole of my vision I see the trees and cars and flowers, the cat and computer and cup of coffee. I see my legs and hands and breast. These forms shall pass also. This knowledge adds a deep poignancy to the morning and I am reminded that I shall not pass this way again.

How shall I spend this moment that is so unique and irretrievable? The cat hops up on the small bench that is her lookout on the world. Her large round yellow eyes, alert but unfocused, admit everything and leave nothing out. Between her and the world she sees there are no barriers, all is equal and acceptable.

An electric chair silently speeds by, a tan Chihuahua its tiny nails tapping like high heels as it scampers alongside in an effort to slacken the pull of the leash. The old lady’s gray hair hangs in long strings around her thin face, jowls drape the stick neck, the beak of her nose juts forward like the prow of a ship and her flapping shirt outlines the wobbly cones of breasts. There is a sadness in her haste that cannot be shaken off and left behind.

For the fifth day in a row, I hear the cry of Canadian geese. As they fly overhead I count 17 in delta formation. Moments later 11 more cleave the sky. The turbines of a 747 on route to southern climes are echoed by the whine of air conditioners which intrude their voices, one by one, into the silence of the morning. Before I go inside, I glance into the bushes and see a black beetle waving one leg slowly in the air.


4 thoughts on “THE BEETLE

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