Doodlebugs, roly polies, pill bugs, armadillo bugs…
They have many names, but the doodlebug is known for one amazing trait: it can curl into a perfect sphere of protection when threatened. And by threatened, I mean any vibration or even the slightest touch. The doodlebugs that live in my front yard have a constant lifecycle of crawling-curling-crawling-curling as my daughter makes them houses and villages. At first, their reflex seems hypersensitive – come on! Do you have to close yourself off for every little stimulus during the day? But you know, they uncurl and crawl on within seconds. Doodlebugs protect themselves, but they never lose sight of the world outside their self-made safe place. That instinct to protect yourself and also remember the world outside yourself is a good balance. It is also a pretty good definition of hope.
Did you know that the collective noun for cardinals is “radiance”? A radiance of cardinals. When they first hatch, cardinals are small, weak, blind, and needy – hardly bright or brilliant. They are a radiance because of whose they are; their shine comes from belonging. In about 10 days these red balls of fuzz grow to feathered fledglings, radiating into my garden, my trees, and far beyond – then back again. Always radiant, together.
Nothing will get a bird out of the nest faster than a giant watching with a camera.
Drop by drop and breath by breath, rocks in the hills where I live are worn from rough mountains to smooth stones you can hold in your hand. They’ve been sculpted by time and life from something that holds you up to a gift you can pick up and give to a friend.
The landscape in West Texas doesn’t hide much. During the day you can see just about everything between the bright blue sky and the hard brown earth for miles around. Plains give way to rolling hills, then steep mountains. Jagged volcanic rocks pierce soft grasslands. Trees grow where there is no soil. And you can certainly see how dry it is; this is the only place where I have seen rainfall evaporate before it reached the ground.
But today the rain touches the ground and, paradoxically, the mist that covers the hills reveals life in the rocks and grasses that the clear sunny days had hidden. Purple, yellow, and white flowers dot the roadsides and peek out from under the cacti and boulders. On a day like this, the rain is like a like a message from a long lost love, softening the parched earth as friendship softens the heart.
Soon, the dry weather will return. There will still be great beauty in the desert. Trees will still grow where there is no soil. Beneath the rocks and grasses, prairie verbena and star cloak fern wait; when their memory is stirred, they will bloom again. This earth is hard, but it is not barren.