‘Fly away home…’

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The ladybird was swimming desperately as I scooped it out, feeling that little rush of warmth at having rescued the tiny creature from a watery death. It wasn’t happy, but I placed it on the side of the sink to dry out while I soaked. I would take it outside when I was clad in something more decorous than a towel.

From my supine position in the steam, I could see it begin to move, flexing its legs and shifting on the slippery surface; a tiny splash of colour against the porcelain. I like ladybirds. As a child, they always fascinated me and I was almost offended when I read that they could bite. Surely… they wouldn’t?

They are called ladybirds, apparently, for the Virgin Mary, who was often shown cloaked in red in the early paintings. The seven spots of one of the commonest types were said to symbolise her joys and her sorrows. There is an older association, with the Norse goddess, Freya too; it is said the ladybird came to earth riding a bolt of lightning There is a lot of old lore about them… as predictors of weather, for instance. It would rain if one fell into your hand. It is true they do not fly when the world is chilled.

This one, however, was recovering nicely in the warmth of the bathroom. As I dried and dressed I thought that perhaps I would only need to open the window for it shortly for it to ‘fly away home’… I watched it flex the fragile wings, glad to see it unfurl them. A short flight and it landed in the bowl of the sink as I was running the tap… and slid straight down the plughole, carried by the force of water into oblivion. There was nothing I could do, the little creature was gone.

I waited a while, hoping to see it re-emerge in the manner of the spiders that hide there when threatened. Nothing. There would be no happy ending for this harbinger of good fortune. I was, I admit, quite upset by the incident, having saved it from drowning just minutes before, only to have assisted its passing with the running water.

I couldn’t help but think about it though. It is said in many cultures that the number of our days is predetermined. If it was the ladybird’s time, then perhaps there really was nothing I could have done. Perhaps it only mattered that I had cared enough to try.

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I thought of the verses from Ecclesiastes, relevant regardless of faith:

To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

I am not a believer in strict predestination, though I do subscribe to the belief that we choose the broader outlines of our lives in order to provide us with the opportunities we need that we may learn and grow; a vessel into which the wine of life is poured. I am a firm believer in the gift of free will and the ability to shape our lives and futures within a greater Perfection. I do, however, feel that there is ‘a season and a time to every purpose’.

There is an intuitive understanding of when the time is ‘right’ that most of us feel; a tide of possibility that ebbs and flows with the seasons of our lives, and while some things carry an air of obstinate inevitability, others open before us as new landscapes full of adventure. At these moments we have a choice, whether we retreat to safe familiarity, or move forwards, through the open door into the unknown. At such times we cannot know whether a dragon or a pot of gold awaits us, only whether or not we have the courage to find out.

Yet there are other times when we know we simply need to be still, to find an oasis of calm within ourselves, away from the hustle and bustle of a world that moves too fast around us. A place to breathe and simply be… right here, right now.

And then there are the times when events move beyond our control and we can do nothing to change them. Yet even here we do have choices… we can ride that ever-flowing wave of time and tide and face inevitability in a manner of our choosing. And we can choose to learn and grow, even from the smallest event. In this way, even the seeming vagaries of fate are at the mercy of a reality altered by will. When the ladybird goes down the plughole, in spite of all your efforts, you have a choice… will you simply shrug and move on, grieve and salute the passing of a life, however small… and will you have learned to ensure that the plug is secure next time?

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50 thoughts on “‘Fly away home…’

  1. Sometimes an open plughole is a life lesson, sometimes a call to future action. And sometimes, a plughole is just a plug hole.

    The lesson is in the eye of the beholder, and I think you have a very good eye indeed.

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  2. Poor ladybird. I like them, too. They are useful predat In the garden as well as being so pretty. Yes, they can bite. I was bitten by one in 1976 during the heatwave. There was what the newspapers were calling ‘A plague of biting ladybirds.’ It was said they were searching for water in our sweat.
    I love that quote from Ecclesiastes. I think it’s one of my favourites it’s so true.
    Once I found a bat fallen into a tub of water placed under a leaky tap in the garden. I fished it out with a stick and put it to dry out on a wall. Later it was gone. I hope it flew off and and was not caught by a passing cat!

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  3. I like ladybirds too and I love the way you use this little story to make a much wider philosophical point. Years ago I heard the phrase “falling down a crack in life’s floorboards” to express the situation I was in at the time, and also the feeling we sometimes have of being “in a liminal space” or no-man’s land, a time of being between decisions, and not knowing where or what you are and where you might go next. Perhaps it’s a different situation from that of the ladybird going down the plughole… but who knows, maybe the ladybird miraculously survived its journey!

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  4. I too like ladybirds. But then, I’ve never been bitten by one.

    I learned, just recently, that they’re longer-lived than I had thought. There’s a bush in my back garden where they congregate over winter; they’re just starting to revive and move about now. Amazing.

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  5. A beautiful lesson Sue. Hubby had a similar one some years ago. He rescued a frog from the cat , no easy feat. He shut the cat in and left the frog on the patio to recover. Later that evening he was clearing up the garden he trod on the frog! He felt guilty for days….a life lessons…. Bad things get done by good people! No good deed goes unpunished…or shit happens.😜

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  6. Reblogged this on pensitivity101 and commented:
    I have such happy memories of ladybirds, catching several in a matchbox to bring them home to guard our tomato pants against aphids. We saw hundreds of them on the prom, almost like a red carpet dotted with black spots. We had never seen so many all in one place. They are starting to come now, a sign of warmer weather no doubt. Lovely post Sue.

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      1. I can hear the sparrows, blackbirds and robins chattering across the road in the hedge, and we’ve noticed the wagtails are visiting the front garden too. Snowdrops, dwarf daffodils, crocuses, all are a sign of Spring.

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  7. Your lovely though sad story of the ladybird reminds me of something similar with a moth. I had carefully released it from a thread on the curtain, and opened the patio doors to set it free, where it was swooped upon and devoured by a robin, so I know exactly how you felt.

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  8. I always save ladybugs if they are threatened with disaster! One spring the whole side of our house was a bright orange – a thousand ladybugs and landed there and were resting before moving on. A spectacular and never – repeated event! I did overwinter one ladybug in a petri dish in my kitchen. It was partial to apple.

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  9. what a wonderful observation of the ladybug, I am sure many people would have just ignored it. I also love the verse from Ecclesiastes that you shared, such powerful words…

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  10. We have many of these little creatures in the summer, hundreds to be honest, and they do bite. But I love your rescue effort, Sue, and the reflection on the inevitability of the trip down the sink drain. We will all eventually make that trip and as you so beautifully state, we have untold choices until that day comes. ❤ Hugs.

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  11. I’m clumsy! I had one land on me, and watched, fascinated, but then managed to sideswipe it and knock the poor thing dizzy. So full of remorse! A ladybird harmer 😦 I was never sure if it recovered.

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  12. Here they are called Ladybugs and I feel so blessed when they light upon me – they usually show up to sit on my and, when I’m making a hard decision or questioning the hard decision I made ‘yesterday’ – they do their thing, I gaze upon them from afar and never encounter them for most part until – – my heart is weeping in the garden – and I question the existence of everything, including myself, and always, one lands right upon my leg or hand, not called, not expected – no need to save them or rescue them or do anything but just sit and watch them and breath a sigh of relief – and well – If they COULD bite, or are known to bite? Never have I been bitten – not once – I didn’t even know such a thing possible or probable – – LOL Mainly because they are my ‘version’ of magic an fairies’ when I need them to show up, the most! LOL

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