Taking Wing

An ice-haloed cloud at sunset above the coastal plain


There’s a book called
A Dictionary of Angels.
No one had opened it in fifty years.
I know, because when I did,
The covers creaked, the pages
Crumbled. There I discovered
The angels were once as plentiful
As species of flies.
The sky at dusk
Used to be thick with them.
You had to wave both arms
Just to keep them away.
Now the sun is shining
Through the tall windows.
The library is a quiet place:
Angels and gods huddled
In dark unopened books.
The great secret lies
On some shelf Miss Jones
Passes every day on her rounds.
She’s very tall, so she keeps
Her head tipped as if listening.
The books are whispering.
I hear nothing, but she does.
                              In The Library ~ Charles Simic



Comments always are welcome.
More information on ice halos and sundogs is available on the Atmospheric Optics site.

60 thoughts on “Taking Wing

  1. Oh Linda, however did you find this wonderful poem? It’s simply beautiful, as is the very perfect photo. A wonderful way to start my day.

    Please don’t forget to enter my blog drawing — 10 years! There’s a link on any current post. I draw on Christmas! Merry Merry!

    1. Jeanie, I think I might have been introduced to the poem through The Writers Almanac. However I found it, I put it into my files immediately, and it’s just been sitting there, waiting for a chance to shine. I thought it paired beautifully with this photo.

      Congratulations on your ten years. If nothing else, we’re persistent; my ten year anniversary will be next April. I suppose my biggest worry was that I’d run out of things to write about. So far, that hasn’t been a problem — and you certainly haven’t run out of ways to share your creativity!

  2. What an interesting cloud formation.
    As to Angels, I’ve had 4 miracles or near death experiences in my lifetime, so I definitely believe someone is looking over me and keeping me from harm.
    Love the poem.

    1. I’ve seen many sun dogs in my time, but I’ve never seen one combine with a cloud in this way. I’d left the wildlife refuge and was driving home when I happened to turn my head to follow the flight of a bird, and saw the color in the sky. It didn’t last long, but it lasted long enough for me to pull over and enjoy the sight.

      The thought of guardian angels is comforting. I think most of us have had experiences of one sort or another that leave us wondering, after the fact, “However did I survive that?” You’ve certainly had more than your share; I’m glad you’re still here to share your world with us.

    1. That’s quite a story you linked. In the face of such reports, I often remind myself that (as someone once said) there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. I’ve never had such an experience, and I hope I never do, but there certainly have been some odd experiences in my own life that raise questions.

      I was especially interested in that “third person.” I don’t remember the passage from Eliot she quoted, either. I’m going to have to go back and give “The Wasteland” another look.

      1. It ‘s a fascinating read. As must be the Dictionary of Angels! I haven’t experienced the third person or a direct connection with an angel, but I often feel that my departed family members are just above me, at a respectful distance. Not intruding, but just there.

  3. What a great capture! I’m a strong believer in angels, and I know I keep my guardian angel awfully busy. There are far too many occasions for us to trip (literally and figuratively), and I find it comforting to know that heavenly beings are there to help us. I’d never read that poem before, and it’s beautiful. Merry Christmas, Linda!

    1. Until I found this poem, I’d never heard of Charles Simic. He’s had quite a career for someone who didn’t speak English until he was fifteen. He’s published a lot, and won some significant prizes; I’m glad to have discovered him.

      When I was a kid, I’d visit my grandparents for a week or two in the summer. Whenever I’d head off somewhere, if my grandfather was around, he’d say, “Be careful — your guardian angel’s not working today.” I never wondered how he knew that; I just was more careful.

    1. Good heavens. Seventeen degrees? I guess it’s winter up there, after all, and it looks like it’s going to get colder after Christmas.

      Truth to tell, I’d rather be cool than cold. Thanks for those complimentary words; they gave me a smile. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Are you headed back to NY for the holiday? I hope your sister bakes you something wonderful — enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

      1. Thank you Linda! I’m home already – the good news, got time off from work, the bad news, had four pesky wisdom teeth out yesterday. But I’ll be back in shape for Xmas dinner.
        Merry Xmas to you!

    1. Pareidolia strikes again. At first glance, I saw both a bird and an angelic form, but since the sun dog turned out to be a phenomenon associated with ice halos, I decided to go with the angel. Besides, the connection’s delightfully seasonal.

    1. Isn’t it fun to think of nature creating abstractions, too?

      I certainly was happy to see this little sky show, and to be able to clamber out of the car fast enough to capture it. Out of curiosity, I looked at the time stamps on the photos. The first was taken at 5:20, and by 5:24 the show was over.

      It reminded me of this short piece on Monet’s attempts to capture the light. I love the thought of him stalking from place to place, trailed by children carrying his canvases.

    1. It has been a good year, GP — a lot of learning, and a lot of fun. I’m especially happy to have learned so much from you about the Pacific war; it’s helped to put the correspondence between my dad and my uncle in a larger context. Whatever else happens in 2018, at least we know we can keep learning, and keep enjoying it. Merry Christmas!

  4. Oh, I like that one! — picture and poem. Made me think of Hebrews 13:2, and those scenes from “City of Angels” (the Nicholas Cage version) of angels walking all over everywhere.

    1. I’ve never seen the film, but when I read about it, I noticed something intriguing. The angelic Seth (Nicholas Cage) lives in — the library. It could be happy coincidence, but I did wonder whether Simic might have drawn on the film or the earlier German version. In any case, you’re right that many have entertained angel unaware. We’d best welcome all.

      1. Both versions are great — the German version with Peter Falk (if you can find dubbed or subtitled version) and the Nicholas Cage version is a real tearjerker. One of Melanie Griffith’s better films, I thought. .

        1. Your estimate of Griffith’s role certainly was echoed by several critics. I believe it might make for good viewing between Christmas and New Year celebrations.

    1. I’m glad they pleased you, Terry. It’s not often that ice crystals get to figure in one of my photos, but I’m as happy to find them in the sky as on the ground. I love the poem, too: partly for the memories it raises of favorite librarians from my school days.

  5. I have an occasional but recurring dream in which I can fly and soar, in exactly such a fashion as this sundog angel. You have strongly connected with me once again.

    1. I’ve never had a dream of flying, but it must be extraordinary. I confess I laughed when I thought, “Being able to fly would be wonderful. Think how it would reduce the airfare budget.”

      I’m glad the post resonated for you. Happy dreams.

    1. Libraries used to be quiet places: a little dusty, and filled with wonderful smells. Despite the advantages of the internet, I loved doing research in such a place, with note cards, and card catalogs, and prim little notes to “Please DO NOT Reshelve Your Own Books. Place them HERE” I can see Miss Jones patrolling, and fully believe that she could hear things inaudible to others. Perhaps that’s Miss Jones in the sky.

  6. Great information on the ice halo phenomena, and the poem certainly is food for thought in this Season. The poem and image bring “divine” to my attention, and the word stems from PIE root *dyeu- “to shine,” in derivatives “sky, heaven, god”.

    1. I didn’t know the etymology of divine, and it fits here nicely. Beyond that, the etymology helps to make sense of compliments like, “You look divine in that dress.” It’s another way of saying, “That dress really makes you shine.”

      The Atmospheric Optics site is so well constructed. It’s helped me make sense of, and enjoy, a number of unusual phenomena.

      1. There’s more to it from Old French “diviner”, “to conjure, to guess,” originally “to make out by supernatural insight,” and from Vulgar Latin “devinare”, dissimilated from “divinare”, from Latin
        “divinus” which also meant “soothsayer”, and reminded me of Miss Jones.

        1. And now that you’ve said that, I see one similarity between Miss Jones and Miss Dixie Rose, my cat. Whenever Dixie comes across something new or unexpected she cocks her head in just that way as she evaluates the situation, trying to conjure or guess what she’s facing. I doubt supernatural insight plays any role, but on the other hand, what we call “instinct” can seem mysterious and almost supernatural.

  7. Miss Jones was my second and third grade teacher and my god mother, certainly an angel to me, Linda, since she taught me to enjoy reading and learning. Books have been my friends ever since. I see a bird in flight… Maybe a dove given the season. –Curt

    1. A bird’s a perfectly reasonable interpretation, Curt. I confess that at one point I thought of the “proud bird with the golden tail,” but that’s an association that doesn’t make much sense today. Since the United/Continental merger, “the limping bird with the drooping tail” might be more apropos.

      Bless every one of those teachers who encouraged our reading. I hope they’re still out there, and doing their best to counteract some of the best-sellers among the high school crowd. I was introduced to one of those best-sellers this week, and I’ll not even link to it. I don’t want to spread the infection — grumpy old woman that I am. Suffice it to say it was akin to that other stellar genre: collections of the world’s best tweets.

      1. I missed a whole series of comments here, Linda. I must have been tied up in Christmas joy! I was thinking more like a lit up dove! Or maybe a Phoenix.

        Not too grumpy, or old, I think! As for a collection of the world’s best tweets, it must be a new low in seeking the lowest common denominator! And it is probably a financial success… –Curt

        1. Believe me, the collections of tweets and the “books” whose names shall not be mentioned are ghastly: filled with crude language and other, worse things. They’re spreading their infection through the high schools, now, among all those kids who spend their time lamenting the loss of Vine and trying to figure out how to keep their Snapchats in order. It’s anti-social media at its best. I’d post about it, but anything that requires the Urban Dictionary to sort out the language isn’t generally my thing. :-)

          1. I can imagine you don’t spend a lot of time with the Urban Dictionary, Linda. Although given your curious mind, one never knows!
            Social media has allowed young people of a particular persuasion to push the edge in ways they never have before.
            I have mixed feelings about the books kids are reading now, but as a general rule, anything that encourages young people to get their noses out of media and into books is good… even if it isn’t the edgy reading material that I discovered as a teenager, including Lawrence Durrell and Henry Miller. :) –Curt

  8. Oh my this photo is simply perfect. I wish that I had taken it. And the poem is perfect. I have not been on my computer for more than a day and I had a hard time finding this post among so many emails. I don’t comment on that many bloggers posts and delete most of them but I never delete yours. I will try to find the other one in a day or so. Merry Christmas to you and Dixie Rose.

    1. Your comment gave me a smile, Yvonne. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at others’ photos and thought, “I wish I’d taken that.” Sometimes I wish it just because the photo’s so perfect, and sometimes I wish it because I wish I could have been in some particularly spot, but it’s always a funny response when it comes along.

      I really was lucky to get this one. Had a bird not caught my attention and caused me to turn my head, I never would have seen it. It’s a good reminder to look up, down, and all around when we’re in nature. There’s no predicting what will come.

      Merry Christmas day to you. I’m looking forward to sharing 2018 with you.

  9. Good Christmas morning to you, Linda, though I am not sure when this will reach you! I just laughed at your comment to Curt – ‘Grumpy old woman that I am’ – I truly chuckled out loud…. Grumpy only when it’s an important issue! Have you read ‘The Hate You Give’? — Of course no copy has entered my radar field, but |I look forward to reading it….

    The poem is beautiful! ‘…I hear nothing, but she does…’ – just beautiful!

    i’m not sure when i’ll be online long enough to reply to comments – that’s a cashew fruit! the little bitty fruit at the end is the nut – if you bite into it raw you’ll have a rash that makes poison ivy look like baby lotion… the nuts have to be roasted, i think that’s what they do to the nuts….

    1. Clearly, I still have one foot in 2017 — I just found your comment. I’ve been off schedule since before Thanksgiving — now I’m just glad to be in the new year, taking care of last year’s “leftovers” and deciding what to cook up next!

      Thanks for the note about the cashew fruit. I vaguely remember reading something about the cashew — that it isn’t a nut in quite the same way as a walnut or percan — but it’s really neat to see the photo and finally understand how the plant produces the fruit. I do love them, and could eat them by the handsful. I especially enjoy them in chicken salad, or a nice stir-fry.

      We’ve just gone through a week of truly cold weather. This morning? It’s already 31 degrees, and forecast to be in the upper 40s today — maybe even reach 50. I was blessed beyond words to have inside work for the last two weeks. Sometimes, things do work out!

      I hope all’s well — perhaps we’ll see your smiling face again soon! Happy New Year!

      1. buenos dias from mindo/cloud forest – i stayed up late uploading about a third of six weeks’ worth of ebird data… there have been some interesting sightings…

        your statement, ‘ I’m just glad to be in the new year, taking care of last year’s “leftovers” and deciding what to cook up next!’ gave me a smile! — it’s always a joy to witness the poetic arrangement of your thoughts!

        A friend’s husband left Quito last night on a flight to New York; I find myself wondering what his day will be like today.. haven’t peeked at the weather reports for the day.

        A friend wrote from Costa Rica and mentioned a commuter flight that went down near where they live – and where I once lived – killing twelve. Hearing that news was like being blindsided – one never knows when something is going to turn the world upside down.

        It’s time for breakfast, and since the kitchen is totally ‘moved’ – aside from using a knife to prepare fruits – I’m heading out for breakfast… and then my day starts to own me. I’m catching up via little slices of ‘retreat’ time. Today will be dealing with those final items – and for the first time in a long time – not a clue what to share via a new post/update!

        1. There’s nothing wrong with not having a clue re: a new topic. That leaves a little room for the new life of a new year to provide a little inspiration. Happy Day!

          1. After reading details about that Costa Rica commuter crash, the wind’s totally out of my sails. Yes, a visit w/my sweet neighbor for cafe con leche and whatever she prepares for breakfast – will be a perfect antidote. Perhaps that’s what will be the theme for the day – how others have the power to uplift our day.

            you always uplift mine!

    1. Isn’t it, though? Sometimes all it takes is looking around to see the most marvelous things. Of course, that looking around can be a tough one for most of us — at least a good bit of the time.

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