The curious history of the Ladybug

[In late September of 1916, British and French soldiers renewed their attacks on German lines around Thiepval. At a heavy cost to both sides, the British took the village of Thiepval. Heavy rains fell the first week of October, turning the fields to mud and silencing the guns for a moment. The Daily Telegraph ran the headline, A Quiet Break on the Front.

I am touring the battlefields. Outside the memorial at Thiepval to the more than 72,000 missing British soldiers, whose bodies were never recovered, there in fields in the wheat, I spot a ladybug waiting for an aphid to eat.]

grass-ladybug
Ladybug on a stalk of grass hunting aphids

The curious history of the Ladybug should be told. It is an old tale, whispered by children amongst themselves. Never, no not ever, told to an adult under any circumstances at all. This beetle, quite little, is delightfully charming. What’s more, surprise, it flies like a bird. So gather round children, I will tell you the tale, but promise me, to dad and mom, nary a word.

In England it is not uncommon to call a ladybug a ladybird. This delightful orange insect, which is in fact a beetle and not a bug, can fly away if threatened. English children came up with a nursery rhyme for the ladybug –

“Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house in on fire and your children are gone”

One explanation for the words comes from the farmers’ custom of burning fields in late fall to rid the land of grasshoppers, aphids, and other pests. But, spare the ladybug if one can, which consumes 50 to 60 aphids a day over a two to three-year life span. In winter ladybugs don’t eat a thing, but hibernate and gather together for warmth and protection.
One other explanation of the ladybug rhyme.
The daughter of King Henry VIII, Bloody Queen Mary assumed the throne of England in 1553, after the death of her younger half-brother James. She ruled for five years. During that time, she reinstated Roman Catholicism and made her point by burning at the stake more than 280 Protestants. At her death in 1558, Elizabeth I became Queen of England and reversed Bloody Mary’s religious proclamation. The saying of Mass was outlawed and Jesuits declared traitors. Priests who continued to say Mass were often punished by being drawn and quartered, rather than burned at the stake.
Thus, the nursery rhyme was a child’s code word to watch out.
The irony is that the ladybug’s name comes from the Virgin Mary.
When their fields were plagued by aphids, farmers prayed for divine intersession. The little orange beetle came and ate the aphids, sparing the farmers’ crops. The beetle became the Ladybug.

grass-ladybug-3
Ladybug

In French, ladybug is coccinelle,” – Insecte de forme ronde, dont le corps est rouge à pois noirs. La coccinelle est l’amie des jardiniers parce qu’elle se nourrit de pucerons .

Remembering winter

For the heart weighed down by woe, on winter’s darkest, coldest night, the hope of Spring will cling.

 

western-yarrow-side
Western Yarrow

I know it is the first day of summer. The temperature here in the Land of Oz has already hit 100 degrees. Not a record, that goes to May of 2014 and 2011 when it hit 100 degrees, but still one hopes the hot weather will wait until  July and August.

western-yarrow

Something pure and fresh

flower-blue
Enzian, Gentian flower

As the wanderer descends from the mountains and brings not a handful of earth, and nothing is spoken, but a new word, pure like the yellow and blue trumpet-shaped Alpen flower.

Are we, perhaps here only to say: house, bridge, spring, gate, jug, fruit tree, window, – at most: column, tower…. But to say, to understand, oh to say so, as things themselves never meant to be said. Is this secretive list not our concealed earth, when lovers are forced, that thus in the word’s expression, each and every one is thrilled?

 

Translation, as my teacher says, is the conversion of the image to the word three times. First, from the writer’s imagination to the written word, second into a new language, and third, by the reader who sounds the words anew.

It is not an easy task. It is fraught with false steps.

Is our protagonist a traveler or wanderer? Do we know the Enzian as the bright blue flower? Does the place, Hange des Bergrands matter? Are the words pressed upon the lovers or do the lovers in their passion press for understanding? Nouns, verbs, and adjectives all take on a meaning that is not always entirely clear.

Still we must try, and, I suppose as Rainer Maria Rilke does here in his
The Ninth Elegy come up with something pure and fresh as a mountain flower.

 

Bringt doch der Wanderer auch vom Hange des Bergrands nicht eine Hand voll Erde ins Tal, die Allen unsägliche, sondern ein erworbenes Wort, reines, den gelben und blaun Enzian. Sind wir vielleicht hier, um zu sagen: Haus, Brücke, Brunnen, Tor, Krug, Obstbaum, Fenster, – höchstens: Säule, Turm…. aber zu sagen, verstehs, oh zu sagen so, wie selber die Dinge niemals innig meinten zu sein. Ist nicht die heimliche List dieser verschwiegenen Erde, wenn sie die Liebenden drängt, daß sich in ihrem Gefühl jedes und jedes entzückt?

Blogging?

If, as St. Jerome says,

“The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.”

What is blogging – but a peak underneath the mask, a glimpse of our secrets and a reflection of who we are.

 

lily-poster-2

Peek-a-boo!

Sarcasm, satire, and irony

[Those] clever men at Oxford,
Know all that there is to be knowed.
But they none of them know
One half as much,
As intelligent Mr. Toad.
Mr. Toad of Toad Hall, Kenneth Grahame

 

Kansas Toad
Mr. Toad comes to Kansas

Remember the verbal quiz on the SAT?

The above ditty by Mr. Toad is an example of:
a. sarcasm,
b. satire,
c. irony,
d. all of the above,
e. none of the above

Does context matter, the author’s meaning and intent? Does it depend on the point of view of the speaker or the listener? If you are half as smart as Mr. Toad, you will have a comment. Otherwise, you will just like it for what it is.