Birds Do it, Bees Do it
Back in medieval times, the pious carried a Book of Hours the way we carry cell phones today, an embellished, abbreviated lay version of the breviary carried by priests that was intended to provide three-hour intervals with a spiritual milestone. Vespers, sung at twilight, coincides with the evening star, the planet Venus, which Egyptians called Benin, meaning heron, because herons submerge and reappear. The Greeks thought that swallows also submerge and reappear but Hellenic powers of observation were less than accurate, as they also believed that bees were generated in the carcasses of dead animals.
Despite these misunderstandings, my Italian greyhound, Ulysses, is named after a Greek hero, the one who dreamed up the wooden horse. Ulysses is my Book of Hours, waking me just before dawn with a lick on my nose. His Book of Hours is the thud of a rolled newspaper in the driveway. Ulysses and I go down to the beach just as the evening star is blinking out and dawn is parting the sky with what Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges calls “the shuddering impact of daybreak.”
I slip my flashlight into my pocket while Ulysses waits by the water’s edge for the foaming curl of a wave, his small ears, lined in pink like the flattened oval of a tellin, slicked back, while he sits predatory, yet patient – Salome with a charger in her hand, waiting for John the Baptist’s head.
Read the entire article in the February 2010 issue