Kneeling on the cold, damp sidewalk with her arm outstretched near the city square, Maria had traveled a long way with the hope of collecting a few pennies. The weather had turned for the worse in the passing days and now, with the changing and unpredictable season, she sat alone shivering. The numerous pedestrians walking by her were careful not to make eye contact, avoiding her cup and staying out of her immediate vicinity, a distance safe enough to shield them from any unpredictable behavior. They stayed far enough to be safe from unwanted contact but were close enough, largely in part to their wandering eyes, to be forced into spending a passing thought and reluctant pity. They did not know where she lived, how she ate or if she was sick but knew they would have to walk past her quickly.
Her thoughts were often on her aching knees glued to the cement, ever crushed dignity and making it through the day to rest her head at night. This was Maria’s routine; one she was accustomed but never settled in. She did not know what a resume was and she did not know how to read or write. Sometimes she held a small cardboard sign in desperation, vaguely understanding that this sign stated her name, her appeal and condition. Brought up in a far-away land in impoverishment, her interaction with the local people of this new foreign country usually consisted of no more than a wave of the hand and more often than not, a “No, sorry”. Today, outside the coffee shop, her head was bowed and covered with a colored scarf. Her torn jacket and skirt were faded, as dull as the gloomy gray horizon that lingered above.
No more than fifteen feet away from Maria, in a different world holding few parallels aside from the need for food and oxygen, five girls sat warm and snug inside the posh coffee shop. As their hands clutched their warm cups of exotic coffee and chocolate drinks, their new shining designer clothes were only rivaled by their bright white smile and silk-smooth hair. Gossiping about their friends, they were giggling but immersed in serious discussion about boys.
Maria’s shattered spirit knelt sobbing, her bronzed hand still outstretched and head bowed with eyes lowered. Her mangled soul on display, she was visible from far but was a part only to her own world. There was emptiness in the air that surrounded Maria, similar to a force field, as she begged for loose change. In her aura, a bright fluorescent but invisible sign read “Do not enter”.
Between the girls and Maria was a giant shatter-proof window that offered a view of the city center. On one side of the window was the fancy coffee shop, filled with cake, coffee, and warmth. On the other side, there was a large park filled with birds, benches, water fountains, statues and Maria. This giant fortified partition marked the boundary between warm and cold, clean and dirty, food and hunger. On one side sat the girls and on the other, Maria, separated by a boundary that she could see through and get close to but never traverse.
Alex stood transfixed at the large rusting metal gate with his feet firmly planted to the asphalt. Immersed deep in racing thoughts of any possible situation that may have arisen, Alex was unconscious to the sounds of the other children who were present fluttering around him. His father had brought him to these gates, wishing him good luck and reassuring him that he would be ok. Submerged in uncertainty, the overwhelmingly large school entrance stood as a barrier between a young man and his first day at his new middle school.
The gates symbolized his entry into a new world; one he was unacquainted with but would have to quickly learn to stand any chance of adapting smoothly to a new life. Moving many hundreds of miles with his family, this was a place where he would have to start afresh; a life he would now have to build from the ground up. Alex would have to make new friends, learn new subjects as a student and face new problems in this unfamiliar environment. Alex turned his head in search of his father in hopes of avoiding the unpleasant situation all together and going home to the safety of his room for just one more day. There was no sign of him.
Alex had planned on making a good impression with the other kids on his first day. Standing outside the intimidating entrance leading to the school courtyard, he hesitated on walking any further. He was an outsider and though he had gone over words and actions for scenarios that might have possibly occurred with other students, he now felt unprepared. The plan he had created in his mind for a successful first day was quickly falling apart and out of his control. He would have to improvise. There was no script he could follow and no dialogue he could recite. At 12, Alex had been thrust into a world unknown.
Would the children accept him? Would he make friends? Would he do well on the basketball team? Alex had too many questions that lay ahead without answer. Awakening from the depths of contemplation, Alex felt suddenly self- aware. He looked around, only to be met by unfamiliar scrutinizing faces. He did not know anyone in this new universe. Wherever he looked, there were children in pairs and groups. He was the only one standing all alone.
Sharp at 8am, the school bell rang, signaling the need for students to proceed to class. The uncertainty within Alex had not subsided, the urge to go home growing ever stronger. He wanted to forget all about the new life that was now being imposed on him. As the students cleared out of the courtyard and filtered into their classes, Alex found himself alone at the gates. Taking a deep breath, he took a step, then another. Slowly marching into the courtyard, Alex knew there was no turning back. This was the only direction in which he could move forward. This was his new life now and there was no alternative. There was no avoiding what was to follow and nothing that could be done to go back to the past. Brave and determined, Alex trudged onwards in search of his classroom.
Opening the classroom door, Alex entered tardy following his brief inner ordeal at the school gate. He noticed the students seated in the classroom. The noise and chatter seized as he entered. They stared at him in a silent unity. The teacher smiled, “Hi, you must be a new student. Can you introduce yourself to the class?”
Alex looked around at the inquisitive faces. He wondered what some of them might be thinking. All eyes were on the new boy. This was the beginning of a new adventure.
“Hi…my name is Alex…”
The transformation of this creature is best understood as a story of remarkable change; one that highlights the beauties and mysteries that unravel as priceless treasures in the animal kingdom. The journey of this animal altering through different stages of its existence highlights the transcendence of this captivating creature. From sluggish and immobile to free-flying adult, the process of evolution this specimen undergoes captures incredible development, highlighting the finer moments of its existence. Nature proves a powerful force that is capable of administering drastic changes in its different environments. The grand shift is a demonstration of the beautiful changes that are possible on this planet amongst many of its creatures.
Blooming like a flower from its tiny cocoon, it emerges. It has left behind its initial existence, moving on to a fresh start presented by nature. The insect is free to fly unbound, trading its sheath for a flight no longer restrained by gravity. The fluttering wings carry this transformed organism on its journey in search of a mate. With translucent wings bearing distinctive patters like a collage of colors splashed onto a delicate canvas, this creature redefines the meaning of its own beauty.
The metamorphosis is directed from simplicity to complexity; from infancy to being an adult, from unremarkable to splendid. It can be assumed that this creature has been misunderstood. Its capabilities are underestimated until it spreads its wings and takes flight leaving behind its humble beginnings. The refusal to remain grounded proves that it is a stubborn and determined species. Abandoning the core of its inception to begin its free flying quest in life, the story of the butterfly is one of beautiful sweeping changes that are possible in life.
He lays dormant in his cage, resting his head on his giant paws capable of maiming the largest of creatures. In his natural environment, he was a king. His birthright was a spot amongst those at the pinnacle of the food chain. He was the head of the table. Roaming free through his dominion high and mighty, Ulysses was once a ferocious lion. Today, he sleeps with one eye open, growing old and withered through his experience in captivity. The fierce eyes that once commanded the savannahs have now softened. His fur is dull, fading along with his will. Spending years in captivity has taken a toll on this magnificent beast.
The small enclosure he lays in permits little space to roam. Living naked fully exposed, privacy is a pleasure Ulysses can no longer afford. Once a feared hunter, the thrill of the chase has long deteriorated deep within Ulysses. No longer able to act upon his natural instincts, he is routinely fed by his captors, being provided enough food to keep him alive until his next meal. He is at the behest and control of those who wish to study him; those who wish to draw theories on his large appearance. They want to examine his habits and form conclusions about his behavior.
The battered warrior on public display draws unwanted curiosity. The children laugh and point at Ulysses. They wish to imitate the subdued beast while taking their picture outside his cage. They want to mock him, provoking him into embodying the unpredictable object of their imagination; an object that reinforces their education and understanding of this giant cat. The roars do not deter the visitors. They expect aggression. The leering eyes of the tourists pierce through what is left of Ulysses’ embattled existence. Ulysses is the main attraction; the star of the show. Initially in his captivity, he was as confused as he was angry but now, he has signed his letter of resignation. Captured and sedated, he is reduced to nothing more than a passing attraction. He merely performs at the behest of those who determine the rules of the jungle he now lives in.
Every so often, the human eyes are presented with scenes of the utmost beauty. This particular occurrence is a daily phenomenon throughout the world but one that is routinely taken with no more than a passing eye. When observed in its entire splendor, the sunset is one of the more precious gifts adorned on mankind.
Contrary to providing a sweltering effect, the summer’s day sunset thrusts cooling waves on the eyes and body, relaxing the soul as it crests over the horizon before the onset of darkness. The summer sun’s release during daytime is of blistering heat. In the minutes before sunset, rays emitted from the giant star beam tranquility upon those who take a moment from their day to appreciate such a brilliant picture. The magnificence of this phenomenon is only further accentuated by its influence on the surrounding sky and the vibrant colors that present themselves at the forefront of this marvel. The sun lights up the heavens with sublime shades of orange and purple to the backdrop of the aqua blue skyline. The illumination above sparks an awakening of the senses in such breathtaking settings. Like cool water gently poured on a warm head, a euphoric sensation touches those who have experienced a sunset of such proportions.
The enormous fiery golden sphere, often the subject of praise from civilizations past, blinds those who stare into its scorching glare. Upon closer examination, this beautiful sunset has an adverse effect; it opens the eyes to a dissimilar world, visible only through dreams and imagination. This superb spectacle lasts only a few moments but for these precious minutes transitioning from day to night, there is something exceptional in the air. Even for the casual observer, time is capable of coming to a temporary standstill for these flashes of visual calm resulting in reclamation of a certain peace of mind.
As the supreme star of the solar system falls into a slumber over yet another city, it will not be long before a new day brings yet another unique sunset presenting a photographic feast for the eyes. Globally during summertime, this evening delicacy is served warm with a side dish of cool breeze and key-lime sky .The dessert, of course is a chilled slice of the moon and stars, all for the visually starved.
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”
―Quote by Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds