The Prayer Flag Thief

Two years ago, shortly after settling into my new mountain home where I knew not a soul, I decided to hang some Tibetan prayer flags.    I’ve been captivated by the brightly colored flags ever since an old friend once gave me a used string of prayer flags for helping clean out his garage.  The rental property I moved into has a large yard, open to the street where school children of all ages walk past.  Many mature Ponderosa pine trees adorn the property and tower over this old house.  Perhaps hanging Tibetan prayer flags would kindle my invocations and the flags would carry them into the mountain breeze, where Mother Nature would listen.  Or maybe the air in my new yard would be purified and sanctified.  If anything, these flags were a symbol of peace, and the colors dancing in the wintry environment would remind me to breathe.  For me, the Tibetan prayer flags were a symbol of new beginnings.

A few days after hanging a string of flags between two trees, I found the flags torn down, hanging in a long line along one of the tree trunks.  I wasn’t dismayed and strung the flags up once again.  The next day, I found the string ripped and the flags nearly on the ground, cascading down the tree trunk.  At this point, I realized someone was intentionally tearing my flags down.  I decided not let this stop me and, using a ladder, I strung the prayer flags higher, out of reach of those pestilent school children!  I moved my indoor workspace near the second story window, where I had a bird’s eye view of my yard.  I was going to catch this prayer flag thief!

Much to my surprise and armed with a camera, I finally caught the destroyer on film.  Hanging the flags higher had not deterred my visitor. I caught her ravenously stuffing the flags into her cheeks and then scurrying up the tree to store them away.  She repeated these visits for several days until no trace of the colored flags were left.  I decided that somewhere up in the canopy was a home that needed blankets.  I imagined a warm and colorful abode decorated in anticipation for a litter of tiny newborn Western gray squirrels.  These days, miniature handmade prayer flags made from scraps of material hang from twine between trees.  But no one has touched these squirrel-sized flags in over a year.  A home has served a purpose, a necessity fulfilled.  Time has passed, and somewhere mangled in a tree top, colors fade and wither.


Stop it squirrel!

Leave those

prayer flags alone






Squirrel babies

in a nest

of prayer flags


© 2012 C.L. Quigley

Plucking Rushes

Green leaves,
Red shoots and
bending wind, you and I
in the same boat,
plucking rushes
at Five Lakes.
We sail at dawn
from orchid island
and rest under
the elms
till noon, you and I
plucking rushes,
had not plucked
a single rush
when the moon rose.

Anonymous, fourth century A.D.

Transformed by C.L. Quigley from Arthur Waley’s
original Chinese translations