Thank You!

 

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Bruce, a dear family friend, recently asked me how it’s been since I started my blog.

“Have you enjoyed it?” he said.

At the time, I wasn’t prepared to reflect. I expressed myself in a way that didn’t at all convey what this experience has been.

“It’s been ok. People have been kind,” I said to Bruce.

As if the experience hasn’t been so much more than that.

The truth is the last six months have flown by and it’s been wonderful.

When I imagined exposing my small essays to the public, even family and friends, I was sure it would mean constant grammar and punctuation correction. Sometimes I change tenses in inappropriate places, and I don’t even want to talk about how full of conviction, yet convoluted, my logic can be.

But the critics have been kind. Those of you who have responded to posts and those I have met have been delightful, open-minded, and engaging.

Sally must have recognized Teddy one day when we were walking. We stopped and talked for a while. Sally has an infectious spirit, and she shared some of her adventures with urban wildlife. Now I look for her beautiful smile when I’m out in the neighborhood. Sally is just one of the amazing neighbors I’ve met and had a chance to talk with.

Claudia is a writer and introduced herself with a beautiful comment on one post. In an email she once described a colorful picture of chickens as a ” bouquet of chickens.” Claudia makes a wonderful Monday morning walking companion and she’s not afraid of the rain.

Writing about my dear friend Marlena and her lifestyle helped me to know and appreciate her even better than I already had. She was so generous with herself. It was a joy to write. Debbie generously spent a couple of hours filling me in on skunks – yes, skunks. I can’t wait to share her story!

Many of you have written kind messages. Every one of you has refrained from offering the good advice I should probably listen to.

This is my thank you. Thank you to my writing partner, Cindi, who encouraged me to trust you. Thank you for taking time out of your busy lives to read. Thank you for your tolerance. Thank you for sharing yourselves and reminding me that there are a lot of great people out there.

Please consider allowing me to write about your urban wildlife adventures. It will be a privilege, and I promise to be as kind to you as you have been to me.

 

 

Blooming Bunnies

This week’s Wild City post is a gift from guest blogger, Cindi Brown.  Cindi is a professional writer and editor, my dear friend, and my writing partner. She is also the author of  the book, Poverty and Promise, the moving story of her time as a volunteer in Kenya. Cindi and her husband live in New River, Arizona near Phoenix. Check out her blog  it is a work of art.

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Spring has sprung baby bunnies across the desert. They’re more than adorable, the size of a dove, their tiny ears pointed skyward.

Apparently, baby bunnies go out on their own when relatively young. Brent spots one on the walkway in our courtyard and excitedly yells out, “Cindi, come here! Quick! It’s a baby bunny.”

We watch through the front window as the baby nibbles the only few blades of grass in the courtyard. The ground is dirt, but will soon be landscaped.

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In a minute, the baby runs under a large rock. If it stays in the courtyard, it might be safe, I think.

The next day, when I open the garage to go to work, I sneak out to the courtyard, practically tippy-toeing, to see if the baby is out and about. No signs. Crossing the driveway, I look at the yard between us and our neighbors. A large bunny sits quietly. Two babies scurry along their trails, oblivious to me. I watch them frolic.

In the evening, a baby bunny comes onto our back patio, under the table, while big bunnies and doves and quail peck away at the bird seed I just threw out. Brent and I watch the baby from the door leading onto the patio from our bedroom. We softly chant for the baby to get into the fray and eat some seeds. But instead, she hops into the little forest of potted plants that make up our nursery.

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For 20 minutes, we watch her move between the pots, sometimes looking out at the big bunnies and birds. Then she stops in front of our antique potbelly stove. Then she’s on her hind legs peeking into the lower open door of the stove.

“She’s going to get into the stove,” I say.

“No way,” Brent says.

She’s up and her little back feet pump up and down a couple of times before she is safely inside the stove. We’re giggling.

She hops out of the stove, and then back in, in one brave bound.

“I hope she nests there,” I say. “Then she’ll be a little safe.”

“A coyote could pull her out of that thing,” Brent says. Maybe. But several potted cacti sit very close, blocking the entrance to the stove.

“Put some strips of cloth in the stove,” Brent advises. “Natural cotton is the best thing for bunnies and birds, but since we don’t have any, the bunny can make a nest with cloth.”

“When they’re finished eating,” I say, “I’ll water the plants, fill their trough and throw in some cloth.”

I find a few quilt scraps of white and pink cotton fabric and place it carefully in the stove, after removing a rusted grate. The stove isn’t big at all, and the baby is climbing in the little compartment at the very bottom, not even able to get up to the larger door of the stove’s main compartment.

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For this morning’s 6:30 feeding, I scatter the bird seed on the lower patio and then drop a couple of tablespoon of seeds just outside the stove. In a couple of hours I check to see if the stove seeds are there. In the process, I scare the baby, who is at the back wall. But all the seeds near the stove are gone, and the fabric in the stove is flattened, as though she scooted the cotton around to suit her.

I follow the baby to the other side of the house and she is sitting in the dirt.

“Hey, baby,” I goo-goo. “Don’t run away. Come back and see me.”

She runs under a nearby board, still fully visible, and I continue to talk until she lights out for the bunny trails in the side yard.

Back inside, Brent is making pico de gallo and has shaved corn off a cob. “Throw this outside, will ‘ya,” he asks, handing me the corn cob. But he pulls it back quickly and cuts it into five smaller pieces. One piece I sit on it’s end just below the potbelly stove door. The others are tossed into the yard. Bunnies love gnawing on the cobs as much as they love apples.

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I’ll keep making sure there’s food and plenty of fabric for the stove, as long as the baby can fit into the door. I hope she stays in our yard and remains covered, safe from hawks, owls or coyotes. I wish all the babies could come into our yard and live in the stove.

Safe. At least until they’re a little bigger.

 

 

 

The Land Turtle

In chapter three of The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck describes dry vacant land along the highway, grasses and weeds, ants, grasshoppers and sow bugs, “…like little armadillos.” But the land turtle has the starring role in this chapter.

I’m haunted by the turtle, by Steinbeck’s writing. In bed, before I go to sleep, the chapter comes back to me. When I’m making beds or vacuuming, I think of Steinbeck’s words. On my daily Wild City rambles with Teddy, I think of the little turtle.

Steinbeck’s writing is gorgeous, rich, lush, full of metaphor, and brutal. Rereading the chapter this morning made my heart beat faster, just like the first reading.

We don’t know where the turtle is going, or why, but he is single-minded, intent on heading one direction. Carrying his heavy, awkward shell, he struggles up a steep embankment, slips back, but continues relentlessly in exactly the same direction. He tackles a four-inch concrete curb – a formidable obstacle for a creature with short legs and the heavy burden of a shell. He never thinks of taking an easier route.

The poor thing suffers from an encounter with red ants. Still, he forges ahead. He becomes entangled in weeds, frees himself, and continues to the highway – a smooth concrete highway that could make his travels easier. A car passes and swerves to miss him. A truck follows and attempts to run over him. He hasn’t been killed, but he is flipped on to his back and must struggle to right himself. As this chapter ends, the turtle is continuing his slow and perilous journey.

In chapter four, Tom Joad picks the turtle up, wraps it in his coat, and plans to give it to his young siblings as a pet. But Tom, who is just out of prison, finds the family gone and the home abandoned. He puts the turtle down far from where the creature was picked up. Undaunted, the turtle begins his journey anew, turning toward the southwest direction he’d been headed all along.

The harrowing journey of the little turtle foreshadows the dangers of the journey the Joad family is about to take as they leave a hopeless life in Oklahoma toward dreams of a better life in California. It’s a journey that could be a metaphor for my life…and maybe yours.

But Chapter three is something else too.

Chapter three is a beautiful thing by itself. It’s a perfect symphony, Debussy’s Clair de Lune, the Moonlight Sonata, or any painfully beautiful piece of music.

You don’t need to know the words to have the music bruise your heart.

Steinbeck’s words tell a story, but they are also one note following another, each note exactly where it should be in the composition. If you didn’t know English, I could read chapter three aloud and you would hear the melody, one note following another. You would instinctively respond to the major and the minor chords.

Through the music of Steinbeck’s language you would understand the courage of the small creature and the near-impossibility of his journey.

In the end, you might be just a little bit broken-hearted.

Just the same, you would say, “Thank you for the music.”

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Listening to the Season

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Several mornings lately I’ve taken my early morning walk intending to experiment with listening more. I wanted to pay attention to the sounds of spring.

As I walk, bird song and other natural sounds often fade behind everyday preoccupations. Last Tuesday I found the concentration to  sharpen my listening. It was a wonderful exercise.

I stood at the top of a hill and marveled at the variety of birds I was hearing.  Many of the songs and calls were easy to identify.  All of them together were wonderful.

Bird song was coming from four directions. Some was produced only a few feet away and some was coming from at least a half-mile away.  Using my phone, I began recording. I made four 30-second recordings.

All four recordings establish, without a doubt, that I breathe. I had held the phone near my right ear and the sound of my heavy breathing (I had just climbed the steep hill) drowned everything else out. A rookie mistake.

Never mind, I tried again. This time I held the phone as far away as my arm would reach. Playing that recording I heard a small quartet, not the symphony that was actually going on. I decided to simply enjoy the music and try to record another day.

On my way home I was able to capture the love song of a Song Sparrow . Turn the sound up!

 

A day or two later I stepped out our back door and captured the music of the

flicker, robin, bush tits, chickadees, crows, and many more. There was the symphony I’d been looking for– in my own back yard.

(Turn the sound up and pay no attention to the little red dog – he has a dog’s sense of decorum)