Nowhere but here

bewickswren

There is freedom within
There is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup

~Counting Crows “Don’t Dream It’s Over”

The ground is dry and it feels like winter was never here. My little evergreens did nothing, and my shade plants are struggling. I look into the trench my gardener made for planting and I wonder “why bother?” It’s more interesting to see how the landscape plays out, literally.

My view never really changes, though what’s outside does. The holes my dog has dug in the yard have become part of the landscape, and on occasion I see the head of a ground squirrel poking its head out of a hole and looking around. Sometimes it will poke its head out as far as it can and I imagine it thinking “Success! I’ve managed to conquer a backyard and no one has tried to kill me yet! It’s a good day!” Yes, most people in my neighborhood try to kill these squirrels because of all the effort they’ve put into their lawns. My advice is, don’t put all the effort into your lawn. Who cares? And I hate to tell you, the ground squirrels will come back. So, I’ve decided to let them live in my backyard. At least something is living and thriving in this world.

We found that some wrens have made nests in the gigantic Eucalyptus in our neighbor’s yard, two tiny wren apartments in nature’s version of a high-rise. Tiny Bewick’s wrens – bug and fly eaters** and all-around little badasses. Little birds with a big voice and and a wonderfully snobby tail to go along with it. Dust bath: check! Flit along the top of the friendly neighbor fence: check! Terrorize moths (and eat them) underneath the struggling Eureka lemon tree: check! What a grand life. Immune to the trivialities of humans, just enjoying life and avoiding stupid fucking outdoor cats.

The sun will go down soon, and the wind will pick up again. During the interludes of sun and no wind I am content to sit with my dog on the little concrete walls in the backyard, feel the sun on my face and hope for a glimpse of bird, any bird. Even though my dog (Grey) is content to lay on his dog bed in the sun for the most part, the temptation is great when he sees I’m at eye level and comes over for a pat. This is enough.

**Bewick’s Wrens eat the eggs, larvaepupae, and adults of insects and other small invertebrates. Common prey animals include bugs, beetles, bees and wasps, caterpillars, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, crickets, flies, and spiders (source: allaboutbirds.org).

Wind

My face is a mask I order to say nothing
About the fragile feelings hiding in my soul.

– Glenn Lazore (Mohawk)

Outside the wind is waiting just outside the fall. It dances around late September, and by December it will be here in full force. I watch with patience as the landscape changes; the leaves begin to wilt on the Catalpa, the songbirds are fewer, and we all move forward into darker hours.

My hair is long now, and I have to wear it back in a ponytail when it’s so windy. Even then, strands of my red hair at the temple are pulled away by the gusts and enter my eyes, nose, and mouth. As I walk, the wind is at my back and pushes me forward. The wind in the trees, especially the Eucalyptus up near San Andreas lake, sounds like a rushing river. I am always surprised to look up and not find water, only a gigantic tree, and the intoxicating scent of its bark.

I think of the little wild birds, late at night, sleeping and holding on for dear life to swaying branches. This is much like what I do as I rest, my wings (arms) tucked up around my head and neck like a bat, my only protection from my dreams. The other night I dreamt that there were men in a car, parked in my backyard, and my aviary was on fire. I don’t have an aviary. I am out of control.

The randomness of the wind makes me feel safe. It wraps its tender or strong air in a cold embrace around me, and sometimes sings me a quiet lullaby in the early morning hours, before it dies down at dawn.

Once again

“At a certain point in your life, probably when too much of it has gone by, you will open your eyes, and see yourself for who you are, especially for everything that made you so different from all the awful normals. And you will say to yourself, but I am this person, and it that statement, there will be a kind of love.” – Phoebe in Wonderland

Shades of red and purple are vibrant at twilight. A lone dandelion rises up where the unsuccessful hydrangea once was, and a succulent moss grows up around the cheap sprinkler I used maybe once. There’s a lot of this in my backyard; a planter box held together only by the old soil within it, a makeshift wire trellis that nothing climbs up, and an odd little gate that leads to a steep fall onto concrete if you don’t watch your step.

I tied up the grape vines today. The mix I planted to attract hummingbirds and butterflies finally started to bloom beneath the mass of the vine’s tendrils; lovely yellow and magenta flowers among the grass and other weeds. So tiny and delicate you want only to cradle them between your fingers; but inches away without touching the fragile petals. I seek to connect with respect, and nature has its own, unspoken, boundaries. This is a peaceful time for me, until the wind or rain chases me inside again, and to my books.

On lazy days like today, I have tasked myself to make my way through some natural classics: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Loren Eisley’s Desert Solitaire, and the idyll that is anything by Gerald Durrell. Most recently I stumbled upon another author I had not heard of, Edwin Way Teale (1899-1980).

This is what happens when you open your heart and keep your eyes open, I said to myself.

According to one review, Teale expressed “the simple enjoyment of universal nature, with no other end in mind” (Wandering Through Winter), and “on this somber day, when winter’s conquest seems so imminent and so conclusive, I am remembering the calm preparations of the insects around me. Nature, in all her acts, reflects her faith in the future.”

Finally, someone just like me, someone with no other end in mind than to enjoy nature and have faith in the future.

Love

Today I was feeling very happy. Recently, a kind, gentle person from Iowa contacted me and told me that she would like to use some posts from my blog to teach her nature writing class. For a while, this filled me with love, and not to mention a longing to visit Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Truth be told, I still feel that love, and probably will for a while.

That is how it is with me, that when someone cherishes me for something I did that was born of passion, I tend to feel love, and loved. It’s something I secretly cling to, and long for more of.

And it got me to thinking about love: who I love, and what love is.

Today I learned that someone I deeply love had to experience death and the possible dissolution of their marriage, all in a span of ten days. I ached. I felt a pain in my heart that was not unlike yearning, but I felt a little more lost, and more unsure. It was like peering into space with the feeling that if you didn’t hold on, you might go into a black hole.

In times like these, I like to turn to animals for a lesson. What can animals teach me about love, and loss.

For some reason, when I think of love, I think of last Halloween, when my Greyhound, Jack, plucked a eastern grey squirrel from the Catalpa tree in our backyard, broke its neck, and proceeded to eat it. I shouted “Jack! No! Leave it!” Not only until I pinched his ear did he drop it. His body shook in a primeval way, and I could see he hurt from not only from me pinching his ear but from my disappointment.

I stood on my porch, in the rain, looking at the unbrushed lower teeth and gentle paws of the dead squirrel on my steps, and all I could do is be present with my feelings, that somehow I was responsible for its death. I was hyper-aware of the temperature, the cloudy sky, and my breath as I wondered how to best deal with Rocky. The odd thing is that I never felt more alive, even in death.

This is how it is to be in love, when you experience life without any filters. It’s also when you can let go of expectations and perfection, and learn to enjoy your backyard, even in the driest of winters.

Robin

Robin

Responsibility

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. Do you read my posts? If you do, let me know. You see, writers need readers. Though we should just move forward without any recognition, it’s the evidence that we make impact that compels us to continue to add value.

I’ve been thinking about responsibility of late. Do you take your responsibility seriously? I try to.

I recently signed up for a nature writing class. After a hiatus from the natural world and the wildlife rescue (long story about politics and animals – another post), I was asked by the instructor of my new class to choose a place that I can observe for 30 minutes several times a week and write about it. Simple enough. I chose a place near my new house in San Bruno, but I won’t be able to get to it until Tuesday.

So, in my post food/liquor/holiday exhaustion I decided to observe the sky from the couch in my living room. I was distracting my husband with conversation so he wouldn’t watch the TV, and as we chatted I watched the sky outside our sliding glass door. I watched the sky from 4 pm until about 5:30 pm and I was blessed. It started out blue, then turned orange, then gray, then gray and red, then orange and gray. It said to me, “look at me, here is pure nature in the clouds, where have you been?” And I said “thank you, I am grateful.” It was a small natural diversion, but I realized how wonderful my life could be if I could just take that time each day to watch the sky change. It’s so simple, why do I ignore it?

OK, but we were talking about responsibility. And my communion with the sky has something to do with this.

Responsibility is about gratefulness. Here I am – I’m a Silicon Valley slave, I’m married, and I have 7 charges:

  • Gracie the parakeet
  • Kiseki and Milagro the parakeets
  • Buddy the cockatiel
  • Willie the cockatiel
  • Beetlejuice the cockatiel
  • Eric the Betta

Yes, they are pets, but on many levels they are wild. And when I get stressed and I focus on unnatural things I’m reminded that they need me, that “You are responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery. So, when I begin to experience ego, or this clinging to self, I prefer to focus my love and devotion to the animals I have chosen to tame. They are not here for our entertainment, they are here to live out their lives in the context of ours. And the better we can understand their needs without our selfishness coming first will only make us better people.

I have seen my birds look out the window, longingly, and today I understood their longing. Their longing to sit in a tree, watch the sky and the clouds change, and be grateful.

I am so sorry for my absence. I hope you have missed me — I have missed you.