Friday, October 26, 2007

Rainy Autumn Night

It was days like this that I missed so much while living in Botswana some 27 years ago. Autumn days filled with rain and soggy fallen leaves. Cool, damp temperatures and umbrellas and bright colors everywhere. Those who follow and report on autumn leaf color tell us that the spectacle is not as stunning as in most years but the color that we don't doesn't matter very much to me. I am enjoying, as always, the colors that we do have and the colors that dot my own home landscape. Purples in the blackhaw and arrowwood viburnums, oranges and reds in the black gums and serviceberries, yellows in the wonderful river birch and crabapples, burgundys in the oaks and dogwoods. Fall may be a time of unsettledness but it is also a time of deep satisfaction as the palette of the yard changes daily.

The bird and insect population in the yard has changed as well. We had our last ruby-throated hummingbird on October 8th and as of a couple of days ago there was still a lingering stray Monarch butterfly or two. I am not sure just why but there seem to be assassin bugs everywhere I look this year and I am glad not to be small enough to become their prey. For the last few days the feeder just beyond the kitchen window has hosted, among the many myriad goldfinches, a lone female purple finch and I understand that there are large flocks of purple finches down from Canada where the coniferous cone crop they depend on has failed. Perhaps I'll see more of them and maybe red-breasted nuthatches or pine siskens as well. In some ways, for a birder, this time of early fall has a similar feel as does late winter for a gardener. The season is filled with the anticipation of what birds may come looking for winter sustenance, just as the late winter season is filled with imaginings of what the coming garden might contain. Being both a birder and a gardener is best of all, perhaps, because each season brings its own anticipation of what is to come.

I had a new friend stop in yesterday for a brief visit, her first to my home and yard. Her gleeful appreciation of all she saw outside-the birds, the colors, and even the plants that had long ago finished blooming was as a gift. I received a note from her today telling me again of how much she enjoyed being here and wondering if I more or less took for granted how much life abounded within the boundaries of our property. I joyfully wrote her back declaring that in fact, I never do take such things for granted because I delight in them so much. The yard contines to become that which I have seen in my imagination for many years. To be capable of dreams and to work towards their fulfillment are gifts and I am doubly blessed to be allowed to do both.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What If?

This is a time of day that I wonder about things. Sometimes important life questions and, sometimes like this morning, less pressing questions about how the world works. What if, I wondered as I went out into this morning's pre-dawn warmth, fall didn't cool down and winter didn't come. Would all the singing crickets and katydids keep singing and keep mating? If there were no winter cold to kill them would we have even more of an abundance of young next year? What happens in the southern part of the United States, anyway? Perhaps today I'll try and do the necessary reading to find out.

Other questions... why are cardinals the first birds to emerge from the darkness each morning, chipping from the trees and feeders before any of the other birds arrive? What is it about each bird that informs when it is time for that particular species to awake and start the business of the day? In our yard the cardinals arrive first, lately, followed by the robins and white-crowned sparrows, then the Carolina wren and the yard-space is alive with their different call notes and stealthy movements. The goldfinches, Carolina chickadees and titmice seem to wait for the full light of day to begin their feeding and calling.

And for the last few months each morning has brought ruby-throated hummingbirds to the flowers or feeders at first light as well. Are they dropping in from a night time migration or just getting an early start to their feeding, having spent the night someplace close by? And speaking of ruby-throats, it took a good while to find one in the yard this morning. This, of course, is the time of year that each morning I awake wondering if yesterday was the last hummingbird of the year. But, happily, not today. Today there is at least one feeding and resting and deciding whether to stay and feed longer or head on south. An innkeeper could not be happier at seeing guests arrive than I am to host these little ones for so much of the year.

Once again I realize how important and how easy it is to provide habitat for birds and pollinators who are losing ground in our modern world. If only all could know how beautiful a yard can be and provide sustenance at the same time. How much closer to Eden our neighborhoods would be if others made the same garden choices. To live in the midst of non-human life who ask only a place to feed, find shelter and raise young is as satisfying an experience as any I have ever known. How I would have loved living in Eden.