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Saturday, September 5, 2015


            A quiet Sunday afternoon.  I am reading a gripping murder mystery outside in the lawn chair.  The solution to the crime is being   solved and I follow with deep attention.  I may have figured out the plot and fingered the murderer!  Just a few more pages will tell me if my idea is right.  Suddenly a shout comes from our neighbors.
            “Get him!” the young man shoots a hose at the brick wall of his house in response to the call from his friend.  I head over to the fence between us.  The two are focused on something and pay no attention to me.
            “What’s going on?”  I ask, and learn that a large black snake is crawling up the side of the house.  My question is already answered, as I watch the scaly creature make its way toward the roof.  I remember my own history of snakes: snakes in our bar, under our beds, in our cellars, watching us from the back windows . . . my friend the little snake in a large jar who lived for a few days. . . snakes have mixed personalities, from friendly to deadly.  I love to watch them displayed in museums and zoos but not in back yards.
            The next-door neighbor snake was not interested in me but in what might be available for dinner in the woodsy back yards of our area.  I had a special interest in the snake because of my special gift: that of snake whisperer.  The difficult part for me now is what to say to the snake.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Out Back

            We watch the creature activities at our patio and back yard where squirrels, birds, and chipmunks have found the peanuts and birdseed we set out for them.  Our back door is a sliding glassed access to outside, so we are able to watch the many scenes that entertain us.  Birds at the feeder, squirrels who would love to get all the seeds there, and the chipmunks who gather up what falls from the feeder.  We place unsalted peanuts in the shell on the railings to the steps down to our lower back yard, and then watch the furry ones carry them off or eat them on the spot.  Once in a while a cardinal or crow will grab a peanut and fly away with it.
            Recently, we counted five squirrels, three chipmunks, and numerous birds of several varieties, but this week something has changed.  Birds continue to visit the feeder, but only one chipmunk shows up, and now instead of five squirrels, only the one appears.  It bears a tumor on its back, with some fir missing on it.  Did it have a confrontation with siblings, we wonder.  Is the wound serious or will the little one heal?  And where have the others gone? 
            When darkness settles over the back yard, upper and lower, the cicadas strike up the band, and as Katie our beagle-jackrussell and I head to steps leading to the lower yard, they serenade us.  Now, when summer moves to its close, they sing more softly with their ch-ch-ch’s.  
            I watch each morning for our little injured squirrel, concerned about the lump on its back, the hairless circle that it has caused.  Nature has healing power, and although we can’t take this little creature to the vet for treatment, we are hoping healing is taking place and soon that lump will disappear and fur will cover the spot.  
            The chipmunk home is somewhere behind or under the spot for our large garbage cans, and Katie searches and waits for one to show up.  Their speed is their protection.  They are nature’s cute ones, and I’d love to keep one as a pet, the way Charlie’s brother had them in his house at one time. [Three chipmunks.  A house full of kids.   One chipmunk nearly drowned in the toilet bowl before nick-of-time rescue.  The elderly sisters who came to visit were startled when two ran across their shoulders in a chase.  Sometimes the little creatures would be invited to the dinner table where they might be given a few morsels.]  We have not tried to duplicate that arrangement, and I believe Katie would be a danger to any of them.  But wouldn’t that be fun, to have some indoor chipmunks?  Katie is not likely to form a welcoming committee. 
          The alternative is to spend our mornings watching what takes place outside.  The activity is always worth our time to witness.  We are thus aware that as seasons move always to the next one, so do Charlie and I.  Now in our eighties we navigate more slowly.  Our delight in what nature provides for us increases.  We have time to watch, time to offer nourishment, time to relate to the little ones out back.