MyStory: Birding is the only good reason to garden

 

Yesterday I tried to get super close to a bigger-than-a-crow hawk that sat perched on my neighbor’s play set. Tawny,heavy brow, white lores around the very big, very curved beak, yellow legs, brown and tawny back, white chest, several black stripes in the white tipped tail.

It was not a Coopers, and not a Red-tail.

It just rested and looked around, up and down, barely paying me any mind as a skulked closer, with either  camera or binoculars at my eye. The hawk let out a high pitched whistle, which I instantly recognized as that sound that had pulled me outside for the last month.

It let out another whistle as it unfolded its wings and drifted over the treetops. I raced into the house to examine my shots and ID the mystery raptor…only to notice that my card was still in the computer from last  photo edit. Drat!!!  Fortunately, trying to frame a good field ID photo had focused my attention enough on the hawk’s details that I could trip the empty-camera-card-slot-failure into a success.

I got really close to an immature Broad-wing Hawk!!!.

And I ran out of time to weed before dinner prep.  *snaps fingers* Shucks…

Just so we are clear…Gardening is merely the prompt to birding in my backyard.  Binoculars, I have found, must accompany the trowel, or at least be a dash distance nearby, or I just procrastinate the dirt work.  Even then, birds trump plants. Like yesterday…

Night temperatures fell past dew point, and this morning’s herb garden was bejeweled in water beads, leaving even weeds pretty.  Yesterday’s chore had to be completed before the cilantro got crowded out by crabgrass and some mystery choker.  Summer contact calls were music to weed by so out I went, binoculars, trowel, weed bucket.  When I could distinctly see sage, oregano, cilantro seedlings, and thyme, I declared gardening done, and strolled around, glasses in hand, just in time to watch a mustached Northern Flicker and his partner send their sharp beaks between blades of dew-soaked grass.  In the distance, an adult male Northern Cardinal fanned his feathers wide, and a pair of Mourning Doves fluttered in to join his hedgerow morning spa.

Gardening is a gateway chore to my passion.  I relax, content.

Happy Is As Happy Does

Luci celebrates a year on earth by herding Canada Geese and goslings into the Susquehannah River.

I love the end of spring for all its diversity and color.  The urgent heat of day and the refreshing coolness of night.  The purple and blues of lupines, iris, chive and sage; the pinks of roses, peonies, dianthus-ish volunteers; the greens of grass, stalks, stems, leaves and needles–all creating a kaleidoscope effect of daily changing patterns and hues.  Birds provide an evolving instrumental accompaniment of song tones and percussive calls.

This spring my library holds a copy of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, a book I make sure I read at least once a day.  I have taken quite a few of her suggestions to heart, including the suggestion to create my own happiness project, the only goal of which right now is to be happier more frequently.  Research has shown that what we do frequently has more impact in making us happy than what we do once in a while.  I am paraphrasing here, but that concept struck me as a real Secret of Adulthood.  It really matters that I have a perpetual calendar where I record the high and low temperatures, the colors in the meadow, the moment I hear the first bluebird or robin or oriole.  It makes me happy, a little bit every day.

I have been thinking too that Ms. Rubin’s admonition to be serious about play is seriously appropriate for my serious self.  Hence, my resolution to have an adventure at least once a week…..that adds up to 52 adventures a year.  The anticipation makes me happy! The planning makes me happy! The savoring will make me happy!  And recalling these adventures here, on this storytelling blog, will make me happy!  I have a project!!!! or a little bit of one.

Hence, today’s first adventure: LuciFreckles’ Birthday Walk on the dike of the Susquehanna River in NEPA.  I woke up early to promptly finish morning chores: dogs fed and exercised, trash out, son home on vacation awakened in time for hair appointment.  The heat promised by mid-day appeared to be arriving early.  I packed ice cubes to the top of our water bottles and filled the spaces with fresh water, sorted through containers to find a special “take with you” size, and changed Luci’s clothes, exchanging her invisible fence collar for her training collar.  Leaving the forlorn faces of Cappy and Fly, Luci happily leapt into the way-back of the FIT for the short ride from our Endless Mountain home into the Valley that separates us from the Pocono Plateau.  Through the middle of this valley runs the Susquehanna River, and on the west bank runs a portion of a dike network which presumably protects the nearby residences from flood waters.  The sidewalk atop this dirt mound is our destination.  From here Luci can look right to our low-lying Appalachain foothills and left to the river as we trot south.  We watch swallows perform loop-de-loops and starlings feed their @#$* young.  Song sparrows perform harmony for Red-winged Blackbirds, Canada Geese monitor their goslings’ foraging attempts on the bank playground.  Luci nervously watches bikers, a new sight for her puppyness, and sits politely to let them pass.  She growls a low rumble to alert me to the runner approaching from our left rear.  Other dogs get the “eye”. Head lowered in line with her withers, tail alert straight behind her, Luci sends a silent message to her canine peer: “Be aware.  Be very, very aware.  I can herd YOU!”  And just as they pass, her tail beats a steady “Hello! Come back!  Let me smell you!!!”

It is at this point, one mile out, that Luci seems to feel the heat rising from the macadem, the sun striking us from its climbing position.  The river-driven breeze dies down, and her tongue lolls out, dripping big drops of saliva.  Her brown sable eyes ask “The end now?” and Luci seems only mildly relieved as we head down the bank to the riverside tree-shade.   Gamely she trots on, but without the nose-to-ground of a happy pup.  She is doggedly determined to    just    get    back      .

One final detour as we round the corner to the car park: the beach where Canada Geese sunbathe.  At our approach the honking begins, each adult joining the call to flee.  “To the water, to the water, to the water!”  Goslings waddle to the river edge and quickly slide into what I can now smell–the stinky, brown Susquehanna. An oily residue coats the surface and the fluid teases my thirsty one year old birthday girl instead of offering an early drink.  Barely acknowledging the goslings and assorted adult geese Luci just looks at me in admonishment, “You have clean water in the car!!!!”  As we make the final trek I plot my strategy for teaching Luci and Cappy how to wear a pack.  Next adventure we will carry water and treats WITH us.

Once back at the car Luci and I drank our ice-cold, clean water happily.

“Happy is as happy does.” states the childhood ditty that some adult probably offered to cajole me into doing something I didn’t want to do.  I now add it to my Secrets of Adulthood list.  In spite of the heat, and the left-behind water, the biker who belatedly called “On your left!” and the unwelcome appearance of gnats, I had been happy.  I savored the adventure with my birthday girl, taking time to feel the sun, to identify the bird songs, to smile at my fellow adventurers, and to pet my pup’s silky coat.  Turns out happy is as happy does.