Moving from one side of the country to the other was, in many ways, a rebirth. Aside from the vast differences in weather, simple things that were taken for granted now seem distant and almost exotic. The particulars may vary, but the core remains remarkably constant.
Then and There
Stunningly tall and beautiful spruce of different flavors formed a natural border around our small piece of Connecticut. Interior trees of red and gold maple, white birch, crab apple, and weeping cherry presented a gloriously fragrant and hopeful palette of color when they flowered in spring. Summer featured deep and varied shades of green. Autumn took the stage in a blaze of deep red and gold. Sturdy boxwoods formed a line and marked transitions. Flowering shrubs neighbored sturdy yet wispy willow bushes that swayed in the breeze, and the biggest rhododendron ever anchored the far edge of the front yard.
And birds. So many different birds, from the ever-present blue jays to the scarlet breasts of the visiting cardinals. Robins rocked around the yard. And so many finches. Small, fragile flutters of every shade of yellow, with an occasional flash of green to mix things up.
The bird feeder outside the picture window gave a view to performances that ranged from balletic to brutish as the birds would alternately wait their turn at a peg, or, growing impatient, knock a fellow diner out of the way and grab the seeds. Smart ones would flit around at ground level, snatching the feed that slipped through the croaks and craws above. An entertaining program, no remote required.
Higher up, crows and crones would sit, gossiping and complaining about whatever was irritating them. An occasional bird of prey would soar overhead, and a big old crew of turkeys would strut through like they owned the joint.
Deer were everywhere, grazing the grass and savoring the flowers that filled pots and patches around the house. Squirrels abounded, thick bushy tails and darting eyes testing the environment for things they could snatch, then soon forgetting what they just buried and again going into search mode. Rabbits passed through, as did the occasional cat or dog. Coyotes would sometimes speak up from the woods framing the small lake on the other side of the road. They sounded like a thousand, though more likely just a few. Now and then a black bear would zip through the neighborhood, risking a scolding from the neighbors or an unintended meeting with a passing car.
It was a beautiful place that often caused me to pause for a minute, and appreciate the beauty and peaceful grounding of home.
Here and Now
On the opposite edge of America, a welcoming committee of pelicans, cormorants, and seagulls stake out neighboring rocks. Coming and going, sinking and swimming as they dine on what lies beneath.
On the land, a scattered few white egrets hunt for a nosh. They move, Elmer Fudd-like across the terrain; tip-toeing through the brush slowly lifting one leg, then the other. All around them, cagey and cage-free ground squirrels stand still, looking intently for danger, or a path to a different vantage point. Heads pop out of bushes, from under the boardwalk, and from tunnels and burrows.
Often, the egret and the squirrel stand mere yards apart, staring intently in opposite directions, oblivious or indifferent to the other. Occasionally the cast will be joined by the grey-blue heron, standing tall as the breeze ruffles feathers and down. When the hunting ground becomes uninteresting, the slender, nearly one-dimensional bird suddenly extends its wings and takes flight. What seems fragile and slight is unexpectedly powerful and majestic. With a few slow and deliberate motions the bird is airborne. Impressive.
Walking and Stalking
In the neighborhoods, deer come visiting, stopping to fill up on vegan delights thoughtfully provided by nature and the occasional optimistic gardener. Turkeys strut around like their east coast cousins, though some might argue they are more laid-back, as befitting the Cali lifestyle. Coyotes earn their keep in the fields and gardens. Larger predators are more likely mountain lion than a bear, though both certainly make themselves comfortable in the mountains just outside of town.
It is a beautiful place that often causes me to pause for a minute, to appreciate the beauty and peaceful grounding of home.
The beauty of life, as represented by these very different but very similar residents, exist for everyone. They don’t give a thought to the accents they hear, or the color of the eyes that stare back in wonder. They don’t ask for identification, or an income statement, or a diploma. No cover, no minimum. Plenty of room to share. And they seem to be just fine with it all.