Pretty Ugly

Some animal vomited all over the base of a plant in my garden. Not a pleasant sight. We ignored it for a couple of days, then it hardened, and Alf hacked at it with a spade and dumped it into a plastic bag and deposited it in the garbage, which goes out tomorrow.

I mention this because not everything is pretty in my garden.

Occasionally I come across the body of a dead bird on the ground. This usually happens when it bangs into a window. But I have learned to leave it alone because it could be just stunned into unconsciousness and eventually, after a few hours, it will come to and fly off. I can’t think of how many “dead” birds I’ve thrown away when they probably could have survived.

Have I mentioned that every pet we have ever owned, when it died, we buried in the garden? From Chico the ring-neck parrot, Eternity our Siamese, Baxter and Jones, our two parakeets, and Gwen our Springer Spaniel. Right now their burial plots are springing up flowers. Their bones have fertilized the soil and given new life to lovely plants that house hummingbirds and butterflies.

“The circle of life,” Alf said.

“I wonder what the vomit could have produced,” I said.

“Maggots,” Alf said.

“Don’t they make good fertilizer?”

“Not if you want creepy crawlies underfoot.”

Calvin says, “Don’t you bury me in the back when my time comes. I want to be let free in wild grasses to frolic all day long.”¬†

 

In the Heat

Word has spread and Monarchs are coming to enjoy my butterfly bush. It’s a joy to see these orange nymphs flitting about in the garden. They tend to appear in the afternoon, when the day is the hottest. They’re joined by the hummers, the chattering squirrels and the bees. It’s really quite noisy in the stillness of the warmth.

I’m contemplating installing a gurgling fountain where the birds can bathe, the cats lap up water and the squirrels can have a splash party. I’d put out my favorite rocking chair and be entertained for hours. A friend of mine loves to sit out in her garden, among the flowers, reading her books, with one eye to the wildlife around her. She’s done that in every place she lived, including Beijing. Now she’s in a retirement community and only has a balcony, but that hasn’t stopped her. Her little spot is overflowing with potted flowers and greens, and she’s out there every day with her coffee and books. I’m learning to follow in her footsteps.

“Your footsteps keep you indoors,” Alf said.

“I’m working, that’s why,” I said.

“You’ve heard the word laptop?”

“Of course, silly.”

“That’s what it’s for, your lap, anywhere,” he said.

“My lap gets too hot, then I run out of battery, and I lose focus because the entertainment around me pulls me away,” I said.

“Excuses. Make it work, find the right spot, under the lemon tree, by the garden angel, next to the maple,” he said.

“What if a lemon lands on my keyboard?”

“Make a lemon tart,” Alf said.

Calvin says, “You forgot to include my panting in the heat as part of the entertainment.”

 

 

 

Night Crooner

Around midnight there’s a bird in the tree by my bedroom window that starts singing. His timing is intriguing. I thought birds went to bed with sundown and stayed quiet until sunrise. Not this one. He has a repertoire that is impressive. He must be an opera singer preparing for his role. He keeps me awake. I listen to his notes, and not one is the same as the other. He varies his tone and his melody. You’d think others were answering him, but it’s all coming from him.

I did an Internet search for night crooners and found him. He’s the Northern Mockingbird. He can mimic other birds as well as invent his own songs. His is a playlist that lasts well into the night.

Lately he’s taken the night off. I miss him.

“Thank heavens he’s stopped,” Alf said.

“Why? I quite liked him,” I said.

“You’ve always needed a lullaby,” Alf says.

“I know you can’t sleep with noise, but this is music, not noise.”

“I bury my head under the pillows,” Alf said.

“But it’s soothing. You’re missing out.”

“He sounds like a hand bell choir, wind chimes, and a tin drum all rolled into one,” Alf said.

“That isn’t noise,” I said.

“That’s because you’re tone deaf.”

Calvin says, “There needs to be a bay in there somewhere, then it would be complete.”

 

A Pitiful Reality

Coming back from my two-mile walk in my backyard, not that my backyard is two miles long, it’s not, but I walk back and forth for two miles, I realized what a pitiful sight I am. If anyone were to see me in my sweatpants, T-shirt, no make-up – what for the birds? – they’d say I needed a respite in the local psyche ward. I have forgotten to dress normally, bathe daily, and wear something colorful. Is this what retirement looks like? No, this is what being cooped up at home without the possibility of parole looks like during the pandemic. When restrictions get lifted I will need training in how to be a human being again and a functioning member of society. I will have to wear a bra again! That thought revolts me. I will need to be pleasing, kind and thoughtful to others. I’ve had a vacation from that. And eight hours in an office again when I’ve enjoyed squirrels, birds and flowers as my office, I can’t bear the thought.

Not everything about the lockdown has been nasty as the media wants you to believe. It’s been peaceful. The air has never been fresher. The quiet of the streets allows me to hear the honking of overhead geese, the barking of dogs on a walk, the clamoring of the garbage truck on its pickup runs. We’re making more garbage than ever before. We’re buying and cooking and eating and throwing away. Just today I saw my neighbor throw out his prized flamingo.

Calvin says, “You’re nuts alright. Flamingo? That was a pink elephant.”

 

 

A Hornet With My Toast

The amount of people promoting their expertise online is staggering. From writing books, creating paintings, selling on social media, doing better business, to cooking shows now that everyone is home and needing to eat. I’m tempted to say yes to everything. But then I’d be up most nights watching their videos. I’d be making bagels at 2 am, pizza at 3, and marmalade at 4 am. So I decided to chuck it, and go to bed. I’ve lived with less than stellar meals for years. Beans and rice is a favorite dish of mine. Half the world lives on it, why not me? I’m a tea drinker and I discovered¬† several boxes of English tea in my pantry I forgot I had. I’m good for a few months. Fresh veggies and fruit are quarantined in my fridge. I’m well stocked.

I did try making lemon marmalade and it turned out better than my orange marmalade. It’s tart and sweet, a combination hard to beat. Of course I need lots of buttered toast for that, and my cup of English tea, and then I’ll eat and sip in my rose garden, dreaming of Scotland.

“Watch out for the hornets,” Alf said.

“They don’t like lemon marmalade,” I said.

“Yes, and much more. They’ll take a bite out of you if you’re sweet enough.”

“Should I put on my bee outfit?”

“Might be smart.”

“But then I can’t eat my toast or drink my tea,” I said.

“I can cut a window straight to your mouth,” Alf said.

“Don’t bother. I’ll just sit here admiring my roses and watch the ravens nose dive the squirrels.”

Calvin says, “No hornet will come near me, I smell, I haven’t had a bath in months.”

 

Release

I’ve heard people going to the beaches, opening up their businesses, and gathering with their relatives even before California opens up again.

People are fed-up. Living at home day in and day out is not the best way to live a life. People need people. Even if it’s people they don’t typically want to spend time with. Nowadays, even those look attractive.

We’ve hit a wall. We definitely would not thrive on an island. Or even on a cruise ship anymore. We’re made to roam in forests, on beaches, and on mountain tops.

I’m not sure we’re ultimately made to live in high-density cities like New York and Tel Aviv. Cities like these are made for commerce, not humans.

We need to see green things, breathe fresh air, walk for miles, and feel the sun on our faces.

After this lock-down is over, we’re going to be streaming out of our houses like ants from an anthill and heading for the country. It better be ready.

Calvin says, “Don’t forget us, we need to run and bounce and chomp on the clover fields too.”

Under the Roof

My orange tree is almost white with blossoms. It looks like snow. The fragrance is intoxicating, especially at sunset and sunrise. I put myself in a chair under the tree today to take in the spectacle under the branches. The bees were humming and doing a happy dance in and out of the flowers. The hummingbirds flitted from branch to branch. As I looked up I could see touches of blue sky in between the leaves. Suddenly I heard rustling and the tree began to shake, blossoms came down like rain, and then the thump of oranges around me. I couldn’t see them, but it was those pesky squirrels again, racing in and out of the branches, almost laughing.

Our house is under the flight path to three airports. It’s normal to see planes come in for a landing every five minutes. From big wide-bodies to smaller commute aircraft, it’s my thrill to see these planes arrive. They are so low I can make out the airline. Even see the pilot wave at me. Today, because of the lock-down, there was only one or two that came in. Probably with six flight attendants pampering one passenger with first-class treatment. Now is the time to fly if you can get past security.

Occasionally I will see gulls fly overhead. When that happens I know it’s going to rain. That’s when I stand outside and wait for the big drops to hit.

Calvin says, “And I dash inside. I hate a bath.”

Adjusting

I’m learning to work online these days, and be proficient in video calls. All of a sudden I have to look good on camera. I need make-up, lipstick, good hair, and something colorful around my neck and shoulders. Much like news anchors, you never know what they’re really wearing underneath the desk. I could be wearing my pajama bottoms, the ones with the mermaids, and nobody would know. But they’d know because they’re doing the same.

Nobody has told the bees, the squirrels or the birds that all work must be conducted inside. They didn’t get the memo. Life goes on for them. The neighborhood cats keep coming by and checking who has left a scent. Not so with the dogs. They have been quarantined and I don’t even hear barking anymore. That’s because they’re wearing masks.

I used to smell garlic and curry in the neighborhood, but even that has gone. I don’t see my neighbors leave their houses and get into their cars. I wonder what they’re making for dinner. I suppose the freezer in the garage has been a go-to place for the past four weeks. It’s time for the frozen edamame and tamales to come out along with the ice cream and shredded cheese.

We just heard we might be in this until middle May. The date keeps getting pushed back almost daily. This is building character I tell myself. It’s okay if you’re an introvert. You can handle the quiet. It’s the extroverts I worry about. They’re talking to themselves in the mirror and to imaginary friends.

Calvin says, “I don’t like frozen kibble so don’t even think about it.”

 

 

 

Coexistence

The orange tree in our backyard is bursting with blossoms. As I walk by it, I hear the happy sounds of our humming bees wiggle in and out of the blossoms. The tree is alive with activity and noise. What surprises me are the hummingbirds. They too are flitting in and out of the blossoms, drinking in their elixir. They are intoxicated. They stop frequently to rest, look around, chirp with the others, and then resume their feeding. They don’t seem to skirt the bees. Nor are they cautious around them. Both bees and hummers co-exist in one tree.

Now the squirrels are another story. Those nasty critters are pulling off our oranges, taking a big bite out of them, and throwing the rest of the fruit on the ground. I notice they don’t touch the lemons or the grapefruit. They like sweet. They have good taste, but in an indulgent and thoughtless way.

Yesterday morning I noticed a tight bud on a geranium bush, and by late afternoon it had flowered. Had I know it would happen this fast, I would have pulled up a chair to watch it, like a time-lapse video.

I’m waiting for the blue jays to pop in anytime soon. They are nuisances. They wait on the roof top for bee activity and then swoop in and grab one in their beaks and swallow it whole. I wonder if the bee, in its last moments of life, stings the bird’s gullet all the way down to its stomach.

Calvin says, “Beware of those bees. I’ve had a few land on my nose and it’s terrifying. I shake them off and then run inside the house and howl.”

 

A Jungle Out There

I’ve been in lockdown since the end of March. Like most of us, it’s taken a bit of adjusting. My daughter came over to do laundry. She wore a mask and gloves the entire time and stayed in the garage. We talked in muffled sounds.

I’m getting to know my backyard quite well. That’s where I walk two miles a day. I look like a robot, back and forth, until whatever phone call I’m on is over. I’ve watched the maple tree sprout its tender leaves. Flowers are poking their heads up from the ground. Squirrels are snickering up and down the fence. My rose bushes are bursting out all over and the bees are deliriously happy.

Speaking of which, while I was doing my walk I suddenly heard a loud hum overhead. At first I thought it was my neighbor’s lawnmower. But when the sound came swirling around my face and almost into my ears I ran inside.

“Do I have any bees stuck to me?” I asked Alf.

He put down the paper and looked at me. “Do you mean the buzzing kind or something else?” Then he saw what was happening out the window. Hundreds of bees were swarming in circles in front of our eyes, taking up every inch of airspace, like a convention in the sky. We stood transfixed. Not one bee was bumping into another. They had their flight path well mapped out. The buzzing was almost deafening.

“There goes the neighborhood,” Alf said.

We continued with our projects and soon there was silence. It was as sudden as the humming. We looked out the window and the bees were gone. Not a one lingered on a flower or a tree.

“Where did they disappear to?” I asked.

“To the local pub for a drink,” Alf said.

The following day the same episode happened at the same time of the day. By then we had become pros. We left out some cut oranges on the picnic table in case they needed a snack. Instead, the squirrels pounced on the slices and flicked their tails in excitement.

Calvin says, “Thank God my doghouse is inside. They would have moved right in with all my smells.”