Earlier this week some parts of our area had overnight frost, then temperatures flared into the eighties. Bees and hover flies responded to the summer-like conditions with greatly increased activity, much to the delight of our Fourth of July rose.
Unfortunately, other insect activity also increased. The daisies and petunias were somewhat less delighted.
And this damselfly had to be rescued from an abandoned spider web.
While increasing insect activity gave me the opportunity to experiment with my camera’s macro functions, the yard’s quickening was visible on larger scales, as well. The cardinals’ nestlings fledged last week, which led to a few days of frantic visits to the feeder, followed by conspicuous absence as the little family moved on to explore other yards.
The squirrel kittens never returned, after that one brief visit, but the adult squirrels have been growing more playful and tolerant of each other as they approach the beginning of a new breeding season. Perhaps there will be more kittens, later this summer.
Perhaps there will be more of everything. Especially more long, lazy afternoons with bright pools of sunshine and breezy, open windows.
In a word, more serenity.
(During my spring flower frenzy, I bought the flowers in the above photo because their labels said “Serenity”. They are Serenity series African daisies, and I’ve planted them right beside the front door…)
These chairs belonged to my grandmother, and they dominate my memories of visiting her house. The red chairs seemed stern, like Grandmother (we weren’t allowed to call her anything less formal than “Grandmother”). Sitting on them reminded me that I was expected to be still and quiet during our visits.
Despite the chairs’ lack of comfort, I admired them. They were, for me, irresistibly exotic. Ornate to the point of absurdity, designed for beauty instead of utility. Only now, when it’s too late for curiosity, does it occur to me that the chairs were different from the rest of Grandmother’s furniture, which was all very sturdy and practical. So why did she keep them? What did she see, when she looked at the chairs?
I never asked Grandmother about the chairs, just as I never asked about the years she spent as a single working mother. I never asked how she managed to raise a daughter, alone, during World War II and the decade that followed. How she managed to raise a daughter, alone, while working full-time.
Time hasn’t softened the chairs, which are so uncomfortable that even the cats refuse to sit on them, but it has softened my memories of Grandmother. She wasn’t a kind, cozy grandmother, but neither was she as stiff and disapproving as I imagined. Her truth, like the chairs’ truth, is an unsolvable mystery.
But now the chairs have come to me and I have the opportunity to create a new truth for them. I keep them in our living room, one on each side of the room. As I sit between them, they remind me to be still and quiet, to listen more carefully, and to understand that some stories are told in silences, rather than words.
A few months ago, the yard’s squirrels were pairing off and building nests. Now the male squirrels have returned to their solitary ways, and the females are busy raising their young. Earlier this week, one of the females brought three kittens along when she visited the feeder.
While she ate, her kittens zipped around the yard. They raced up and down the fence, over and under benches and planters, exploring every corner of every flower bed.
After the little family moved on, a larger, solitary squirrel ambled through. It ate until the feeder was empty, paused for a sip of water, then spent several minutes marking the fence. It marked the entire perimeter of the yard, and I wondered if the behavior was territorial or simply a form of communication.
I haven’t seen the kittens again, but I’ve been adding an extra handful of seed to the feeder each morning, hoping they will return. The other squirrels have noticed my generosity.
While the squirrels are getting more numerous, the rabbits seem to be waning in number. So I was happy, this afternoon, when an adult rabbit stopped by for a bath and a nap in one of the corner flower beds.
Or maybe the rabbit simply needed a quiet place to nap, and the only nests I’ll find in May will belong to the robins…
Despite winter’s lingering chill, the yard is ready for summer.
I’m looking forward to the warm months ahead, to days filled with honeysuckle blooms, nesting doves, and cardinal fledglings…
As winter dragged on and on this year, I developed an irresistible craving for flowers. I fantasized about petunias and daisies, about hanging baskets and terra cotta planters, about a yard filled with butterflies and hummingbirds.
Now that spring is here, I stop at the garden store every time I leave the house. I stroll through aisle after aisle of perennials and annuals, drooling over vivid shades of purple, red, and pink. And every time I stop at the garden store, I bring home a new flower. (Sometimes a new spider, too.)
My carpets are tracked with dirt, half of my fingernails are broken, and I’ve run out of pots and baskets. I might regret my spring flower frenzy when the yard turns hot and humid this summer, when the mosquitoes and black widows arrive and the flowers wilt every afternoon. Or when whatever is eating the pansies starts eating everything else.
But for now, I’m happy.
This week our television flashed image after image of chaos, pain, and loss. I don’t have a personal connection to any of the Boston Marathon bomb victims, nor any of the Texas fertilizer plant explosion victims, and yet my shock and grief feel personal. More and more personal as time passes, as scenes of blood and smoke and flames give way to achingly poignant details about the dead and wounded.
Desperate to escape my growing sense of helplessness, I turn off the television and retreat into the yard, where I find a foraging cardinal, a pollen-dusted bee, and a pair of brave grackles. A hungry tufted titmouse, a half-grown rabbit, and a sleepy squirrel. They remind me that my journey is simultaneously important and insignificant, that I am both connected to and separate from the world. And their company feels like a glimpse of solace, a brief visitation of peace during a week defined by turmoil.
Our house and yard are under siege, completely surrounded by carpenter bees.
These large bees buzz around our eaves and patrol along the fence, staging vicious mid-air duels whenever a challenger enters their territory. Sometimes they crash against each other so heavily that both bees fall to the ground. Then, whichever bee recovers first hovers over the unfortunate loser and bashes it back to the ground every time it tries to take flight. These skirmishes last until the defeated bee manages to escape the disputed territory, or until the victor is distracted by another adversary.
Yesterday afternoon, I spent nearly an hour trying to take photos as one of the bees worked itself to exhaustion chasing the pear tree’s falling petals.
I failed miserably, ending up with frame after frame of motion-blurred bee.
But some of the motion blur was due to laughter. I’ve been feeling sharp stabs of pity, all week, as I watched our swarm of bees harass butterflies and crane flies, even a few hungry warblers. So I couldn’t help but laugh as this little fighter panted along, zipping back and forth in a frenzy of fury, trying to subdue a shower of sparkling petals.