Today, 8/28/18

Trees backlit by sun

Trees in August. How will they change?

I haven’t had much time to reflect on my new life, here in western Massachusetts. There’s been no lack in appreciation. Even on hot days like today, I love the smell of the summer grass. After a thunderstorm, I love how the air cools down. My mother used to always mention that when I was a kid, but that was in a suburb, and since I moved to the city, it wasn’t so noticeable.

This has been a good time to be distracted from that horror show performing daily at the White House. Not that I’m completely off the grid. I see and hear news each day, but without a TV, I’m not inundated. I’ve also left Patriots country behind. The Boston TV stations are all Patriots all the time. It’s ridiculous and sad. There’s too much going on in the world not to report on it. Even that horror show gets way too much verbiage. He does something horrible so, sure, report on it, but also cover the impact of what he does or tweets. His administration is systematically dismantling every regulation and safety protection enacted since Nixon (probably earlier—I’m just thinking how Nixon, of all presidents, created the EPA; under duress, granted, but still). He’s quite literally destroying our country. Trying to. I don’t think we’ll let him.

But today was for being outside. Not that I haven’t done that most days, but this time I took a chair, my binoculars, my camera, and a notebook. And I sat under the shade of pine trees. From a corner of my property I sat and listened and watched and tried not to think about human things. Artificial things. Social interactions that I’m not good at. I tried to forget I’m human and reveled in the nature around me.

When you sit still, birds come to you. I’ve never had it so easy bird watching. No driving forty-five minutes to a birding hot spot. No having to pee as soon as I get there. No worrying about running out of water or thinking about the traffic I’ll face going home.

I am home and my home is shared with a wide assortment of plants and animals. I can’t believe my good fortune. But it’s more than luck. A significant amount of privilege got me here. Growing up white. Growing up middle class. I had a head start too many people don’t get. So I am grateful and won’t take this time for granted. It won’t be as long as I’d like. I wish I could have always lived out here, but the need to make money to support myself with my skills necessitated too many years living far from where I wanted to be.

What did I see from my chair under the pines? Bluebirds! I’ve only ever seen them fleetingly at a sanctuary. Here they hang out all day long. They are looking a bit scruffy now. Might be juveniles or adults molting. Not springtime beautiful, but beautiful nevertheless.

Two warblers landed on a branch. They were backlit, so I only saw silhouettes with long caterpillars in their mouths. They thrashed them against the branch before swallowing them. Yum.

A hawk cried out overhead. I saw it circle by, white wings underneath. Maybe the broad-winged that’s been hanging out lately?

Bright yellow caught my eye. A prairie warbler, I think. It chased a cedar waxwing and they both landed on branches near each other. Many birds seem to be hanging out with other species this time of year (isn’t there a lesson in that for us?). He had a black eye stripe and a black stripe below the eye. And black streaks down his yellow side. Lovely.

A nuthatch wandered down a trunk head first.

Time for lunch, I end my viewing with a yellow-bellied sapsucker that landed in the pine right in front of me, giving me a good look at him from the side. That’s a bird I only ever saw once in the city. I’d seen one decades ago at my grandmother’s in upstate New York. That made it special. I’ve seen him (or kin) before, flying from the pines into the woods, probably with food for the kids.

As I packed up my things and wandered back to the house, I thought about the other gifts of nature I’ve been granted. Out front, the monarch butterflies have been enjoying the Joe Pye weed that is finally fully blooming. That seemed to take forever.

I didn’t see any today, but I’ve been finding incredible caterpillars—I need to get a field guide. Fuzzy white, smooth green. Found a woolly bear yesterday. It had no brown band. Does that mean winter will be murder?

As I get back into the habit of appreciating nature, I also want to get back into the habit of writing. This is a start. Each day, as the Earth spins toward fall, brings change. This is my first year in a new place and I’m looking forward to all the changes. For now, I must leave my seat under the pines and go back to human things such as continuing that quest to install a generator and winterizing my new home. Hopefully, I’ll write again before the snowshoes come out!

Enjoy today, wherever you are.

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