I’m a complete scaredy cat, so there’s quite an array of nighttime noises that make me sit bolt upright when I’m in bed. Only a few catch my undivided attention in a good way, though. The quiet sounds sneaking through my window right now are of that good variety, the kind that has me rushing outside, or to open the nearest window and turn my ear out into the darkness.
There are several Great Horned Owls calling back and forth in the woods behind the apartments. One is close, perhaps in the treetops just beyond the next building. The others–at least one or two more, but maybe three–are spread far and wide throughout those woods. Their calls are nothing more than a muttering that I have to strain to catch.
I knew the snow had started when I realized it was quiet.
Snow in North Carolina is an unusual thing, both in frequency and because of the general public response to it. East of the mountains, which are another beast entirely, we get a snowfall or two in a typical year, somewhere between January and March. More often than not, they are ephemeral, arriving in secret by night and melting away over the next series of mornings with little fanfare. But these usual non-events trigger an apocalyptic panic.
“Get your bread and milk now,” everyone will say with a wry smile when snow is in the forecast. It’s a tired joke, dry and self-deprecating. Even after you say it to a coworker with a roll of your eyes, you still make a note to drop by the grocery store on the way home.
As an end-of-year lunch with some colleagues was winding down earlier this month, a question was asked that took me by surprise, but later struck me as inevitable: “So, what are your nature connection goals for the new year?”
In the past, I’ve skipped making resolutions more often than not. I hadn’t given that dreaded December R-word a single thought, let alone come up with a resolution about nature connection. There are always nature topics I hope to learn more about, but it may never have occurred to me to set concrete goals for them before that moment.
I pondered for a minute, then said, “Improving my sea shell identification.” Continue reading
Life is full of little compulsions. The friend who buys a lottery ticket every week, despite the odds. The roommate who has to have the dishwasher loaded just so. The dog that can’t help chasing every squirrel in sight. The moth to the proverbial flame.
I can’t help chasing lizards.
When I see a skink or an eastern fence lizard lounging on a tree trunk, I am instantly drawn to get as close as I possibly can without it spooking. I’ll chase it in circles, around and around like a dog after its own tail. And when I go visiting folks in Florida–oh, boy. Continue reading
When I moved into my summer housing, I noticed right away that the burnt-out lighting sconce by the entryway was stuffed full of debris–leaves, pine needles, twigs. I wondered if some bird had nested there, long ago. When I walked up to the house earlier this evening, though, a bird rocketed out of the alcove and right over my head.
Aha! Not an old nest, then, but a current one! I dragged a chair out to climb up and investigate, but the nest was too high for me to reach, even then. I went out to the porch to restrategize and found a visitor perched on the railing, watching me: a Carolina wren, with a bill full of nesting materials. Upon seeing a human blocking its path, it retreated hastily to a skinny tree opposite the gravel walkway, where it observed until it decided I wasn’t so scary after all and began working on the nest again.
Even as I finished setting up this blog, I found myself in the path of a great nature moment. I was sitting on the front porch, typing and formatting away as dusk settled in around me, when a motion dead-ahead of me caught my eye. There was a doe white-tailed deer crossing the lawn with careful, tentative steps. I was pleased, but not surprised; I’d encountered deer in the evening a few times before.
As she ventured further forward, though, a fawn crept into view from behind a tree. It was delicate, splotched with white dots and probably no higher than my knee. I’d only ever seen fawns in the wild once before, and they had been nearly full-grown. This beautiful, improbable little thing seemed almost as though it could curl itself up in a pillowcase.
I couldn’t help myself–I reached for the phone. It was a silly decision, since I knew the camera zoom wouldn’t be enough to get a remotely decent picture, but I did it all the same. The wicker seat creaked when I shifted, loud enough that both bodies froze and both heads swung my way. After assessing me for a moment, they continued on with a new touch of hurry. Suddenly, a second fawn came lurching out of the woods and after its family. Twins! I watched them finish the crossing together, headed off to some quieter place.
It felt like a special gift to share a moment with such a delightful family. It was especially nice that going for the camera didn’t ruin things. Some moments are better savored than captured. Maybe those three will cross my path again some other evening. If not, though, this is a memory I will be perfectly content with.