The Sierra snowpack has gone AWOL, and there are dire warnings of drought, but life continues to go on with a vengeance.
I’m speaking of our own garden, where we spend too few idle hours in exchange for good, Puritan toil. But on the occasions when we pause to look, or to listen, miracles reveal themselves with joyful, even startling, frequency. As we inspected things today at noon, I remarked about the soap opera that plays itself out just on the other side of our windows every day.
Ours is an exceedingly modest patch of the Earth, but it belongs to us — and the bank — so we take great interest in it. There’s a lot to watch and wait for, because gardens will not be rushed.
I installed my first bee hive over the weekend, in hopes of luring a swarm of wild bees with the thought that they’ll be well adapted to local conditions. There’s still no pleasant hum coming from the hive, so I have to content myself with regarding it as garden art thus far.
A few tomatoes are the size of pingpong balls, and lots of other vegetables are threatening to bloom. Roses are exploding with flowers this year as they have no other.
But the real drama is that which is hardest to catch with a camera. Not too many days ago, as I wandered around while talking on the phone, I nearly stepped on the freshly harvested remains of a songbird. It was clearly the victim of a raptor for the unique way its carcass was processed. The victor in this chapter of the survival of the fittest was almost certainly a Cooper’s Hawk, a smallish raptor that specializes in eating other birds. The remains were as neatly flayed as if the work had been done with a scalpel. The wings splayed open, untouched, as did the tail. The head was missing, and the breast and body contents had been completely removed, leaving only the backbone and dorsal portion of the ribs. That was enough evidence to suggest the Cooper’s Hawk identity. Judging from the cloud of feathers floating in a copper pot that holds a water lily, the bird was taken just as it paused for a drink or a bath.
But it’s not all life and death. Lately, life has been on the menu.
House Sparrows and House Finches are furiously going about the business of procreation. The males stand erect, puff out their chests and sing with desperate fury. Usually, the females spurn them, even chasing them away with aggression familiar to any teenage boy.
A pair of American Robins has been gleaning twigs from the garden, mostly from a large swath of wooly thyme. They give their intentions away by carrying these materials in the same direction after each visit. A nest is in the works nearby.
We continue to battle our poor soil, variable weather and the relentless onslaught of snails and earwigs, and without getting preachy, we endeavor to do it without noxious chemicals. But in spite of our failures and our guerrilla war with a never-ending army of bugs, the joy that this microcosm we play stewards to gives us license to do a little victory dance every time we choose to notice.