I go down into the ravine in mid-spring for the windless cool. The thistle hasn't taken over then, the grass is still unripe, the nesting blackbirds haven't formed vigilante groups yet, although one or two hang on the rock, baleful eyes and murderous smiles. "Staying long?" they rasp. "Passing through. Passing through," I say. And they nod, disbelieving.
One of the things human beings are very bad at — a list that includes having a thought without posting it on Facebook — is transcribing bird calls. There are just certain things a particular species isn't equipped to do. You wouldn't ask a blue whale to cook an omelette. Sure, they can sift flour, but they can't crack eggs. Those great flippers don't have the dexterity. And whales are smart enough to know that — which is why, even with massive unemployment in the whale world, none of them ever apply for jobs as short-order cooks.
To the east, Goat Hill catches the brilliant light that follows a winter storm. The deep terra cotta strata of the uplift are never as clear as when they contrast with bands of snow, like the blood-red and white of Acoma pottery. Geologists know the hill as the Bellvue Dome. At first glance, it seems just a continuation of the Hogback, with the characteristic eastern slope and sheer scarp facing the setting sun. But the gentle arch of the anticline, the eroding course of the Poudre River at its base, where it winds through Pleasant Valley, set it apart.
I have wildlife, I thought; you mean I can get a certificate as well? The article itself, "Get Wild! 5 Steps..." is based on the National Wildlife Federation's program, part of which is an effort to meet the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge and help expand corridors of hospitable spaces for transient bees and butterflies, which, face it, are having a rough go by any measure of environmental catastrophe.
We had a visit from a group of wild turkeys on the 27th of September. They can sometimes be seen across the ravine, moving down the hill from Frances’s place, but these crossed over, along the road, then past the sumac thicket by the driveway, heading south. Two things strike you about them. They’re big — up to thirty pounds or so, though the weight itself doesn’t do justice to their full-feathered size — and they cover ground fast.
Constructed from 8-foot lengths of 4x4 rough western red cedar (magical stuff) and cut to make a typical 4' by 8' frame, the raised bed is only fourteen or so inches high. Dowel and carriage bolts kept everything together. Somehow that simple-sounding process involved the purchase of multiple auger bits, a portable compact table saw, cordless sander, power planer, and more than twenty trips to the Home Depot on Magnolia.
I've been getting into miniaturization lately, after a sponsored ad for a magnifying smartphone camera unexpectedly appeared in my Facebook newsfeed. It was an outrageous deal. They had a short-but-irresistible sales video that showed you how to take close-up pictures of your Social Security card, driver's license, and bank account information and text them -- without leaving the app! -- to a number supplied with the box insert. I ordered one immediately, and since the instructions were all in Cyrillic script, I've been muddling by with trial and error, practicing on shrubs around the house before I move on to personal data.
For the first time in seven years the Prunus americana (wild plum) along the driveway to the wand shop has fruit. Like the red-black berries of the chokecherry on the north slope, overlooking the ravine, the plum seemed to hang on its branches all through our dry August.
A neighbor has just sent the moisture report for the hill, and I’m tempted to see this, too, in Préverted terms. It was raining. It rained, certainly. It was hailing. We put the petunias in a trash bag. With a twist tie, we closed the bag. We put the trash bag in the trash. Without looking at the window box. Without looking at the hanging basket, where the geranium hung like the empty sleeve of a Civil War veteran.
The sun is up, low over my shoulder, just east-northeast. My shadow leaps out along the wet grass, over the lip of the rise and across the deer trail down into the ravine. And when you can see your shadow on June the 18th, long and twisted among the scrub, it means twelve more years of ecosystem collapse.