I treasure my early morning walks of solitude. I go year-round in rain, snow, sleet or hail. Depending on the time of year, I’m hitting the pavement before the sun himself finally rolls out of bed after hitting the snooze button one too many times. Lazy planet - sheesh.
I stay in well-lit areas as there are times I am just NOT in the mood for being abducted by the bogeyman. But those early mornings before the sun, and people, get out bed is the best time to see stuff - wildlife. And one neighborhood I trek through, one of hand-clipped lawns, freshly painted fences and tarp-covered RV’s bigger than my house gracing their driveways, where I always seem to find the best of nature.
I do see a lot of wildlife in my own back yard, but to see the variety I do, as often as I do, all in this area makes me wonder – did Dr. Doolittle retire there?
In one visit I have seen deer, racoons, rabbits, cats, and quail. They scurry through lawns, hide under cars, munch on prized gardens, and pick through garbage. And yes, although cats are not technically ‘wildlife’ as the astute will correct me, given the nearby nature sanctuary over-run by feral cats, I include them in my list.
I have been startled by an owl’s ominous shadow trailing the road a he flies under a streetlight. Strange birds chirp at me as I motor by, and something – a hawk, eagle or vulture, not sure – always glowers at me as I walk past the pole he or she guards. Even the moths can seem daunting, their shadows cast on the pavement below the light they are attracted to makes them seem 40 times their size. And trust me, sudden fluttering shadows at 4:30 am in the morning can be rather alarming.
But as the seasons change, the sun decides to set his alarm a little bit earlier (early bird catches the worm, and all that), and approaching summer means it’s a bit lighter as I head out to Dr. Doolittle’s neighborhood. Every morning the animals slowly dwindle in numbers – more light means more people, and things always look much different than they did in the dark.
Some of the trees don’t look so ominous and craggily, and some of those lawns aren’t as a manicured as I thought. What I thought was an über-fancy car hidden under a form-fitted tarp is really just an old beater. A little light on the subject always changes everything.
As I trekked along one morning, the early morning sunrise making stepping around wandering caterpillars a little easier, I saw a mound of something on someone’s lawn. Careful not to step on the grass, and careful to ensure the mound was not the result of one of Dr. Doolittle’s creatures, I leaned over and picked up what I soon realized was a formed mass of twigs and leaves – a nest! I scanned the lawn for eggshells and any inhabitants who might be amiss, but all was clear. The few remnants of shells on the bottom told me this was vacated long ago.
What a find! I knew no one was going to use it now. It was so far from a tree that trying to put it back in the same place for next years' returning guests wasn’t going to work. I knew it would likely end up in the garbage so I took it home as I knew some boys at my house would really appreciate seeing it.
Caked together with mud and poo, the twigs wove round and round, the middle a soft pillow of what looked like dryer lint, rabbit fur, and feathers. The soft bed had me wishing for my pajamas - curling up inside the nest for a nap was tempting (not that I would fit or anything).
As I headed home with the nest, the sun fully awake and enjoying his coffee, I started having deep philosophical thoughts comparing the nest to life and writing. Twig by twig, a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a whole bunch of determination, hard work and perseverance, and in the end of you have something to be proud of. I started to go on and on, forgetting to watch for caterpillars, but I stopped myself.
Life’s too short to be constantly over-analyzing things. Take it for what it is, enjoy it for what it is – it’s a nest. Leave it at that. Life's too complicated as is, what with the sun casting shadows when you least want them. Just enjoy the little things for what they are.
Funny what a little light shed on the matter can do. (I guess I got a little philosophical after all)