Turf Wars

We have a chestnut tree in our back yard.  Chestnuts and leaves blanket the lawn.  The squirrels are in fat city.  They scamper and scratch holes in the grass.  They bury their treasure in the rockery.

But this year, the blue jays, who have a nest in our mountain ash tree, are in on the action too.  I witness a chestnut battle.

One of the Blues descends from the mountain ash.  Soon, a nut is in his beak.  He returns to a branch with his prize.

Squirrel stands erect and looks distressed.  He is frozen and perplexed by Blue.  His tiny front paws fold over his chest.  Discouraged?  No.  He darts to the lawn for more chestnuts.

He hops around, stores a nut in his cheek, and eventually scratches a hole to bury it.  Squirrels bury an average of 10,000 nuts a year and end up eating only about 4,000. 

Is it greed?  Since the Blue jays have been showing up, is he hiding more of his booty?

Enter Squirrel #2.  He leaps toward Squirrel #1 who scoots into the rockery. 

More Blue jays descend.  

Blue jays are carnivores known to rob baby squirrels from nests and prey on juvenile squirrels.

Squirrel #2 has intimidated Squirrel #1 who darts away to a more distant cranny in the rocks. 

He scratches and inspects a burrow, stands on his hind legs, and looks distraught.  Has Squirrel #2 confiscated a nut from Squirrel #1’s domain?

“Where’d my nut go?” he seems to be saying.  Squirrel #1 is hyper, scampers to a tree, circles around its trunk, and then disappears into the tree canopy.

 I imagine a squirrel conversation in the canopy:

“Betty.  Sid just moved in on my turf.  He’s the greediest squirrel in our berg.   Even worse, the bluebirds must have a nest around here.  They’re bogarting our chestnuts.  Do we have enough nuts for Thanksgiving?  Check the pantry.”

“Oh, Lenny.  You know that I do.”  Betty opens the tree pantry.  Empty shells spill out.

Lenny is panicked.  “OMG.  Who got to them?  Was it the blue jays or that greedy Sid?”

Betty shrugs.  “Suck it up.  We’ll get by.”

“Young Sammy will have to help.  Where is the boy?”

“Last time I saw Sammy he was chasing his tail,” says Betty

What?  I thought only dogs chased their tails.”

“Chalk it up to adolescence, Lenny.  Let it go.”

Okay, this may not have been the scenario in the tree canopy.  And there may be no juvie squirrel named Sammy.  But if there is, he should watch his back.  The blue jays may move up the food chain and prey on him.

Fairy Garden

Mom in her fairy garden. She inspires my Muse.

Come dance with me in the fairy garden
in the glow from the harvest moon.
We’ll prance in rings to the fiddler’s strings
under archways of silvery blooms.

The fireflies shall light the path
with lamps of amber and gold.
You might spy an elf, a pixie, a gnome
in the hollow of a tree trunk’s soul.

And if you spot the Fairy Queen
arrayed in a dress of rose petals
give her a wave and your steps will grow light
as the down of the nightingale’s feather.

You shall feel much joy in this secret garden
where the stars sprinkle dust from the heavens.
Where the robins pipe songs from dusk to dawn
and the wind softly carries bird blessings.

Bird Eats Cat

BackYard1

In the garden, a chickadee pecks at you,
kisses the ground nourished by your ashes.

Whiskers,
paws, emerald eyes —

now burned to a chickadee prize.

The tangerine poppies have turned blood orange;
they sway

like lit Oriental lanterns
as we look for you

in nature’s patterns.

Is the bird’s song sharper from feeding on you?
Have you fertilized flowers to a deeper hue?

Cattails rise like questions in the morning dew.

Rituals

We admired ancient Egyptians.
Painted boxes, families who cared enough to draw birds,
carry cakes and ale to their beloveds.

We did not cremate her.
We buried her like a sacred Egyptian,
tucked in relics:  a lavender heart, garnet ring, Celtic holy card,
the papyrus of her poetry, photos of her Depression childhood.

When the parakeet died she found just the right shoe box.
She folded its blue feathers in with toys and seeds,
painted popsicle sticks green and formed them into a crucifix.

All that winter we waited.

In spring the potato vine blossomed
and stretched over our bird grave.

She believed in rituals — even miracles,
spoke of ancestors clawing sod with bare hands,
turning over blackened spuds.
Their larders bare, nothing to fortify them but prayer.