Windows on the world

I’m sitting at the dining table this morning, working on a last edit of my forthcoming book, Mnemonic: A Book of Trees. A few minutes ago, a hummingbird paused in the blooming rosemary, its gorget shimmering like orange-red taffeta. Two golden-crowned sparrows have been courting in the big firs and the robins are building somewhere, though not in the willow you can see through the window, smothered in honeysuckle and clematis. What you can’t see are the remnants of two nests from last year. I suspect the robins will be back in the willow for their second nesting period. They usually raise their first family in a nest under the eaves – for several years it’s been an elbow of drainpipe leading down from the printshop roof – and then move to the willow or a nearby wisteria once those have leafed out enough to provide some shelter from rain.

I wish you could hear the incessant tapping of the male dark-eyed junco as he challenges his reflection in the shiny metal of the woodstove’s chimney. This is a first. For years, we’d see towhees attacking their reflections in the rear-view mirrors of our car, standing on the brace that holds the mirrors and fiercely stabbing with their beaks. They’d leave the mirrors covered with poop and traces of blood. Eventually we decided to tie plastic bags over the mirrors and that deterred them; but honestly who’s going to climb the roof and try to prevent that junco from trying to scare his opponent from the territory? It lasts a few weeks, this surge of hormone-induced activity, and then they lose interest or have fatherly duties to attend to.

I’ve been leaving the outside door open to the sunroom and wonder if the hummingbirds will discover the flowering cactus. A little later, when it’s warm enough, I’ll move the three pots of cactus outdoors where they’ll serve as magnets for bees and birds alike. Sometimes tree frogs come into the sunroom, their tenor voices disproportionate to their tiny bodies. One morning I got up to find one clinging to the bathroom mirror. Are you my prince, I asked him, as I carried him outside.

Back to the editing. I’ve just finished work on the chapter about building our house and so all the springs of our residence here are echoing – nests, flowers, the arrival of hummingbirds, the clumps of frog-spawn in the tub by the vegetable garden.

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