I was lying in bed, before 7 a.m., reading (The Mirror and the Light), when I heard two things. The first was skittering in the rose canes by the window, followed by more skittering in the narrow tunnels of the metal roof. For years I wasn’t sure what animal made these sounds and then about 4 years ago, I began to see the weasels regularly. In May. Mornings were best. A couple of times one would stop in its tracks as it used the rose canes to travel along the wall of house, peering at me as I lay in my bed. Another time I saw one race into one of the roof tunnels and then come out again. I wouldn’t have believed that an animal of its size could do that, slip into an opening as narrow as those forming part of the metal roof structure. But I saw one do it, in search of mice. One morning there was a terrific noise from the pair of robins nesting along the beam carrying wisteria across our patio from the woodshed to the house and then silence. When I went out, the robins were gone and so were their eggs. It was the same day that I saw this fellow on my laundry stoop:
So you’re back, I thought to myself, and continued to read. Continued to read until the song of the orange-crowned warbler in the arbutus blossoms made me go out to the deck to listen more closely. The honeyed scent of the blooms, drifts of cherry blossoms on the grass where the young deer was feeding yesterday.
Some days it’s lonely, waiting out a pandemic. I have my husband to talk to and there’s the telephone. But proximity: that’s what I miss some days. And that’s when I need to pay more attention because the place where I live is anything but empty. Look out a window and see hummingbirds darting from flower to flower. The mason bees who are everywhere right now, filling the houses we’ve made for them. Lizards in the rocks by the back door. Yesterday a snake curling around the hoses in the vegetable garden. They’re good company.
At breakfast, John was looking out the sliding doors facing west and saw an elk crossing the orchard, the one we worked at for so long but finally abandoned (you can read about that in Euclid’s Orchard…), and I went out to try to take a photograph. It was party hidden in the trees, though I could see enough antler to realize it was a bull. And there’s a story. What bull elk is wandering alone in our woods this time of year? Probably not a harem master, not yet. But maybe we’ll hear him the fall, bugling in the woods as he faces off against another bull. This morning though? He was was happy just to drag down branches and eat. I could smell him from the deck, ripe as a horse.
There’s talk of lifting some of the restrictions to shelter in place. Open the doors and see what comes in! A weasel, an elk with his mouth full of green leaves, a warbler singing his way through the morning. I think of Du Fu, anticipating visits after a time alone.
North of me, south of me, spring is in flood,
Day after day I have seen only gulls….
My path is full of petals — I have swept it for no others.
My thatch gate has been closed — but opens now for you.
It’s a long way to the market, I can offer you little —
Yet here in my cottage there is old wine for our cups.
Shall we summon my elderly neighbour to join us,
Call him through the fence, and pour the jar dry?