last year the Casablanca lilies…


…by the front door were filled with tree frogs. One morning, with my grandsons, I counted 6. This year, we’ve seen a few frogs here and there–one on a watering can, one by the kitchen window, a tiny one on the kale as we were cutting greens for a hortopita–

small frog

but there aren’t anywhere near the numbers of previous years. Yesterday, before dinner, Forrest went with his sons to look for snakes on the bluff over the old orchard. In years past, that area was always good for snakes. But they didn’t see a single one. I do see them in the vegetable garden but do I see as many as I always have? I don’t think so. We used to see toads. Not now. We haven’t done anything to spoil their habitat, not up here where we leave piles of rocks for snakes, grow dense vines around the house for both the cool they offer in the heat of summer and for the frogs. I have two water areas, one an old claw-footed bathtub, the other a half barrel, where the tree frogs can breed and where their tadpoles can feed on algae and duckweed. Maybe this is simply an off-year. I hope that’s true and that it’s not a sign of the future. Another sign, like the dying western red cedars, the diminished salmon runs. What kind of future would that be? I don’t want to know.

I have to say there are lots of bees. Lots of wasps. The Steller’s jays have returned for their daily seeds. Deer keep passing through, pausing on the edge of the grass to browse. When I swim in the mornings, dragonflies and swallows make their long loopy stitches over the surface of the lake. This summer will be added to the codex of our years, written in pollen, the resin from the Douglas firs, the silvery scribble of slugs passing over the patio, feathers, leaf miner trails in the columbines, tendrils of wisteria reaching up to the highest roof.

My curtains are rough white linen and they filter moonlight. Some evenings I still walk out in my cotton nightdress to pluck slugs from the lettuces, watch for deer who bring their fawns to eat rose canes escaping the fence. How many generations of deer, how many of bears lying in wait for the apples to ripen as they turn over stones on the path for the abundance of ants? Four, or seven, or thirty-two. And even the dogs, long dead, are racing in circles around the garden fence. One of them loved blackberries, one ate salal from the bushes along the driveway. In the dense woods a varied thrush adjusts its pitch, another answers from the understory. The robin nest is filled again with soft blue eggs. The weasel has yet to appear by the window, though the curtains are now open, the roses are blooming.
           –“Love Song”, included in Blue Portugal & Other Essays (University of Alberta Press, 2022)

2 thoughts on “last year the Casablanca lilies…”

  1. Here in Peterborough, Ontariothe the state of nature may be reflected in the summer population of Monarch butterflies, and they seem scarce this year. But mosquitos are abundant!

    1. More bears here, John, and a low salmon return (apart from sockeye, which don’t figure into the local bear diet), which is kind of concerning. And yes, mosquitoes! So many…

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