The cat and I were enjoying some sweet repose on the kitchen porch this morning, when we both heard a thump at the far end of the house.
The cat was off like a shot, straight to the back porch. He stood on his hind legs, peered through the glass door and pawed at it furiously.
His behavior convinced me that the thump had been caused by some living creature, so I walked over to the door myself, hoping it wasn’t a rat.
When I looked through the door I saw a squirrel frantically bouncing around the room, jumping from window to wall to shelf to cabinet, up and down and around again, defying gravity, trying to find a way out.
The cat was ready to implode in his eagerness to get into that room.
In the sure certainty that the cat would never be able to get close to that squirrel, much less lay one claw on it, I opened the door and let the cat inside.
The squirrel was not as certain of its safety as I was. When it saw the cat, it went straight up to the top of the wall, found the gap between the top of the wall and the roof (probably how it got in), and slithered out into the ivy, and down, and away.
I walked back out the door and looked the direction the squirrel had gone, into the blackberries under the maple tree. I could hear it grousing in squirrel.
Meanwhile the cat was looking around, wondering where that big splendid squirrel had gone.
My cat suffers so many disappointments.
The backyard narrative has picked up in both plot and characters as spring has come on. Oh, there are always squirrels, but the birds I haven’t seen for a while are beginning to show up.
Yesterday a downy woodpecker lit on the suet cake, and he was back this morning. “He” because he had the distinctive red patch on his head. His mate came by yesterday afternoon. “His mate” because she had no red patch.
The house sparrow pair that has been hanging around all through March and early April is still here. One day a couple of weeks ago I looked up from my computer and saw the two of them perched outside my office window side by side, peering in at me. It was a little unsettling. It never occurred to me that birds might watch humans.
The juncos, chestnut-backed chickadees, and Steller’s jays are always with us. Haven’t heard any red breasted sapsuckers banging on street signs, trying to attract a mate. I don’t know why that would attract a mate, but there’s no accounting for taste.
Last week a red shafted Northern Flicker lit on the suet cake and I was so awed by its beauty that I spontaneously broke into song: “You are so beautiful …” I was inside the house so that didn’t scare it away. He stayed for several minutes, turning this way and that so I could see him from every side and angle and I had no trouble identifying him in the bird book. What a looker.
Of course the bosses of the neighborhood are the crows. When a crow arrives, everyone else leaves. Then the crow goes ahead and eats as much of everything as it wishes, for as long as it wishes.
Watching the birds and squirrels is a great pleasure. Bird behavior makes sense. They have basic aims – to eat, to find a safe place to nest or perch – and they endeavor to achieve those aims in a straightforward manner.
No bird has ever lied to me. Neither has a squirrel. Nor has either one hit me, verbally abused me, betrayed me, or cheated me.
Humans, on the other hand, have done all those things.
It is a scary world. We seem to be on track to make our own species extinct, one way or another, faster (war) or more slowly (climate change, or bad water, etc.). In the meantime, “man’s inhumanity to man” is flourishing.
Some days it seems there is little hope for our kind, brilliant, altruistic, boneheaded, heartless, species.
Watching the birds the world comes down to my back yard, to the birds’ pure beauty as they pick seed out of the feeders or off the ground or sit on a branch of the apple tree, serenading the neighborhood.
So it is a good thing, a restorative thing, a salvific thing, to watch and listen to the birds – and the squirrels. They remind me of the sweetness of life.
They encourage me, and I get up, and I go on.
The cat, meanwhile, sits inside the kitchen door, staring out at the birds. As I said, he suffers many disappointments.