Amy-the-Fish, Finn, and a Progeny circle like sharks a moth stranded in the pond. Pollen speckles the surface.
I know better than to intervene in a natural contest between predator and prey. Just last week I read about the public outcry when a baby eaglet died in the nest on a live webcam stream, and the complications that ensued from a previous attempt to fix the broken wing of another webcam raptor baby. The more we are able to see the more there is not to like, sometimes. Rarely do I try to save prey from predator when I have the chance, even a baby bunny from one of my dogs because by the time I know about it it’s usually too late for the bunny.
Amy-the-Fish is fierce in her determination to capture this morsel.
More fish enter the fray as the moth continues to barely escape their snapping jaws.
This time I think for sure the moth is toast.
And it manages to climb onto a rush.
It’s been a fascinating five minutes for me, frustrating for Amy-the-Fish and her friends, and no doubt terrifying for the moth. At this point I figure I am merely an agent of the moth’s destiny when I dip in a finger and lift it to the safety of a sagebrush well away from the water. Sometimes you just have to do what you can.
Finger-combing. I love it. I love the word, and I love doing it in the garden. I can’t remember when I first learned the concept. I’m sure it had to do with hair, finger-combing hair when a brush or comb was not at hand. I learned years ago it’s the best way to freshen lambs’ ears in the garden, and it’s so much fun! With loose wrists and spread fingers you just sweep through the old dead leaves and they fly off the plant and scatter around it, revealing the tough-though-tender-looking new green leaves. I’ve always waited until spring to “cut back” the lambs’ ears so that I can finger-comb them instead of try to trim them with clippers.
One advantage to leaving most of the fall cleanup until spring is it turns out there are a lot of other plants you can finger-comb instead of clip, because the dry stalks or stems have softened just enough to break off easily. So you save your arthritic thumbs the work of squeezing clippers, and engage your whole hand, both of them in fact, in the more tactile experience of finger-combing. Other plants that respond well to finger-combing are partridge-feather, silver horehound, all those low-growing fuzzy-leaved plants similar to lambs’ ears, and anything else whose stems aren’t too woody. I spent much of my gardening time this week finger-combing grasses, gallardia, poppy mallow, and even the pond plants.
Partridge feather with miniature irises and the hunk of petrified wood that June Stewart, my landlady in Jensen, Utah, gave me twenty-five years ago.
Curly rushes, cattails, and water iris, a mess after winter, benefited from finger-combing yesterday.
Finger-combing the pond plants revealed the goldfishes’ favorite hiding place, but something unusual was going on… A Goldfish Vigil, apparently.
The Snowfish lay dying on her side on the pond floor, as her cohorts and spawn all hovered over her.
I am inordinately fond of my goldfish. I may have mentioned this before. Five years ago I bought eight feeder-fish for 28 cents each at the pet store, and settled them into the pond. Four of them died within the first week, but the other four have thrived, and founded a colony of generations of spawn. I named the originals, Snowfish, Lou (after the saleslady who kindly let me pick each of the eight), Finn (also white but with an orange spot at the base of his tail fin), and AmytheFish, the little red-haired girl, after my childhood friend who told me the fastest way to kill a goldfish was to name it. AmytheFish has defied the odds, as have her companions. Snowfish is the first of these originals to meet her demise, but she leaves Snowfish Junior and a handful of other snow-white fish behind to take her place.
At least one new generation a year shows up first as tiny grey fry an inch or less long. Many of these feed frogs or snakes or salamanders, or indeed even their progenitors, but always a few survive. Over a period of time, the grey fry grow into their colors, mostly orange, but some white, some black and orange (the Halloweens, which usually lose their black eventually), and some orange and white, like Snout, and Snout Junior, who each are all orange with a white, of course, snout. This year, I think a couple of the Halloweens may keep their black, also, and add a new variety to the gene pool, as they’ve exceeded the size when most of them lose their black. Ridiculous, I say, that I should be so invested in these little creatures. But I am, and so I was sad yesterday to see Snowfish lying on her side when I finger-combed the rushes. Then this afternoon, when I went to the pond to meditate, I noticed that Lou, Finn, Snout, and dozens of smaller fish, were all hovering over Snowfish, as though sitting vigil with her as she transitioned. It was very moving. Despite the possibility that I instantly recognized that they might just be waiting for her to die so they could begin feasting on her flesh. Oh well. Either way, an interesting phenomenon.
Meanwhile, AmytheFish swam alone at the far end of the pond, alone in her grief perhaps, or maybe just because.
This week I removed the insulation panels from the beehive, extending their doorway a couple of inches on each side, and revealing the propolis they laid down to seal the winter doorway (upper left). Also shown in the center, a propolis track along which, with the winter door in place, the bees came in and out.
All the bees I’ve photographed so far this spring have been new bees, evidenced by their pristine unbattered wings. Back in early February, there was a great buzz of activity around the hive door which I noticed in passing. This was during the worst of my dizzy-head, and so I didn’t pay too much attention. It never occurred to me that they might be swarming that early. I’ve since learned that indeed they could have swarmed in February, and I wonder if they did. The line they constructed might have been an indicator for the new bees, much like the mound these bees built when they first arrived in the hive nearly two years ago; I noticed then that they crawled over the mound and spent some time on it leaving and returning to the hive. Then after awhile, some bees did that while others zoomed straight out and straight in. Presumably as the bees became familiar with the hive and the course in and out they no longer needed the marker mound. I think this line served the same purpose. Within a few days after removing the winter panels, the bees had removed the line, and are now using the corner of the door again. Amazing.
Leaving and returning.
But where are they going? Several new patches of irises have opened, but bee visits to them have tapered off. This bee is drinking from between flowers on the narrow-leaved irises, the last of the four varieties to open.
The next flower to bloom, European pasque-flower, opened just three days ago, and so far I’ve not caught any bees on it. There are a few more patches, and I hope the bees or someone will discover them as they continue to bloom.
But where are the bees going? They come and go from the hive at a great rate, many straight east into the woods. They must have found a new source of food; perhaps some wildflowers are beginning to open.
So the dogs and I explore the forest, looking and listening for bees.
But finding mostly only the splendid juniper trees.
And with the advent of Spring, Ice Canyon begins to melt. Winter’s splendor gives way to the joy of Spring.
Suddenly this week the pond has thawed, revealing goldfish still thriving underneath. Amy the Fish still lives! She and her three surviving cohorts are at least four, maybe five years old, and have filled the pond with their progeny.
A few rays of sunlight through the darkling clouds, a wedge of blue sky behind wispies. We’ve all been grateful for the precipitation that’s come this winter, both here and in the high country. It bodes well for our next growing season. But I think I speak for everyone when I say Welcome! to the first glimpse of our mother star in what seems like at least a month.
Elk browse the junipers and winterfat right outside the yard fence.
Ice Canyon freezes and melts with this oddly fluctuating winter.
Today I walked all the way to the canyon by myself, with the dogs of course, and with ski poles, for the first time in two weeks. Yesterday I walked there with a friend, and the day before took the dogs halfway. At the beginning of the week I tried, and could only make it a few steps past the gate, but I let the dogs run loose in the woods for awhile because they desperately needed the exercise.
My next try, on Friday, I walked through slush to the first chair, the dogs so good they wouldn’t go farther without me. To get them more exercise I continued a few steps on, but still they stuck with me better than average. A few steps more, I rounded the first corner downhill and found the kindness and compassion banner, strips of cotton, ribbon and paint made by a friend long ago, that had hung at the house for fifteen years until it was faded, bedraggled; I finally hung it in a tree in the woods last year. Whether nibbled by elk or shredded by weather it now lay in tatters on the ground, just the top few inches still intact. I brought it home and lay it in the compost bin, ashes to ashes.
The next day, when my friend showed up to walk, she brought a rainbow streamer, an accidental replacement, which we hung on the same twig where the banner gave up the ghost. It’s the little things that make my day.
Two weeks ago I woke up dizzy. After several dark days where I could barely open my eyes or leave the bed, I saw a few doctors, took a few supplements, and it began to improve incrementally after a week. Apparently it’s a virus that comes around every few years, and several others in the community are suffering with it as well. If you’re ever inclined to hurl a curse at someone, wishing them dizzy would be a wicked one.
Friday night, two other friends generously hosted a Love-In for Valentine’s Day, which went over well with a bunch of us both with and without sweethearts. It was a great equalizer and the party was full of love, warm red decor, and delicious food. Old friends were reunited, new friends were made. One couple even brought flowers for our hair. A day that began in dark separation concluded in bright togetherness.