Tag Archive | Stellar's last days

Hummingbirds: Rufous

“Both male and female S. rufus are territorial; however, they defend different types of territories.[9] The more aggressive males fight to defend areas with dense flowers, pushing females into areas with more sparsely populated flowers.[9] Males generally have shorter wings than females, therefore their metabolic cost for hovering is higher. This allows males to beat their wings at high frequencies, giving them the ability to chase and attack other birds to defend their territory.[9] The metabolic cost of short wings is compensated for by the fact that these males do not need to waste energy foraging for food, because their defended territory provides plenty of sustenance.[10] Females on the other hand are not given access to the high concentration food sources, because the males fight them off.[9] Therefore, females generally defend larger territories, where flowers are more sparsely populated, forcing them to fly farther between food sources.[9] The metabolic cost of flying farther is compensated for with longer wings providing more efficient flight for females.[9] The differences in wing length for S. rufus demonstrate a distinct sexual dimorphism, allowing each sex to best exploit resources in an area.”

I copied this straight from Wikipedia. Fascinating. Fair? For some reason, I trust their information for basic science, though I might be skeptical for more subjective knowledge. Around here, we call these birds “little bulldogs,” or more subjective epithets. I love them despite their aggression; they are beautiful, remarkable creatures. I am grateful to have the Rufous and the other two species zipping around the yarden all day, intensifying in the evening.

I’m grateful to have stumbled, after 29 years, into a spot in the woods where I have never stood before, a view I have never viewed.
I am happy to share my flowers, and grateful for the trust of the mangy doe. I wonder if she’s still pregnant, or if she’s already got a fawn. Her belly looks bigger than it did a couple of days ago. Her teats are enlarged; but not like the mother of twins, who hasn’t come into the yard for more than a week, though I did see her and the fawns just south of the fence the other day, which was reassuring.
I am grateful for green! So much lush growth. I love these rattlesnake pole beans.
I picked this load this morning, and this evening there are more ripe and ready beans. I picked even more a couple of days ago…
…so this afternoon I blanched the two batches…
…and bagged them for the deep freeze. I’m grateful for the knowledge and technology to do this.
I’m grateful that the Chimayo peppers are fruiting between monster tomato plants in the new beds.
I’m grateful for all the flavors of green growing in the garden right now, and for living through to another gorgeous sunset; and for a house to live in, and water to make rain on the garden and grow food in abundance.

A New Camera

Grateful for this beautiful boy, and the new camera that made this lovely portrait.

It arrived yesterday, just an hour too late to capture the newly fledged phoebes. After a busy day, I took it out to play this evening, just fooling around with the zoom, without even learning the thousand and one functions and settings. I’m grateful for the means to purchase this amazing camera, grateful for the technology that allows me to have far more ‘film’ than time so I can shoot to my heart’s content and throw away a thousand images to save one good one. I’m grateful for B&H Photo in NYC for their help and expertise whenever I need new camera gear, and grateful to JT for turning me on to them. Following the gratitude trail, I’m grateful for the countless individuals who designed, experimented, and constructed for many decades to create this camera, and for the materials, and for the countless people who mined and melted and melded those raw materials into this astounding piece of equipment; and for the FedEx lady who delivered it a scant 27 hours after I ordered it, and for all the human ingenuity and labor, and the transportation and infrastructure, that allowed that. It’s an amazing world, despite the tragedies perpetrated by our species.

I bought the camera with a 24-240mm zoom, not the best lens available but at a price I could afford: a pretty decent shot of the mountains at 240, so I’m optimistic about shooting hummingbirds with it tomorrow.
I’m grateful for the rainbow tonight and the rain it followed, though none landed here; grateful for the beautiful apricot tree and for neighbor Fred who manages its pruning and overall health; grateful for the last apricot shining in last light.
And finally, I’m grateful for the successful fledging yesterday of all four phoebe chicks in the second clutch. The first couple left the nest Thursday and went back in overnight. When I went out Friday morning, all four were snuggled together on the ladder, and by mid-afternoon (an hour before the camera arrived) they had all flown into the woods with their parents. This evening, I heard an adult back out on the east side of the house. I dursn’t hope…

Reliability

Stellar has been the most reliable friend a girl could hope to have. I’m grateful for another good day with him, another long walk along the canyon rim, another day of dependable trust and companionship.
Is every town as grateful for their UPS man as we are? I’m grateful for the town’s sign, and for Tom’s cheerful reliability over the past twenty years. I intend to show my gratitude, when he delivers his last package to my house tomorrow, with a few farewell gifts: a box of Milk Bones, a big hunk of cake, and a fifth of Crown Royal. I hope everyone will shower him with their own gratitude. Since he probably won’t be stopping at everyone’s house tomorrow, I’ll happily include your name on my ‘thank you-best wishes’ card if you let me know by noon, or pass along a little something as a couple of people have already asked me to do.
It’s hard to say for how many thousands of years Say’s phoebes have been reliably reproducing in this area. I’ve spent half an hour trying to find out online. I can say, though, I’m grateful that the species has been reliably nesting under my deck for the past three years. Today, three chicks took their first flights, not going far, and I think they all returned to the nest at nightfall. More on their fledging tomorrow.

Simple Pleasures

It’s not that these transient pleasures, like a cheese sandwich or a dog walk or the phoebes, in and of themselves bring genuine happiness. It’s that appreciating the simple pleasures of a complex world, among my confounding species, on this fragile planet, imbues life with contentment for me. I finally feel as safe as is humanly possible, walking out here on the edge of impermanence, after all those years chasing certainty and running from death.

The phoebe chicks have spilled out of their nest! These four little lives are almost ready to take flight. They haven’t started flapping yet, but I’m sure tomorrow they’ll be stretching their wings. As a friend said the other day, It’s so nice that their home and your home are so close together that you can watch everything and get to know them so well. Indeed it is. I’m grateful for the simple pleasure of living in harmony with other species.

Allowing

I woke feeling sad, after yesterday’s descent into the stark reality of climate chaos. I thought I might feel sad forever. I’m grateful I’ve learned to accept sadness, and impermanence: I’m grateful for allowing things to be as they are in each moment, and for the reassuring knowledge that everything changes, nothing remains the same for long.

Nothing external has changed, of course: insects are still in decline worldwide. But I trudged out on this crisp, damp morning with Stellar and Topaz by my side, and strolled to visit this split tree. I felt better already, just letting myself be sad, and finding beauty at the same time, balancing grief and gratitude within equanimity.

Despite the poignance of seeing this western tiger swallowtail, I felt profound gratitude and tenderness that it chose to feed on zinnias I grew from seed. Every little offering we can give back to the planet seems essential.

And then there’s the cheese sandwich, cookout edition. I’ve been thinking about this for days. I had frozen a hot dog leftover from Michael’s memorial, which I thawed and sliced. All the hot dog condiments slathered on wheat bread, sliced cheddar, and potato chips completed the assemblage: a whole cookout in a single sandwich. Yes, it’s a temporary pleasure, lasting only as long as the sandwich itself; but, the making of it, the thinking it up, and definitely the eating of it, all while remembering Michael and last week’s party, lifted my spirits. Life’s simple pleasures. I’m grateful that my life includes the conditions to have on hand all the ingredients of a cheese sandwich, the technology to keep them fresh, the leisure to dream about then make one, the awareness to savor the process and every bite, and the reasonable expectation that I will eat again tomorrow.

Saved by a cheese sandwich.
I am always grateful for the infinite possibilities of the cheese sandwich. The extra slice of hot dog of course went to Stellar for last bite. I’m grateful for another sweet day with my dear old catahoula leopard dog.

Resilience

The rain shower overnight resulted in .17 inches of measurable precipitation, leaving all the thirsty growing things refreshed.
In particular, mosses that were grey and crusty miraculously greened up by morning.
Mosses and lichens glowed in early morning light.
Dog and cat enjoyed a companionable ramble with me.
Tiny piñon trees climb from the duff while their parents die in shocking numbers from drought and beetles.
Even faded sagebrush is reinvigorated with just a bit of rain.
The notch-eared doe that has been mowing down my patio garden finally brought her twins to the edge of the yard. They’re too small to jump the fence, but she parked them outside and came on in to continue her feast, which will ultimately nourish them, so how can I possibly mind? I was so grateful to see the twins with their mother, after we spooked them in different directions the other evening.
And then, this afternoon, a veritable downpour from the east washed mud off the adobe walls…
…and made actual puddles. The ferocity of the storm, which dumped almost half an inch in half an hour, made me anxious for the phoebe nest under the deck, so after it was all over, I went outside to check the chicks.
I was delighted to find that their new nest location was the only dry space under the deck. The torrential rain must have stirred up terrestrial insects: for at least an hour, as I ‘napped’ on the couch inside just under the nest, an adult brought food every four to twenty seconds. This frequency, well beyond the normal four to five minute span, must have made up for that horrible day when twenty minutes elapsed between feedings and the chicks screamed the whole day. That was an anomaly for sure, and since that awful day (awful for me and for the chicks), feeding frequency has increased daily, reaching its peak in the hours after today’s rain. The babies have doubled in size.

Despite this climate-chaos induced exceptional drought, the indomitable will to live that permeates all plants and animals keeps us living to our utmost. I am grateful for the resilience of Life.

Grateful, too, for the love and laughter, the joie de vivre and resilience of dear friends, who gathered to celebrate some happy milestones; grateful for the elegant setting, and delicious local food so thoughtfully prepared and offered. Grateful, no matter what happens next, for these good times. Grateful above all for the gift of another exceptional day alive.

Rain

At last! Though probably barely measurable, we have rain. I’m grateful for a little rain with a lot of thunder and lightning.

Grateful for this year’s apricot harvest, more than I thought it would be after freezes last fall and this spring. There are still some on the tree for the birds, but a shirtful is about all I’ll get. Oh well! Better some than none at all.
Grateful for another day with this dog, grateful that he can still get ahead of me, and grateful that he’s always, always, stopped to look back.

Every Little Thing

I’m grateful the babies are still alive, still getting fed, still growing.

I’m grateful for every little thing about this day, starting with I woke up alive, and relatively pain free. From there, anything else is gravy. I didn’t do much today. I didn’t even think or feel much. I’m on staycation. But I paid attention to the phoebes, the jays, the magpies; to weather, lightning, potential rain; to nutrition, mine and others. I paid attention to the moment as consistently as I could, and remembered quite often to breathe, or rather, to notice my breath, each inhalation, each exhalation, the exact conditions of the body at the time. I’m grateful for each breath that allowed me to read some things, to watch some TV: I’m grateful for things to read and TV to watch, and various individuals who make those entertainments possible. I’m grateful for these five or six senses that let me make sense of, or at least interpret, the world outside this body-mind.

I’m grateful for the garden thus far, and for the One Dog who makes everything else possible.
I’m grateful for even the barest hint of rain.

Mystery

Yesterday I felt glum. I may have spoken too soon, expressing gratitude that both phoebe parents were alive. All day long the chicks screeched non-stop, while only one parent came to feed them, instead of two flying back and forth as they had been. It seemed like an hour at a time went by without anyone stuffing a mouth. When it cooled off, I sat outside and timed it, and there were intervals as long as 20 minutes while the babies cried before someone came to feed one. I wondered many things: was one parent killed by a falcon? or a cat? had one simply quit? was the other one out searching for its mate and just coming back intermittently with a token dragonfly or cricket? would the chicks survive? should I buy mealworms? Or, was I misperceiving reality?

I’m grateful to Deb for checking on the mealworm supply in town this morning, and grateful that they didn’t seem to be needed after all. Today, it still seems only one parent is feeding, but at least it’s more frequent, and the babies are full enough to fall asleep between bugs.

But what is happening? It’s a mystery, compounded by the fact that this evening I saw two perfectly-adult-looking phoebes land in the apricot tree, and one fed the other a grasshopper. Is one phoebe parent still out feeding some from the first clutch? maybe that last straggler out of the nest? Or, did one parent run off to court a new mate? Or, were those two grown chicks from the first clutch, courting, playing, or practicing? And, how does this situation relate to what I observed a few days ago, two phoebes chasing one another through the junipers?

I’m grateful for how the mystery of nature piques my curiosity, and grateful that I’m not attached to knowing answers. I’m grateful the babies seem to be getting enough food again after yesterday’s mysterious, vociferous hunger. I’ll be grateful tomorrow if I wake up alive and get to watch the phoebe mystery further unfold.

I’m grateful that after a rough few days, Stellar is able to take some short walks again; grateful his supplement refills arrived, and grateful that he finally explained why he wouldn’t come into the kitchen to eat for the past couple of days. I thought he just wasn’t hungry. But this morning, when he came to the edge of the living room rug and balked, I remembered that he’d fallen on this bare-floor corner between rugs and couldn’t get up. As soon as I threw an area rug down to cover the distance, he crossed right over and came in for breakfast.

Another Sunset

Grateful for another sunset, another fulfilling, exhausting day in fellowship with the kindest, most mindful people I know. Two-thirds through our graduation retreat, twelve hours each day together virtually yet meaningfully, sharing lessons, learnings, creativity, and cultivating heartfelt connection with people across the country and a world away. Grateful for one of the most transformative experiences of my short life, this past Mindful Learning Year. Grateful for another day with dear Stellar still moving pretty well, and another precious day of relative safety here, while fires ravage the land elsewhere and paint the sun orange again.