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Sunday, August 02, 2009

No doubt about it


Beloved sleeps out, next to the garden, in hot weather, and some years -- this is one of them -- I keep her company, most evenings. She has a queen-sized folding camp bed and a foam mattress. I have an old-fashioned steel cot and a twin-size foam pad. We park them side by side, right by the poultry pasture fence. I've hung a LED lantern from the fence, to see by whilst squirming into my nightgown.

We watch the swallows finishing their day shift, and the bats taking over at dusk. We always think we're going to lie awake and watch stars until the first meteor, and sometimes we manage to do this, but we're going grey and sl-o-o-o-w-w-ing down, and often we're out cold in the first five minutes or so.

Sometimes, I'm awakened by activity. There's a deer family on the place this year, and the buck, doe, and fawn munch along the outer fence, about ten feet from our beds. They step quietly enough but the ripping of whatever they're sampling over there can be a heart-stopper in the moonlight.

Foxes, raccoons, possums and coyotes roam at will. Once, about twelve years ago, a cougar patrolled the neighborhood for a couple of weeks, turning over our trash can among others, leaving impressive-looking footprints. Four or five domestic kitties went missing. Bigger things -- cows, calves, sheep, goats, horses, or people -- weren't bothered. The big cat went away as mysteriously as it had arrived. We don't feel especially unsafe, despite all the traffic.

I also awaken as the temperatures drop, needing to rearrange my blankets, on which perhaps a chill, drenching dew has fallen. At such times I look about me, and find the Milky Way all askew and unfamiliar, with a garishly bright morning star and/or an evening star spritzing the dew on the fir branches with small diamantine irradiances. I could swear they throw shadows.

In daylight, we see a different crowd. Canada geese pass low overhead, discussing whatever it is they talk about, in rhythmic two-tone yelps. Two decades ago, we would see them in spring and fall only -- this is the great Willamette flyway -- but now, no longer impressed with our winters, they've moved in year round. Turkey vultures and red-shouldered hawks inhabit the day as well, along with pheasants, quail, and perhaps the occasional bald eagle. Smaller creatures -- frogs, snakes, white-footed mice -- hide from the sun. Hummingbirds have made a nest in one of the plum trees in the garden, and attend to the scarlet runner blooms throughout the day.

Addled by the heat, I'm only able to take on very small projects: a tray of zucchini slices into the dehydrator, the oversized ones to the ducks and chickens, a half peck of onions pulled for curing, a few bucketfuls of greywater around the feet of the new pear trees, or the year's first blackberries picked, just enough for one jar of preserves.

Naps. I'm drawn to the camp bed, eyelids heavy with dreams.

I wake up, disoriented, to the honks of the White Chinas, Sylvester and Susannah.

They're three feet away, and concerned by my immobility. Shouldn't I be changing their water, or perhaps bringing them some bolted lettuce?

Slowly, things come into focus. A grasshopper squats, contentedly blowing bubbles, on the sleeve of my blouse. Time to stir these bones again, no doubt about it.

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