Weeks back, the osprey returned for a second year to the cell tower, viewable from the kitchen window. The nest is newly preened, the male flying low over, ripping branches and twigs, hauling them up and up for his mate to arrange, make. She beds the nest, awaits the chicks. And the river fish he brings to her, hooked on talons, dragged dripping, wiggling over our heads.
Last week, I found a fish on the lawn, dropped in the yard. It was fresh, silver scales, neatly pierced through like binder rings had impaled its back. The head was mostly eaten, but maybe distasteful and thus disposed of. That I found it before the ants was surprising. That I found it before Fred the dog, more surprising.
H- was shown and explained to about the talons, the head, the proximity to the nest. Now sometimes he will look up, cock his head and say: “…’member fish?”
Years ago I had wanted to plant something tall enough to obstruct the view of the cell tower. Now it’s valued, marking time by hosting a paramount symbol of seasonal change. There’s a lot that’s compelling about it, crowned with an immense nest, twigs and weavings sticking over in every direction, the contrast of it.
And later, in the late summer, the young will hop among the woven twigs, try out voicings, cry for days while the parents sit watchful in a nearby tree, coaxing them to hunt and fly by remaining away. And then they’ll all leave until spring again, when the mates return, embodying absolute fidelity and seamless harmony. The silence of the abandoned tower in the colder months entirely wipes clean the slate of previous seasons, like shaving too closely to the skin.
There’s been a bird feeder outside the kitchen window for years. Aside from winter, it rarely gets a visit and when it does, only from the sparrows. But suddenly it’s a sanctuary. The juncos chase away the song sparrows, the red winged blackbirds remove the house finches, the scrub jays flee the steller’s jay, and the single crow removes everyone…
The red winged blackbirds are a surprise. There are two of them. Until this year I had never seen them. They are very obvious, attention seeking. They hop to the window, bowing a greeting before heading to the feeder. Or, they call and call until I look out the window, then flee, needing only to be acknowledged. Of course I look up all of their meanings, especially the uncommon and rare ones. Just today, a flicker for the first time and two american goldfinches — pressing messages. Of course I greet them back, thank them, understand them like footnotes informing the narrative.
The week before the discarded fish in the yard, we found an abandoned bunny living under the porch.
H- and his sitter had been seeing it a few days — small, apricot colored, trusting. The amount of coyotes, the osprey, the problematic neighbor cats and feral cats… how the rabbit made it one day, let alone several, is a surprise.
It had clearly been a child’s pet, drawn to H- and his voice. H-‘s gentle movements and intrinsic calm pulled it consistently closer. It was uncertain enough about its situation to let me pick it up easily; light and fragile. I forgot what it was like to hold a rabbit; the small and fine bones.
Of course H- wanted to keep it. Of course he immediately named it. And of course I knew keeping it meant me doing so, with two dogs already, a child, and then a potential rabbit. Having had rabbits, they are cute and fun to pet, and that’s kinda it. In a different place in a different life, “Hopper” surely would have found a home with us. But he deserved better than to be a chore on my list. If H- were any older, the ‘no’ answer would never have flown, and I’d have a bunny.
We fed him, cared for him while we figured out what to do, and then took him to a shelter. After he was dropped off, I said a begging, silent prayer, and thankfully-thankfully, a staff doctor took him home and is fostering him. And, they’ve posted updates, so I show H- pictures of Hopper’s happy, safe new life, receiving the attention he deserves.
Now sometimes H- looks up, cocks his head and says: “…’member Hopper?”
These two years since the osprey arrived, and since H- was just brand new, have unfolded dramatically, sometimes systematically, but measured by the seasons as they conjure in this closest proximity — the snakes mating and creating knotted nests in the ignored garden beds, the bees living / dying / absconding / swarming, and what chooses to die here, what seeks refuge, or walks through at night.
Until these 9 years in this house, I never encountered a yard or piece of land regularly or long enough to understand its particular cycles and symbols, let alone know its inhabitants; what heralds first after last frost, and how the growing season depletes into all husks and collapse.
I have been hard on here, with here being where the house is situated, but ultimately on the town, too. I had high hopes for the house, which never manifested due to lack of time to dedicate to it. It was the right house for a newly married couple who planned to have it only 3-5 years. It’s a strange house to have as a single parent for this last year +. I have lived alone a lot, but living alone with my child and two dogs is an interesting place; it recontextualizes me with what is living and mine. And my small family now, as it is, functions without malignity of any sort. It’s an emotionally placid, consistent, and gentle place.
And the house itself is tricky. It makes strange shapes inside, like a series of small rooms in the Winchester Mystery House. None of the ceiling heights make sense. It has tunnels that run under the windows upstairs that span from room to room; I could crawl through the front wall of the house from H-‘s closet into my closet. The children who grew up in the house during the 40’s and 50’s used to play in them. The house was built by a cabinet maker who dredged out the basement using horses. It’s all slightly illogical, but in the shape of a house. That’s likely why I originally liked it — it was simply different than everything else in the price range, and different enough not to bore me or make my eyes glaze over. And after so many city apartments, a series of small rooms felt reassuring. But now it’s a tricky place to think. Thoughts change from room to room, like a quickly flipped page.
I’ve had much frustration at being one place so long, the longest I’ve lived in one space since the house I grew up in. But, there is a 10 mile trail behind the house that has been pivotal to sanity and grounding. It runs along a watershed that hosts fish, ducks, nutria, beavers. The frogs sing gravelly and low in the summer, and coyotes cackle like wrong children on hot nights, hunting.
The trail was especially paramount when I was pregnant, and then with a new baby, and while healing, and then processing the realizations, directly after that, that everything had to change much more.
Between the cycles I observe here and walking the trail this last almost-decade, the constancy of this place has likely balmed me. I knew moving to Oregon was a form of self-imposed exile, largely for my health’s sake. After leaving the city, living here has always felt a bit like the last scene in Goodfellas, after Hernry Hill gets relocated. The seemingly glacial pace of here — days spent planting sweet pea seeds with H-, watching them break the surface, leaf, and then flourish, is how much of life is now measured… how happy I am when the snakes are out basking on the sidewalk, and how sad if the neighbor kid runs over one with the mower.
The house is so quiet now, like my homes always have been. Aside from the best sounds — H’s laugh and feet running (and even with those) –, there’s a terminal calm. I can hear distant traffic, birds, H-‘s squawks when he turns over in sleep. Or when he’s awake, the simple sounds of singing, playing together on the floor, and his inconceivably sweet voice urging: “…let’s build farmer market,” “…let’s build ‘ool.” (school). The sounds are of calm and connecting and methodical perpetuation. And then at night there’s the dogs grumbling, re situating in their sleep. Or a rare car going slow down the street, passing us and every living thing that’s here.