Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mountain Living

I've had a series of wildlife moments, starting last night whilst out watering the garden in the gloaming of a brutally hot day.  Even as I watched the setting sun over the mountain range far across the valley, I was sweating in the intense humidity.  Frankly, I don't know what I'm going to do in August, usually the hottest of the Summer months.  Ah well, I won't borrow trouble by dwelling on next month...I'm having enough bother with this one.


I bought two of those new hoses, the kind made from lightweight fabric that winds itself up once the water has been turned off.  It's changed the misery of watering with the heavy, always tangled hose into an easy, no hassle, effortless way to water.  I have a large area in the back and had to connect the two hoses to reach the top of the garden.  At the join, I can't get a tight enough seal so a small puddle of water leaks out onto my path.  Keep that in mind...

I'm up at the top of the slope filling the bird bath, when my resident Hummingbird pops in for a visit.  He shows up every night, darts circles around me and occasionally flits near the spray of water from the hose.  It makes me nervous when he does this because what if I accidentally move and drown the wee thing?  Last night, however, I think a good dunking was just what he was looking for.  He hovered at eye level as if to make sure I saw him, then he carefully bobbed toward the stream of water.  I had the nozzle on full blast, but eased back to a gentle trickle as he delicately took several drinks--and wow, what a long tongue!--then, to my amazement, he dashed back and forth through the water until he was soaked.  By the time he was done, the sound of his wings had gone from a soft whirr to a loud brrrrrr, like playing cards pinned to a bicycle wheel.  He spun around my head one more time, then disappeared into the trees.

I continue down the slope, watering as I go, until I reach the bottom edge of the deck where I have to walk along the stone wall to reach my five hanging baskets.  I'm still thinking of the Nat Geo moment with the Hummingbird when I get to the last basket.  I'm mindlessly watering when suddenly something flies out of the foliage and lands on my arm. 

What can I say.  I shrieked like a girl.  For a minute or two, I even think I hopped up and down, flapping my hands, shooting water everywhere, yet still it stuck fast to my forearm.  Nervously I looked down not knowing what to expect...and saw the tiniest little frog I've ever seen.  The poor thing was so scared, his little fingers were clamped like octopus suckers to my skin.  He was a soft earthy color, with big brown eyes and was only about the size of my thumbnail.  Very carefully I raised my arm to the basket and brushed him into the flowers where he immediately hopped under the Lobelia and out of sight.

Watering done, my thoughts still bouncing between birds and frogs, I'm walking along the path toward the spigot when I register this the puddle of water that has leaked from the hose.  It's nearing the end of the gloaming now, sun long set, the sky turning into that light-dark of a hot Summer's night.  I'm about ten feet away when my brain registers that I am not seeing a large stick across the path, but a snake.  Crap, hell, damnation and holy shit.

What is it about snakes?  I froze like a statue, my heart nearly bursting out of my chest and my breath caught painfully in my throat.  I'm not exactly afraid of snakes, but the way they can always so startling.  After a moment I gather my wits and can see it's just a harmless garter snake, though not a small one.  Then I see that it's actually laying in the water and his tongue is flicking out like he's having a drink, and cooling off at the same time.  How hot does it have to be that a snake will try to cool off? 

I drop the hose and casually back away (what? like you wouldn't?).  Then I head into the garage, open one of the bay doors, walk up the drive and reach my arm through the gate to shut off the water.  The snake is still wallowing in the puddle, though when it twists to look at me, I'll admit I sort of ran quickly retraced my steps and closed up the garage faster than normal.  Later, when I went back to wind up the hose, it was gone.  But crap, now I know it's out there...somewhere.

Then, as if this hasn't been enough with the wildlife adventures...

My neighbor round the bend asked me the other day if I'd seen the new fawns.  I said yes, because I had just that morning seen a new pair.  He asked if I'd seen the mother.  Again, I said yes, though she was down the slope and the babies were in the middle of the road.  He was relieved because twice he'd seen them, but not the mother and was concerned they were orphans.

This morning I opened the blinds and spotted two tiny babies hunkered down under my rhododendrons in the front yard.  These were not the two I'd seen in the road the other day.  No, these twins were far younger, practically newborns.  They must have heard the slight jangle of the blinds, because they looked up at me, then jumped to their feet and ran into the wilderness across the road.  Running on unsteady, gangly new baby legs.  I went outside and scanned the shrubs, the road, the forest, the tall grass.  No mother.  Oh man, I think my neighbor was right and these so incredibly vulnerable wee creatures are alone.

I can appreciate the beauty in a friendly Hummingbird, return a little frog to his hidey hole in my flowers, even grant a snake some private time to enjoy the coolness of a small puddle on a beastly hot day.  But to know that two tiny little orphan fawns won't stand a chance of surviving on their own?  That part of mountain living just breaks my heart...

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