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Monday, August 1, 2011

A silver lining on a cloudless sky

There is much to be thankful for in our community.
Most evenings after work find Ms. Carolyn and me sitting in the backyard, along with my dog, Meg, and Carolyn's cat, Rumer. Though we are in one of the harshest droughts I remember, there is still so much beauty here.
Sure, the lawn is dead, and I'm worried about several of the trees. But it's amazing how much life even a small backyard like ours holds.
Hummingbirds fly like fighter pilots near the trumpet vine, each guarding a boundary only they can see.  Last night I counted 14 different hummingbirds, though, in truth, they fly so fast I might have counted an individual hummingbird several times. Their flights -- a blur, a stop, a dive, and then a hovering -- are probably enough entertainment by themselves.
But our little yard holds so much more.
A canyon wren has built a nest in our garage and her path to and from the nest is quite comical. She flies onto one of the limbs of our old live oak, hops around, looking behind her to make sure she's not being followed, then hops to another limb, repeating the dance. So far she hasn't been tailed, but she's not trusting that to be the case every time. She's so little, she has every right to be paranoid.
White-wing doves spend the night in our oak tree. As the sun begins to set, and the light becomes golden, they head to their perches. There's a crowd of them up there, and I often don't see them, but hear them as they skitter away, especially in the morning. They're easily disturbed.
I believe I saw a black-capped vireo pair last night, and they were fussing at each other. They went everywhere together but they didn't seem very happy about it.
We've seen a lot of other birds I didn't recognize, and, to tell the truth, I'm not sure I've correctly identified any of the birds I've listed so far.
I do remember one dazzling bird -- it was bright yellow -- and I wondered what it was. It was there in our backyard for about a week before moving on. I never did identify it.
One great benefit of our drought -- and don't shoot me for saying there are any benefits at all -- is the lack of mosquitoes in our backyard. We see a few flies, but rarely a mosquito.  I don't miss them. Many years the mosquitoes have driven us in from the yard, trapping us in the air-conditioned bubble.
The breezes we enjoy are generally from the south. They're quite warm, but they feel good, especially in shorts and sandals. This summer we bought an inexpensive umbrella for shade, planting it between the two Adirondack chairs Carolyn bought years ago from the Hal Peterson Middle School shop class. There, with a cool drink and our old dog and new cat, we have a front-row seat for the ever-changing show.
Last night, as the sky turned dark and the first of the stars popped into view, I reached over and touched Ms. Carolyn's hand.
"You know," I said, "it's not bad right here."
Until next week, all the best.
This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times July 30, 2011.   

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