Prey For Me

Homing in on his presence as soon as I approached the driveway, my eyes remained focused on him. Perched on top of the arbor, he sat there like a sentry guarding my front door. I hit the button to access the garage, yet he remained, not the least bit wary of the noise the door made as it chugged open. Grabbing my teal Pierre Cardin duffel bag, I set it on the garage floor, went outside and prepared for a confrontation. The last time that my husband attempted to drive him off, he challenged with an attack posture, ready to stand his ground. However, my connection was familiar and he found no need to be aggressive with me.

“Beckwith” I began, “we’ve had this conversation before”. His flesh ripping talons wrapped firmly around the metal frame of the arbor as his sharp-sighted stare met and fixed on mine. We know each other well. He is one of my Nature Guides and our relationship is one of respect, however beyond the stance of the predator, is the underlying current of meeting an old and dear friend. Many times he has served to comfort me and give me that unwavering sense of knowing that his conspicuous presence always provides. My mind questions, and he is there with the answer. Some of those of like mind would call him an ‘omen’, but the love we have built over the years bonds us, and he is so much more.

This Witch knows well the ways of Nature. No ‘fluffy bunny’ notions of endless rainbows and joy filled frolicking through infinite meadows of wildflowers cloud my reality with their puffy white images of having everyone and everything ‘just get along’. My dear comrade was here to hunt.

The array of feeders in my yard attract a variety of Birds. All Squirrels have been named, ‘Samwise’ and they entertain with their aerial antics to climb the pole and feast. I don’t bother with feeders designed to keep them out or ‘baffle’ them with devices that serve only to make them more creative. Like all living things, they need to eat. They too, have lost their instinctive fear of this human and never go too far when I approach. Instead, they jump to nearby ‘Evelyn’, my white flowering crab tree, and meld with the branches in an attempt to appear as if they are not separate entities. Sometimes, flicking their bushy gray tails, they excitedly scamper about as I replenish the feeders with their favorite black oil sunflower seeds and shelled peanuts.

In the Summer they are joined by Chipmunks, all named ‘Alvin’, and Thirteen Striped Ground Squirrels, all named ‘Rocky’. My tiny charcoal gray Shrews, aptly named ‘Taylor’ in honor of the performance given by Elizabeth Taylor in her role in the movie, “The Taming of the Shrew”, often dart in and out of tunnels to clean up the fallen seed at the base of the pole. However, at this time in late November, they are all hidden beneath the snow in their carefully constructed burrows of frozen earth. For now, they are safe.

The Rabbits, each sharing the name of ‘Violet’, come to feed mostly at night, their black silhouettes beneath the pole appear motionless except for the swivel of long ears that serve as their radar. From time to time they will sense my presence as I watch them through the window and will sit up on their hind legs, sniffing the air. Even if they see me, they soon go back to searching for the unopened seeds that fell from the trays above. This year, I put out small bunches of dried grasses that I found in the pet store, sold for tame Rabbits. I’m hoping this will supplement their diet with greens that lay hidden beneath increasing measures of glistening snow. Not only will it make finding a ‘salad’ easier for them, it might also help preserve some of my plants that they uncover and munch on.

As much as I feel the loss of the wild things that respond to my dinner invitation, I know that I am also providing a place of ‘easy pickins’ for raptors such as this Hawk that now uses my arbor to his advantage. It’s the circle of things. Prey and predators, just as the Great Mother has planned it, all to create a balance. It’s only when humans feel the need to intervene that things go terribly awry. With their high powered rifles and clothes to ‘blend in’, they try to justify their thirst to kill something that they have deemed to be inferior. It’s not driven by the need to survive in the wild like this Coopers Hawk, who has the decency to appear in the open, visible to it’s quarry.

The argument of keeping the threat of over population in check fails miserably. Nature does that too. By allowing Her in Her infinite wisdom to prevail, the chain remains unbroken. But, soon the ignorant rule and the vigilantes go out and kill the natural predators that take down the sick, the old, and those that weaken the herds and flocks. Diseases are born of the desire to take the ‘trophies’.  As for the need for meat, how much is that per pound by the time one adds up the cost of the weapons, the ammunition, special clothes and gadgets? Then, there is the lodging for those urbanites who travel to the wild areas, the food and of course copious amounts of alcohol that are consumed. Is it a case of accidental deaths when hunters shoot each other or the otherwise sedentary die of heart attacks? Maybe it’s just Nature’s way of ‘thinning the herd’.

If they want to hunt as a ‘sport’, do so as it should be defined. A contest or game of skill between two equally armed opponents. Toss down the gun, chase your prey down on foot, and wrestle it to the ground. You win.

The loss of life that has taken place in my yard is evident by the occasional clumps of fur and feathers and blood spatters in the snow that prove that Beckwith has had a successful hunt. I’d rather that he not take advantage of the situation that arises as a result of my desire to give back to Nature by feeding and sheltering some of Her children. I tell him often, as I am telling him now, “not here, Beckwith”.  He honors my request and flies off the arbor to hunt in the fields. However, he would not be who he is if he didn’t search for an easy meal when his efforts in the wide open spaces have been fruitless. He would not risk his own life by venturing from the places that he feels safe and protected from this urban sprawl.

The strong, wary Birds will escape. The young, fast Rabbits will outrun him and the agile, cleaver Squirrels will hide with ease. They will survive as he will survive and the delicate balance will not be tipped by contrived and convoluted methods and notions of the folly of battling Nature. This is a game of skill that humans cannot win.

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What This Witch Learned From A Weed

While pulling weeds from my garden, I discovered the same one  that I keep trying to eradicate from the same spot. I cut off the top part, but I know that’s not going to make it go away.  Irritation takes over as I go ‘Norman Bates’ on it, plunging my garden knife deeply into the soil in an attempt to get the root. I pull out what appears to be pieces of the root, but I know the main part of that sucker is still deeply buried. What will it take to eliminate this baneful stalk of foliage once and for all? I want to avoid an herbicide because my family of Ground Squirrels lives in the rock wall and tunnels freely and although it might not hurt them, I don’t want to take the chance, especially if they eat parts of this plant.

‘Tenacity’, was the word that popped into my mind as I removed the weed once more. When the urge to abandon goals that are slow to be realized and manifestations are lagging behind my deadline, I will come out to the yard and see how that weed is doing. I am willing to bet that it will be there, refusing to be eliminated, concentrating energy at its root so that it can come back even stronger. Thank you, weed.

Enchanted September Morning

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I didn’t have to look at the calendar to know what day it was. I could feel it. The first day of September.

The Griffin chair on my stoop has become my favorite spot to sit with a cup or chalice and allow Nature to touch me. Screened by a wrought iron trellis of spent clematis blooms, I can be slightly veiled from the wild ones who stop by the feeders or sip from throats of flowers too tenacious to wither in the cool flow of morning air.

Alvin and Rocky scurry near my bare feet that are dusted by the hem of my long black skirt. Heedless of the fact that Chipmunks and Ground Squirrels are the sort who greet each other politely, but don’t make dates to ‘do lunch’,  they are willing to share the table I set before them. A mason jar sits along side my chair so that when my guests come to visit, a quick pop of the lid is all it takes to scatter the treasure of the mix of nuts, seeds and bits of dried fruit. Alvin’s cheeks are bulging with his cache of the loot to the point that he appears to be smiling at me…in fact, I know that he is.

Rocky looks dry and fluffy again after his near drowning incident. It was in this very spot that I sat one evening enjoying the last piece of cranberry orange cheesecake that my daughter had made for my birthday. Suddenly, Alvin and Rocky came darting from beneath my limelight hydrangeas and jumped up onto the ledge of the pond. This game of tag ended badly when Rocky ran too close to the edge and toppled in. He struggled to climb out on a Lilly pad, but he was too panic stricken and heavy with water to lift himself high enough. I grabbed my empty plate and placed it beneath his sodden little body and lifted him to safety.  His pride was as dampened as he was. Hiding behind a fern, he began to lick his fur in an attempt to avoid the evidence of this embarrassing and frightening event. He has all but forgotten it now…or hopes that any witnesses have.

I inhale deeply of air on the edge of Autumn and instinctively wrap my invisible cloak around my shoulders. A secret vow between me and the Great Mother seals my pledge to frequent this spot daily, even if for a just few minutes. In fact, I know I will have to or go mad from the desire to do so should I be tempted to allow the clang of mundane life with its screeching wheels and shrill alarms to interfere. The bliss of this experience and resulting euphoria will surely have me ‘jonsing’ for this fix…not the ‘fix’ from drugs that slaughter the mind and rip wide the spirit…but a true ‘fix’. A fix for stress, a fix for fatigue, a fix for anything that might ail me.

So, how long before the sky reflects the hues of turning leaves? Each one the colorful, karmic chameleon of the Trees, beginning with a shy, light blush that soon gives way to a bold, shimmery, show girl shade of raging scarlet. Country roads will tie it all up in black winding ribbons that beg to be unraveled by convertible, rag top down days. Nothing is as glorious as zoom, zooming down the back roads in my husband’s little red sports car, my black chiffon scarf whipping wildly behind me.

The ending of Summer is the beginning of the best that is yet to come. At least it is for me. No fan of heat and humidity, the time I spend out doors is short lived until the temperature dips below 80 or I can find an expanse of shade. The quickening of my heart and stirring of my spirit opens my senses shamelessly. I sniff the breeze and the scents of damp soil, moss and mushrooms intoxicate me. Everything feels deep and cavernous with many places to explore.

Mabon rites will mark the first day of Fall and Samhain on October 31st will be the last of the Harvest holidays. Traditions will be kept and new ones created, for every experience has the potential to be remembered and celebrated. As does this one, right here, right now.