Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ordinary miracles

My chariot awaits (to take me to dreamland)!
(Note trusty cat companion in left foreground.  Sugie loves the swing, too.)

I saw a fish yesterday. A speckled trout, to be precise. No, it wasn’t online or in a fish tank. He was a wild fish. Well, I guess I mean, he was swimming “in the wild.” He looked rather placid, a happy guy, if you want to know the truth, floating languidly at the bottom of a marshy pond, his tail fins slowly oscillating, much like my cat’s tail. To see him was to see a miracle.
There is no lake in Mt. Baldy where I live. The mountain is filled with aquifers, though, and during the winter, it stores up snow and ice, then spends the spring and summer leaking as all that frozen water melts. We have waterfalls and rivulets, tiny streams and larger creeks (nothing big enough to be called a river).

When I first moved to the mountain four years ago, we’d been plagued by years of drought in Southern California. The mountain streams were no more than trickles. There were no fish to speak of. But in the past several years we’ve had a few good winters, and now we have water aplenty. And fish! It’s a miracle!

Mr. Speckled Trout was just one of several miracles I’ve seen lately. I understand they may not be classified as “miracles” to everyone. Call them blessings, then.

Out for my morning walk several days ago, I saw two deer just down the road, camouflaged in a small oak grove near the firehouse. Word on the street is that they’ve been hanging around Bob and Jean Walker’s cabin. (I would, too; there’s a great wild-life-loving aura there.) We rarely get deer in this area, so it was nice to see them.

In the backyard a few days ago, getting a drink from the small dish of water I leave out for whoever wants it, I had a lazuli bunting. I’ve got a hanging feeder, so I get chickadees, nuthatches, black-headed grosbeaks (all dressed up for Halloween), acorn woodpeckers, one lone titmouse and our ever-present Stellar’s jays. But in four years, I’ve never had a lazuli bunting. If you click on the link, you will see a gorgeous photo by photographer Larry Thompson. These birds are a beautiful shade of blue, much like the lapis lazuli that is found in only two places in the U.S.—Colorado and here in Mt. Baldy. Another miracle! Mr. Bunting didn’t stay long, but he did come back the next day for a drink, so I’ve got my eye out for him.

My days lately have been spent alternately working on the dog book and watching the Tour de France before dawn, then taking long walks in the forest mid-morning, then coming home to my beloved porch swing, where I read, write or simply curl up and sleep, my face on one side nestled against the soft cotton blanket, on the other warmed by sunrays filtering through the branches overhead. Yesterday’s walk took me down into San Antonio Canyon, along a trail that follows old, washed out Mt. Baldy Road. It’s a great hike, with steep canyon walls to the east, the stream gushing along beside them, and an oak lined path… which eventually led to the marsh where I sat among the cattails watching the fish and the tiny rufous hummingbirds (which periodically employed strafing missions to try to get me to leave their nesting area). They are feisty and beautiful and yes, to my mind, miraculous.

All of this walking made me quite sleepy, of course, so upon my return, I had to spend some moments dozing on the swing. The only sound outside for hours was birdsong. As I drifted in and out of sleep, I found myself picking out the individual calls, matching song with bird, sheltered above by the green canopy of oak leaves, crystal blue sky beyond. As one bird call became more and more persistent, I slowly drifted back up to wakefulness, realizing it was the red-shafted flicker. Mr. Flicker is extremely reclusive. A type of woodpecker, he stays high in the treetops, dressed in his polka-dot pajamas, and I rarely get a glimpse of him. In fact, it took me two years to match call to bird when I first moved to the cabin. But yesterday I heard him clearly, shouting away for some reason. And when I did eventually wake fully and open my eyes, there he was, sitting in the branches directly above me. Call it what you will. I’m calling it a miracle.


  1. ohhh meeee,, i just got back from driving to the post office. Wanna know what I saw? Asphalt pavement, the view? wavvvvvy visions of 100+ heat shooting skyward,,,soooo reading your post kinda cooled me off a little... thanks,,glenn

  2. Glenn, I don't want to tell you that I'm wearing a long sleeved t-shirt and a flannel shirt over that... and socks.... It was 68 degrees as noon today.... Stay cool, my friend.

  3. i hate winter but this is wearing my butt out. How is the book coming along?

  4. I've been on that hike you describe many a time. Now I need to spend more time getting to know the birds in my neighborhood!

  5. This sounds wonderful. Even thought this is so personal, I/we was/were right there with you on your hike. I am so happy that you shared this with us.
    I could read your prose every day.
    Thank you.

  6. Belinda, yes! They're beautiful!
    Aleta, thank you so much for your kind words!
    Glenn: I'm getting there (on the dog book). Whole dang flow interrupted for hours yesterday when the computer began to be a prima dona. Sheesh!

  7. Lovely views of Baldy. Dare I be glad you didn't sell yet? I think I will! Lazuli bunting hooray! I'm for miracles myself. Hope to get up there once this summer. best, Laura H