Yesterday the crows brought a dead rat into the back yard, dropped it on a planter, then spent the day snacking on it. I didn't begrudge them the treat—lately they've been living mostly on a diet of earthworms because the streets and yards are littered with them after it rains, and boy, has it been raining. But the planter they were using as their dining table is going to be where I plant some vegetables in another month, so I didn't want the remnants of that rat to linger. At night, the coyotes and the bobcats often use our street as a wide safe highway between the arroyo and the upper marsh-like area (which is a full on pond right now), so after dark I relocated the rat from my back yard to the street in front of my house. When it was still there this morning, I decided Thomas and I would go for a short walk and relocate him to the rugged area around that "pond." So if any of my neighbors happened to glance outside this morning at 5:45, they would have seen me walking cheerfully along, dog leash in my left hand, dead rat hanging from the right. All in a day's work.
Yesterday was a good day. It has been—finally—a bit warm in the past few days, so just after sunrise (when all danger of large scale predators had passed), I opened the back slider wide to let the cats sit on the patio and dream of flying up to snatch the little bluebirds out of the bird bath. Then I sat down to do some writing. It was a bit breezy, and wafting in on the draft through the house was the sweet scent of peach blossoms from my tree. Oh man... that was a heady scent.
An hour or so later, Thomas and I took a long walk down one of our many country roads (as I like to think of them; they're actually fire roads and access roads Edison uses to maintain the power lines). Fifty yards off the trail, I saw it—a lilac bush in full bloom. A flood of memories rushed back of a kind poet decades ago gathering a fistful of lilac blooms in a canning jar to set beside the bed where I lay in very troubled sleep. I woke to their perfume, and it changed everything. It was that same poet who convinced me that studying literature in college could be a way out of my seemingly dire circumstances. Had he not encouraged me to do so, I would never have discovered Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd." So of course, I had to bring some home. My kitchen is filled with their scent this morning.
For the past few days, I've been reading another stellar novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This one, Say Goodbye for Now, is about two young boys who become united through first a kind act and then a brutal one. The setting is 1959 and one of the issues addressed is the reality of race relations at the time. This book has touched me in deep ways. As I sat on the patio swing in late morning, after the dog walk, reading with the music of my neighbor's back yard fountain as soundtrack, I found myself crying again and again as the struggles of these sweet boys bumped up against the struggles in my own life. Finally I put the book down and dozed in the warm air, my first nap on the swing in over a year.
The great thing about life is that it keeps moving forward. While we welcome winter with its relief from the relentless heat after weeks of cold and darkness, it is always good to feel the warmth of the sun again, to smell the flowers, to see what Nature has been up to while we hibernated. Because growth occurs in the dark times, too, even if we're not aware of it.