Why do we
invite the world’s rancors and agonies
Into our minds though walking in a wilderness?
– Robinson Jeffers (“Going to Horse Flats”)
All the props in place, the stage is ever-set
for calamities, for the struggles for power,
for deceit in scripts yet unwritten, but predictable.
Two Red Tails strafe a passing eagle
reluctantly retreating to a steep hillside
to stand his ground, claim his space
to face their withdrawal. We watch snakes
squeeze and swallow one another whole
as the bobcat waits upon the tailings of a burrow—
this world, and that beyond it, turns on violence
despite our protests, despite our compromises,
despite the logic of compassion to dissuade it long.
It is our habit to watch the sunset with a glass of wine, replay the day and plan the next as the shadow of the ridge behind us crawls up the slope across the canyon until dark. Our conversation is almost always interrupted by someone, a coyote crossing in the pasture, crow mates preening one another, hawks and eagles, or our finger-pointing quiet pause last night as a covey of quail moved through the yard on their way to the lemon tree to roost. Nearly hidden in the darkness, it was serious business, an alert rear guard spaced behind the rest, then double-time to catch up—it’s organized, almost military. Then I’m off on a rant, “Don’t tell me that they can’t think.”
A few tree frogs have been utilizing the dogs’ water dish by day, protected by the metal hood over the plastic float that regulates the flow of water that Robbin has had to remove because the weight of three or four frogs opens the valve and overflows the dish on to the deck. We’re trying to talk, our conversation rudely interrupted by poorly punctuated, air-cracking croaks from the dish. Robbin gets up to inspect the source to see the frog’s vocal throat sac inflated. Then slips off on a humorously detailed rant about maleness.
Catching the inflated vocal sac in a photograph is tricky in low light, finding an f-stop to allow auto-focus between croaks when you can barely see the tree frog and hold the camera still takes lots of shots. Furthermore, the photographer must keep his distance or the subject goes quiet with stage fright.
And what else could we expect this close to the vernal equinox, the night before the full worm moon, buckeyes dressing leaves, redbuds about to bloom, finches assessing last year’s nests—it’s damn-near spring!
King snake got the tree frog
and the Garter snake as well
down for dinner.
weekly photo challenge—twist
It’s early morning dark, 48 degrees, the stars eclipsed by a tenacious, high fog as the tree frogs sing in a rivulet beside the house, from the hillside leaking last month’s rain. We branded calves yesterday at Tony Rabb’s and head up the hill this morning to mark a little bunch of our own. Our community of foothill ranches is branding madly, two or three, it seems, everyday, as good help gets thin.
Though the company of the little frogs croaking is pleasant, almost exhilarating, it sounds a bit too early for spring. All the more reason to get to work, when and where we can.