Listening to the sounds of the rain falling on leaves, dripping from the roof. It's a light rain. This is one of many aspects I love of letting trees grow up around the house. I walk to and from the car under a canopy of trees; wild cherry, red oak, white oak, maple, mountain dogwood, white pine, and closer to the ground, big rhododendron, jewelweed, varieties of ferns, wild violets, jack in the pulpits, turk's cap lilies, spring beauties, goose neck, bloodroot, goats beard. Some I have planted, most I let take up of their own accord. I've heard jewelweed is invasive, but I don't care. It has a beautiful orchid-like flower designed specifically for hummingbirds. They're called touch-me-nots for their seed pod that springs open when touched and flings the seeds in all directions. Donkeys love jewelweed. Sometimes I give them each a jewelweed plant for dessert after carrots. Its comic to watch them eat the plant. Every munch pulls it further in like Jabba the Hutt chomping on Princess Leah in his dreams. A crow left a wing feather for me yesterday on the rock walkway half way between door and donkey gate. Donkeys in the meadow attract crows to eat the larvae growing in old donkey droppings. I put sunflower seeds out for crows near the mailbox in a place they can see up the road in both directions. I like having crows around. I like hearing them, seeing them, watching them. My impulse is to want to tame them not to fly away when they see me, but we live in a world of people with guns that use crows for target practice. I want them to maintain their wariness about humans. My crows know I'm their friend. That's good enough to satisfy wanting to know them like I know donkeys. In the morning I throw the seeds over the gravel area at the side of the road and call them with two caws. The donkeys hear it and gather at the gate, knowing carrot time is next.
The beings of what we call the natural world, like we're not, like we think we're separate from it, delight me. My grandmother taught me to take care of goldfish, guppies, canaries, parakeets. In childhood time we had "dime stores," like Woolworths, TG&Y, Kress, and so on. They sold parakeets and fish in the late Forties and early Fifties. The times I went in to buy a parakeet, I asked to be the one to catch the bird; the people working in the stores didn't know anything about birds. I knew how to get the one I wanted easily, pick it up with its wings folded at its sides, hold it gently without pressure, but don't let it get away. I did the same with fish. I could easily net the fish I wanted. Guppies gave me my pre-pubescent sex education. Before I came to the mountains I kept two aquariums with lights only. No water filter, none of the colored chunks of coral. Only sand on the bottom with water plants growing in the sand. Each aquarium maintained 23 swordtails. The plants cleaned the bottom and made oxygen. Only added water, never changed it. I netted a mosquito fish male and several hundred mosquito bites in a roadside pond near Georgetown, SC, and put him in with the swordtails. He bred several generations until I had an aquarium of mosquito fish, swordtail crosses. When one of the females had babies, most of them were eaten, though some survived to fill in for old ones dying out. They, too, would be eaten. The mountain home is not a good one for keeping a constant temperature year round. I don't keep indoor plants or fish or birds anymore. Brought a couple of parrots that lived quite awhile here. I called them The Flying Wazos. Made a big cage for them. Plants are growing all around the house, everywhere. I don't need house plants. Birds are everywhere. My windows are loaded with birds. Now with donkeys in the meadow I can see crows out the window too. Caterpillar is not a threat to birds anymore. She just lies still and watches them.
I'm partial to my crows. I've learned that crows live in family groups. When you see a small group of crows flying, half dozen, more or less, it's immediate family, mom, dad and the sibs. Crows don't wean their babies. They stay together in a family. When a young crow finds a mate, they start a new family. Several families make a tribe. You see the tribes in late summer and fall gleaning corn fields after harvest. It's quite amazing to drive around a curve, come into view of a huge mown cornfield and see hundreds of crows fly into the sky. I've listened to different friends tell about shooting flocks of crows with a shotgun, shooting the crow standing in the top of a tree on lookout, and another will take its place, shoot it, another takes its place. Laughing telling these tales of target practice, killing nigger chickens. Yep, that's another name they have. I don't call them that. But plenty of my friends do. I don't run with a bad lot, all together, just country people doing what country people have always done, killing everything that's living. I came to the mountains what James Dickey called a rural romantic. I'd just realized God is, and wanted to live rurally in a living world where everything, almost, was growing, had life in it. By then I knew that God was in the leaf and in the raindrop that made it dance. I knew God was in the brick and glass city, too, but in a more inert form. I wanted to live in a world where everything around me was alive. I like having bears and mountain lions, bobcats, copperheads, blacksnakes, watersnakes, coyotes, coons, squirrels, birds, crows. Country crows are different from city crows. I'm surprised in a city when I see crows walking around where people go. When you come into sight of a country crow, it's gone with a call to its relatives: CROW KILLER ALERT. If I let the thought carry me, I can become ashamed easily in the face of the wildlife around me. Everything is mortified of me for being a human. I open the door at night and a possum runs for its life. They can scoot, too.
rocks at the base of a maple tree
Squirrels used to dash up a tree, run through the canopy to trees the other side of the house. Now, a squirrel will sit in tree fork five or six feet above the ground and watch me go by while nibbling a sunflower seed. Chickadees chirp to me from branches just out of reach. Hey, Ice Cream Man. How you doin, Ice Cream Man. This is how I want to live. This is how I love living. During times when a coon throws the top of the birdfeeder to the ground in the night, I don't wait for it with a shotgun the next night. I just put the lid back on in the morning. It's just a piece of board. No problem. My birdfeeders are communal. Anybody passing through can have a snack at will. Squirrels dine at the feeders, but they don't dominate. Big birds, little birds, all have their moment. The "natural" world I've noticed believes in sharing. Left to themselves, without attempting to prohibit squirrels or night marauders, bluejays get along with the smaller birds, nobody hogs the feeders. I don't leave anything in a squirrel-proof apparatus to get mad about in the morning when I see a coon destroyed it. I put out a day's supply every morning. The squirrels and chipmunks have enough middens of sunflower seeds for several winters. The seeds are for the well-being of my neighbors. Good oil for their joints, their feathers and fur, which they're all vain about as we humans are our hair. This is why I'm never lonely at home. I have friends all around me from wild violets to donkeys outside, cat and facebook inside. There are times I need to be around people, and I do. Get in the car and go. Over years of adhering to my spiritual purpose of being in the mountains, I have trimmed down the people I spend time with to people I care about who care about me. That leaves me quite a large number. Many I seldom see or never see. Facebook helps keep me in touch with friends in Florida, New Mexico, Georgia, California, New York, all over the place, people I can't see. I've surrounded myself with an outdoor aquarium in the place I call the home of my soul.
the view out the front door