We’ve Slept Too Long

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Rip woke in a frenzy. What a nightmare he’d had. Befuddled by layers of dust on the furniture, his feet numb with sleep, he left the house. How long had it been?

A trail behind his house led to an overgrown pasture. Where were the cows he kept? And if they were gone, why hadn’t the deer replaced them? He tuned his ears to the sounds of birds and heard nothing. He found the river, now a creek. Sixty years ago, there’d been a spring that gushed from a rock. Now it was silent. Hope’s season had come and gone.

The Real Story Behind Snow White’s Poisoning

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“You’ve got it wrong.” The farmer’s face turned the color of a ripe Gravenstein. “It was magic, not pesticides, poisoned that girl.”

“Now Mr. Darkfruit, our informants have presented credible evidence from underground surveys. There’s run off into their mines.”

“You know, the Queen is my best customer. She wouldn’t like it if you shut me down.”

“I have a warrant to inspect.” The investigator lifted his case full of testing equipment and walked through the open gate into the orchard.

“Nothing will come of this,” said the farmer.

“But it’s my job to enforce the regulations until instructed otherwise.”

How Long Before the Lake Dries Out?

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In 1975, I biked my dog to Stanford campus. At Tressider Union, I drank coffee. He rested under the table. Afterwards, we stopped at Lake Lag. Cas retrieved sticks, swimming murky water. “Two-thirds what it was,” the old timers said.

In 2012, my niece moved into a dorm that backed onto a weedy, muddy shadow of Lake Lag. I expected it to fill with rainy season water. No luck, dry like this year.

Hundred year drought we’re in. Arsenic blows off a drying Great Salt Lake, a hazard to fish and people. Climate cycle, climate change, it’s too damn hot.

A Surprising Sight

Photo by Monica McHenney

Can you find the hidden alligator lizard? Imagine squatting in an iris bed, pulling unwanted grass. The grass is what you see first. But before you reach in, ready to tug, a pattern emerges and then a snout and then the wary lizard, eyes unblinking, body unmoving. What a cutie!

Not everyone has that last reaction, but I do. They have personalities, these reptiles. Two fence lizards who lived in our backyard were inseparable, protective of each other, the Romeo and Juliet of lizards. Great extroverts, they enjoyed relaxing on their backs, exposing the blue line that bisected their tummies.

Opossum on the Move

Photo by Peter Kessler

Our fence, her highway, three times that we know of. Once struggling in thick ivy, an ashen color, a naked tail that made us mistake her for a white rat disturbing the leaves. Next, she cased the neighbor’s vegetables. Finally, she came with two juveniles following in a line.

It was daylight, an unusual time for them to be about. Overcast, so that might have helped. The mother was scruffy, the youngest sleek with soft fur. We didn’t see them after that.

Maybe the camera scared them off.

Or is it that they change hunting grounds every few days?

Ode to Post-Pandemic Gophers

Photo by Monica McHenney

The last time we met you was before Zoom was the go-to way to say “Hello.” A long time ago, but we remember.

Your three year old was a baby. She’s distant, no interest in meeting strangers. As long as you hold my phone for her, she likes the photo of the lizard camouflaged in the dirt.

“The ground is moving.” Enough to entice a child to get acquainted. It’s a tuft of dried grass, to be precise. A nose pushes up, sniffing the air, reluctant, the way we were when we took the risk to picnic in the park.

Migrants

Photo by Peter Kessler

They flew in shield shape, banking together. Not a bird was out of formation. The fluid group landed in a mulberry where they plucked juicy fruit, bringing the tree to life with their acrobatics and mid-air high jinx.

Such handsome fellows, masked like robbers, with subtle rusty red and muted yellow highlights on their mourning dove grey cigar bodies.

My camera disrupts them, but not before I have a picture. A silent order travels through the troupe, wings flutter together, they move with one mind. They will be back; they have no choice. It’s how they earn a living.

Golden Bird Lays Pretty Eggs

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Lottie perched at table, beheld a patterned pysansky preserved in waxed glory. ”Exquisite egg.”

Nina sipped tea. “Family heirloom.”

“European,” Lottie asked.

“A tale from Ukraine goes with it. A girl found hundreds of golden birds stiff with cold, helped a few, and found homes for the rest. ”

“How kind.” Would that there were more kindness.

“In spring, the villagers who’d fostered them released the birds who Easter next flew to each house. This egg and hundreds of others appeared on doorsteps throughout the village, a thanks from the grateful birds.”

“A beautiful story, more so even than the eggs.”

Wildscape

Photo by Peter Kessler April 2022

There’s a bunny peeking from alyssum and rosemary where a rufous sided towhee, dressed in orange tails with black trim, dined last week. Earlier in the month, a flock of pale looking robins plucked hard blue berries from the ivy on our wooden fence. They ate what was left after cedar waxwings migrated through in February.

A cuckoo wasp, a white-lined hummingbird moth, butterflies, and two kinds of lizards populate a native meadow that grows where our thirsty grass withered away during past droughts. We leave culled weeds to compost and pruned branches to shelter wildlife. The yard has become a preserve.

The Ragnarök

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Líf and Lífþrasir lived in a tiny hovel on the side of a wild fjord north of the settled lands. Rippling through infinity, Thor came to them. He carried the couple to Hoddmimis holt. “From you, generations will spring.”

The gods went insane; a war of destruction, an ecological nightmare. Three winters arrived with no summers. Yggdirsil, the world tree, nurtured the couple. All the while, morning dew was their manna from heaven. Wandering, nestled in the warmth of moss, sheltered by the forest, emerging with the sun, nurtured by salt water, they rebuilt after the Ragnarök. They repopulated Earth.