California Winter

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It rained. And then froze. The rain a teaser. Maybe no drought this year. Maybe there’s snow piled into the mountains. Not that we’ll know. Since the electricity stopped working, we haven’t heard from anyone more than a buggy’s ride away.

Try explaining electricity to a five-year old. It always ends up with magic. The same way that putting seeds in the ground and getting peas seems like a miracle. We used to show our daughter how peas grow. How they need water. Used a plastic cup and a paper towel. None of those left. Good thing there’s still miracles.

Rescue Gnome

Picture by Ryan Kessler

We suspect there is a magic passage under our redwood because the garden gnome who guards the tree by day disappears at night. Important forest matters require his attention. Animals trapped in fire ravaged landscapes. Small fawns and mountain lions equally threatened, equally important to the health of a recovering ecosystem. He treats them all with the utmost care.

By daybreak, our gnome has returned. We see an article in the morning paper. Ten small pumas rescued. Feet wrapped in gauze socks. You wonder how they keep from biting through. Probably the influence of our gnome. His voice is hypnotic.

Owl Sun

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It wasn’t the first dark day, but it was the first the owls stayed out hunting until it seemed to them that they’d stayed too long. The yellow cast to the sky reminded them not of moonlight, more like cool firelight. But the silence gripping the countryside made them think again. Eerie and quiet. Cool and gliding from one tree to the next, over meadows where mice dodged into holes between stones that marked a boundary from one farm to the other. But the birds had eaten their fill. Dusky day turned to dusky night. The world turned upside down.

Barbie’s Dream House

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Barbie is pacing the beach, contemplating a lawsuit against Mattel. It’s hurricane season. The Dream House needs repair and Ken has never been good with tools. Money is tight, so they can’t hire anyone. So unfair. Products really should get pensions.

Barbie’s attention span has never been great. The sight of an oystercatcher on the beach reminds her she wanted to find Ken an oyster drill for Father’s Day. Sifting through a pile of shells, she spots something. Science Barbie knows the name. Wentle trap. Using an oyster to drill seems impractical. Can wentles be trapped? Now she can’t decide.

Stubborn Testing

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After the fever, Marla’s bones ached like the marrow was seeping out. She wasn’t a malingerer. She refused medical treatment. Her father encouraged her to carry the pain while it piled up like a bank of snow against her body’s unyielding house. She’d been raised a positive thinker.

Though her steps slowed and she took more frequent rests, Marla, an ecologist, worked outside destroying invasive plants and replacing them with native species. She outpaced her co-workers, cheering them, finally collapsing under a tree.

Diagnosed with Lyme disease, she took a desk job. One of the lucky ones, she got better.

You are What You Eat

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“Snow symbolizes death,” a Kenyan English major told me as we walked across campus to our shift at the greenhouse. Both of us clutching our coats closed against the cold, I suppressed thinking about ashy flecked flakes falling as early as July.

By May, the ground thaws so we can harvest root vegetables for winter stews. The short warm season discourages growing anything but leafy greens outside. Broccoli, artichokes, melons, tomatoes and tree fruits need shelter and warmth. Apples are a tropical fruit now, shipped on boats to reduce carbon footprints.

You are what you eat. We do our best.

Airport Sanctuary

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Quite often, the overhead sprinklers covered the floor of the D gates in a smooth sheet of water. No one knew why. Some suspected it was the amphibians.

The hot, dry weather drove them in. They made a steady pilgrimage through the walls and into the ceiling, working their way to the electrical box. Once there, they chewed through the wires like squirrels, sparking a conflagration.

When air travel was no longer sustainable, management turned the airport into a habitat for desert denizens. No more newts blowing across the desert, looking as desiccated as kale chips fresh from the oven.

In Cold Blood

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A moth fluttered from the folds of my favorite silk scarf. Seeing multiple holes, I shrieked. It was down to tenting the house or murder. I chose murder. Moth murder.

Once committed, it became an obsession. Scanning the walls for tiny oblong specks of black, I stopped for every one. A trail of smudges showed my progress through the house. I averaged ten a day.

But a spider’s web had trapped many more. I had planned to dust the corners soon but I’m keeping the spiders. Though they bite me at night, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Key Deer

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Tent packed, sleeping bag in the car, Sophie set off for the Florida Keys where, at fifteen, she had ducked through mangrove channels, oars pacing past leaf littered roots and crowding branches. With the divorce final, Sophie needed a vacation. 

Drenched in sweat, she would breathe the soggy air, gathering the constituent parts of herself that had withered in a confining relationship with a man she still loved. She would smile at deer flashing their white tails as they sped away. 

Water sheeted the windscreen. Sophie pulled over, the car rocking, the wind howling. Wet noise covered her inevitable disappointment. 

She’s Not That Into You

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Mother Nature announced that her nephew, Dorian, was limbering up for a run along the East Coast. Not known for her empathy, the goddess told an AP reporter that she’d be cheering him on.

She mugged for the camera. “Don’t you love my new look,” she asked pointing to her melting ice caps. “Things are so fluid now.” She held a towel, maybe longing for a hot bath or a long shower. “Global warming has changed my whole look. So many insects, forest fires, new algal blooms.” 

She ended the interview saying, “It’s a new world. Get used to it.”