It was very calm and quiet out, clear and cool, a lovely morning. I had placed our old ten-foot orchard ladder in the narrow gap between the fig tree and the little shed near the back fence. For the moment, my back was to the ladder. From behind me, very near, I heard the voice of a nuthatch. I turned around. Not three feet away, looking directly at me from a rung just below eye-level, the bird seemed genuinely pleased it had gained my attention. It spoke again. Then it moved to the end of the rung where some fine bits of plant debris have collected over time, and pecked at it two or three times. Maybe it found something edible; maybe not; maybe it was simply an expression of friendship. Nuthatches, of course, are gregarious, curious birds. They are tiny and bold, and will look you right in the eye as they nibble away at whatever food source they chance to find. It looked at me again, then flew away.
Yesterday we visited the dahlia farm, twice dodging their big sprinklers as we strolled the grassy pathways between the acres-wide sections of color. Like ours here at home, the crop of blooms is noticeably lighter this year — possibly because the plants suffered last September through the smoke and ash generated by wildfires, or because of the extreme heat they suffered early this summer in June.
On our way there, heading north through the rural countryside on Highway 99E, we could see smoke moving into the valley from the east. Later in the morning, by the time we were home again, the sky was completely hazy, and the smell of smoke, though not intense, was distinct. It’s with us still. Forest fires and smoke have become an annual affair. Maybe that’s what the nuthatches are saying themselves, up there in the fir trees: Climb the ladder. Climb the ladder. See. See. See.
September 3, 2021
[ 1218 ]
Categories: New Poems & Pieces