Having A Meltdown

December 30, 2010

Yesterday, I watched two squirrels play, fight and then sit in a pout, one in the neighbor’s tree and one on the post of my wooden bridge. They sat there, in a standoff for about 20 minutes before someone finally decided to apologize, but I’m not sure which one finally was the bigger squirrel.

Today, everything began to melt. Our temperature here was in the low 50’s, with mid-50’s predicted tomorrow. How messy is that. Not only physically a mess, but I’m certain that this two-day jolt of spring temperatures will throw the more tender perennials for a loop.

I grabbed the shovel shaped like a snowplow and began pushing slush and dog leavings – and quite a few Damn Rabbit pellets – off of the patio and into the flower beds. Fairly soon, I realized this was exactly the type of heavy lifting I’d been warned against and put the shovel down. I’ll rope Dominic into finishing it tomorrow.

The water beads on a tiny accidental Christmas tree, shiny and round. And after weeks of silence in the garden, snow muffling everything, I hear sound again. I hear leaves rattling, I hear drips and drips and more drips. I hear our sump pump pulsing on and off, on and off, as I make my rounds in the garden. I hear the rattle of water in the gutters, the trickle in the downspouts. I hear seed heads tinkling in the breeze, I hear the grasses rustling their skirts again.

The snow melts quickest on rocks and bricks, and around the base of certain plants. The hardscape I can understand, as that absorbs and reflects the heat from the sun, but I am unsure why certain plants – like that accidental Christmas tree, the oregano and the yarrow – would generate heat at their base to melt a patch in the snow. Slimy lamb’s ears erupts near the pond, but many leaves are still looking crisp, like the brussel sprouts that have emerged.

The snow is melted through to grass in many spots, but it is still inches deep around the veggie garden, which is really strange as that area gets the most direct sunlight throughout the day. Obviously, I am missing some scientific phenomenon taking place here. I leave the compost bin lid propped open. It sorely needs water as the last layer of shredded paper is as dry as dust. Rain is predicted tonight and tomorrow, so I hope it will get a good soaking.

The melting snow also brings tracks into clearer relief. Damn Rabbits, of course, but also the squirrels. Those tracks are typically bunched together, like tiny ungloved hands and naked feet in the snow. They are in abundance under the pin oak. My tracks, newly made today, stand out sharply. All these marks will, I’m sure, be indistinct and blurred by tomorrow afternoon.

The squirrels have found the bird seed ornaments. AND HOW. Late this morning, there were five critters out there at once. One tackled the shepherd’s hook, stretching and reaching, sliding and then repositioning himself to try again. His white fuzzy stomach faced me much of the time and it just looked so soft and warm. I longed to give him a scratch on the belly, just like Griffey enjoys. Much success when he made it to the suet feeder and was able to hang there and eat the seed. He grabbed the card with little hands and then pulled off seeds with his teeth. Another one sat on the groovy bench, nearly frozen still. I went into the kitchen to get a better angle on her and saw that she was licking a card, just like you would the inside of an Oreo. She sat there and slowly worked her way all along the card, still and patient and calm. One more sat in a bush- yes, sat inside a bush, looking so very silly – and pulled a card apart, turning and twisting it in those sharp little hands.  The last two were the scavengers of the bunch, darting under each squirrel and picking up all the seeds that had fallen to the ground. Tails flashing, busy, busy, busy. Thank goodness they don’t visit for long because I so enjoy watching them. I’d never get a single thing done if they hung around all day.

About two hours later came the goldfinches, now discovering the refilled seed sock. I counted 6 at once, but they are camera-shy. As soon as I pointed my lens through the window, several of them whirred away and did not resettle. The hungry ones, the ones who know a good thing when they see it, the ones who don’t mind the paparazzi, stuck around. They were all males, their golden color faded for the winter, but still glinting here and there around their faces. Of course, they have their pecking order. The more aggressive birds sit on the sock. The timid flyers go to ground, picking up what’s left but still, I think, getting a very good meal.

Tony called me over to the window late in the afternoon. “Look at the chair seat outside,” he says. “It’s a Jesus fish.” And it was. The garden gods have a sense of fun.

Come evening, I straightened and reattached some of the Christmas lights that had fallen out of their anchors in the ground. When I stood up, I realized what a waste of time that was. It will all be coming down very soon.

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