Birds and bugs weave across the sky, skirting the patchwork of green and golden field grass. Yellow butterflies – Monarchs? – float by, a Hummingbird buzzes past my ear. A Crow caws from somewhere in the forest and a pair of Wrens creep upside down along the branches of the willow tree beside me. A frantic Robin flies back and forth, filling the gaping beaks of her babies parked right outside the door we go in and out – as annoying as that may be for Robin-mama, she must feel safe from predators. With every breeze, the leaves of a stand of Aspens across the field shimmers like confetti.
It rained for much of yesterday and today, but this afternoon the sun finally shines – the clouds are benign – puffs and strokes across the vivid blue sky. The air is sweet with summer smells. In the field where I dare not venture for fear of ticks, is Queen Anne’s lace, Milkweed, Black Eyed Susan all lend splashes of color to the range of greens.
Just now, a shadow crossed the table where I sit. A Great Blue Heron swept by so close – it’s legs and neck weirdly postured as it positioned to land at the pond tucked into the wood below. So magnificent and commanding! I watch the shadows watching for more movement, wanting to see it lift off, to witness that wide flap of wings again.
It’s later and my friends have all gone out to a play. I opted to stay home for some rare solitude. After cleaning up the remnants of another delicious dinner, I’ve come back to face the field. The sound of a plane fades and then there is silence – but it is only momentary – an illusion really – there is plenty of noise. I hear the cracking of sticks, the evening complaint of a Robin, another bird song, I cannot identify, perhaps a Red Wing Blackbird. A rustle of leaves, the flutter of bird wings, the vibration of insects. The sounds are subtle but certainly there. From the pond just down the hill where I still look hopefully for the Great Blue Heron, I hear the odd belch of a bullfrog.
Out by a towering Pine tree about the distance of a block away (a city reference still works best for me), a deer is feeding, gently moving through the field. I know these creatures are common – even a nuisance – but to me, they still are marvelous. She passes gracefully back and forth across the mowed pathway, mostly she keeps her head down in the brush, busy munching, only occasionally popping up to twitch her ears, a beard of foliage hanging from her cud like a beard. Her nose looks like a chunk of sweet licorice.
Later still, I faced the field – now singing with nighttime insects – and watch the night draw in. I stared ahead at the now blurring shapes of trees, bushes, grasses, stones tumbling into the wood where darkness had already settled in. As the sky turned a blue to purple, the stars emerged, even as I watched, my neck cricked back, my face to the stars.
I miss this – nature at night – not so easily available in my busy neighborhood – not on this scale. I cannot even begin to capture my excitement – as if I have discovered a secret: what really goes on when we are closed into our homes, driven in by the mosquitoes, the draw of the light, and alas, our televisions. Standing at the edge of the meadow having been with it for hours now, I recalled this feeling, watching – no: being in nature, alone, until I feel one with the pulse of a wood or a meadow.
I remember, long ago as a young girl, a nature lover stuck in the city, memorizing animal tracks, matching the leaves of the trees to those in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, gathering dandelion roots and buds. Summers our family would go to a country spot and I remember exploring dirt roads on my bicycle. Often, I would stop where no one was in sight and stand leaning over my handlebars, mesmerized by a meadow a wood, the light, the dark. I still am.