When I got pregnant, my sister rolled her eyes to the heavens and said, “Oh. Thank God. Now you’ll stop treating your pets like they’re children.”
Well, it didn’t really happen that way. In fact, I think having a child made me appreciate the pets more. We don’t have a lot of them, at least not that we’ve adopted. We’re down to one now. Fiona, the tortoise, ran away.
Perhaps I can’t say “ran,” but watching her brought new life to that tortoise and hare story. She was very persistent and moved a lot faster than I thought she could. We bought an aquarium for F, but she didn’t understand the concept of glass and kept banging her head on it, trying to get through it. So, I put F on the porch. She seemed to enjoy the increased mobility and sun. But there was a hole in the screen. I didn’t think she could get out, but I guess she proved me wrong on that account as well.
I miss her. Each morning, while it was still dark, I went out on the porch of our house. I listened to the crickets, and hung out with the tortoise and cat until the sun came up. It was comforting to hear F, gently scratching along the tile. Often, she would rest under my porch chair.
When the light began spilling into the sky, then the birds started singing. It was beautiful. A symphony really–everything turned purple and the trees came alive with the voices. I dug into my huge container filled with seed and put some in the feeder to coax them out of the branches.
I recognize most of the animals this time of year. I don’t know their scientific names or anything. I just know how they act. The little finches call out to tell their friends when I put the seed out. They’re small, so the finches, cardinals and canaries just gather around and share the all-you-can-eat buffet, until a black bird shows up.
The black bird stands, soldier-like on the roof of the birdhouse and squawks furiously until they all fly away. Then he gets into the middle of the seed. He can’t really eat as easily as the finches could, because he has to keep looking up, guarding his territory. His eyes are sharp and beady. He’s all business.
The squirrels have arrived on the scene due to my laziness. I really ought to move the feeder so it’s not so close to the tree, and I need to straighten it out, so that the squirrel guard can work properly. But they’re kind of fun to watch too. There’s a black one that makes such a huge mess when she eats that the finches can come back for clean up duty among the grass.
Living in Rhode Island put me back in touch with the richness of the earth. The winters are long, dark, and cold, but the summers are heaven. We lived on a tiny house on the bay without A.C., so we opened all of our windows and became aware of the world around us: the terrifying beauty of the swans that nested in the marsh, the raccoons that regularly overturned our garbage, and the tenacious stray cats who could survive among all of it. I even saw a couple of wild horses there. While I watched creation bloom and die around me, I became more spiritually grounded.
When we began looking for housing around D.C., I didn’t want to lose the connection. I don’t think we’re meant to live the way that so many of us do–with office windows that can’t open. Our blood doesn’t flow to the hum of the air conditioning fan. It’s more in tune with the crickets.
My friend Jesse Quam is a family therapist who works in a wilderness setting. He says that we litter, pollute, and abuse the earth because we’re not properly attached to it. This morning, I’m particularly mindful of this truth. The loss aches much more when we love something.