Like many a gardener, I have been "planting with wildlife in mind." I took that phrase to mean butterflies like our resident tiger swallowtail (Her name is Joan but we call her Esmeralda for short) and the odd chipmunk.
Yup, Oscar's still odd. He has his underground stereo so tuned to sound of car tires on the pea gravel that when I am unloading groceries I often look down to find him standing on my foot, none too patiently either. We have established a protocol of sorts: I plunk myself into our designated tryst chair and offer gazillions of black sunflower seeds. During his refined sixty-second round trip, I imagine him spewing out plumes of booty. Sometimes Oscar stays away for several days, usually when it is extremely hot. It must be cooler underground and he might be occupied in creating more storage space for his treasure or possibly just counting it. Golum had to make do with one "precious"; Oscar has thousands. At one point he found a bunch in the breast pocket of my blouse and instantly dove after them. A girl finds that scary, so I have become careful not to store extras there. Despite denying Oscar that final intimacy, I am his and he knows it.
Do you remember Junior? Until today I had only glimpsed his head poking out of the nest hole (see May 19 and June 17). You will remember that I was both worried and curious about his adolescence. Mystery solved. This morning there was a mighty hammering at our front door. I sneaked out the back door because I had an inkling and there he was, throwing himself into retrieving grubs from an aluminum door. His parents must be so embarrassed. At least he clearly looks like the kid he is — there is no red topknot yet. Maybe he has to memorize sections from the Torah or complete a walkabout to earn it. Just be grateful woodpeckers don’t drive.
By contrast, the rabbit on the driveway this morning seemed preternaturally calm even though we had never met. She watched me watch Junior and then she calmly hopped into the shade, calling out “Thumper!” occasionally. I like rabbits, as I do red squirrels if they are not trying to move into our house. One tried all four corners of our roof one year and kept Jon busy installing wire barriers; at one point the two of them had a standoff. It is strangely entertaining to watch your husband and a red squirrel yell at one another. My money was on the squirrel.
The wierdest member of the garden gang is Mouse the House Grouse. She has been hanging around for months but has undergone some psychic transition lately which has rendered her downright chummy. Jon laughed when I said I planned to make friends but yet again cynicism was defeated by crazy optimism. I begin with the premise that everybody has to eat and the way to most hearts is through the stomach. Mouse was gobbling large green leaves - dandelion in particular - so I just offered her some choice ones. Granted, there is a bit more to this befriending business. Prey animals are exquisitely sensitive to body language; they perceive predators to be non-threatening when they are sated and sleepy. Don’t try this in public, but scratching and yawning work wonders when you are trying to get to know someone who wouldn’t ordinarily think of you as friend-material. And sincere praise never goes astray. So, while stretching and giving myself a good scratch, I always wax eloquent about the subject’s beauty. Not hard to do with Mouse: her cryptic plumage is truly gorgeous (the vanity of deer, on the other hand, demands adulation of their ears and eyes). She ate my leaf offerings and her stare softened. After fifteen minutes, she followed me up the stairs to the deck, and guess who now appears near the driver’s door when we drive in or flies behind us when we drive out. Mouse may not be entirely compos mentis but she has an irresistible, if somewhat dim, charm all her own.
And I still have five whole months to figure out how to get us all together for the annual Christmas picture.