Watts redirected us towards mindfulness as a way of living in the present. More easily said than done. But I have an idea. One word: June. In fact, I find myself unable to live in anything but the present during this magical month. Nothing gets done. Dishes sit in the sink, the staircase is dusty, email is unanswered. And what am I doing? Plenty of nothing. I stay home and I wander into the garden dozens of times a day. Sometimes I water. It’s quite dry right now so this is a life-giving activity I can easily justify. Sometimes I am transplanting someone to a more felicitous spot. But, truth be told, most of the work is done by now, so 90% of the time in June I am simply watching what’s going on. It’s pretty much all I do this time of the year. There’s a sideshow a minute. All I need to do is to put on a hat and sunglasses.
Although the Mallards, a married couple who have been coming to our street for years, have departed as usual just in time for pools to be opened, it’s anything but lonely here. Over by the blackberry bushes, dragonflies hunt like armed helicopters, gracefully dodged by tiger swallowtails who waft here and there in their typical blissed-out calm. I am happy, nay relieved, to see numbers of bees, bumblebees in particular, and hope they will pollinate the amelanchier too; we called its berries “saskatoons” when I grew up, devouring bowls of them in heavy cream. It is a young tree and this year will be the first real crop, if all goes well. About 8 feet up some pioneer has built a nest which seems vacated; perhaps the builder should have selected higher purchase. The woodpecker brood, demonstrably alive and healthy, is close to fledging up in the cheap seats, spending most of the day peering out at the stage, bored to tears at home but still too scared to fly. I watch the cavity entrance incessantly, hoping to catch sight of the First Flight. Meanwhile I can hear the purple finch trying to free a sunflower seed from the feeder while being vocally harassed unmercifully by her kids, who prefer begging to working. Starlings have swept the Excellence in Reproduction Category - like loose clouds they rise and fall along the street; resistance is futile for any who yearn for individuality. Under the ferns, garter snakes and giant toads roam, ungainly sanitation workers doing essential jobs. As long as nobody eats my chipmunks, they too are welcome.
I have lost my heart and untold hours to the four chipmunks who have become regulars, lured by the raw almonds they stuff into their capacious cheek pouches. Mr. Chips still lives under the driveway, a good neighbour who keeps his bolthole ship-shape, despite the traffic. Oscar lives behind the stone garage; he’s the young turk of the four, the chipmunk version of a Wall Street hot shot. Baker (of whitened head, whether from flour or snow like Mount Baker) resides under the huge white oak stump; I like to imagine his dwelling as a Gothic cathedral with flying buttresses of oak,a dignified residence befitting his white hair. Finally, X, whose burrow is in the street garden and who remains something of a mystery, rounds out this rodent bridge table. All four seem mildly myopic and tenderly test my finger in case it is edible before identifying and cheek-pocketing the proferred almonds. The kids next door have been initiated into this addictive time-waster and come running when they hear me yell “Chippie!”
So because I’ve been trying not to feel like a Bowery bum, a wastrel, a ne’er-do-well, I return to Alan Watts to reassure myself that I have not been avoiding life; apparently I have in fact been truly living it. Sincere thanks, Alan. And there will be plenty of time to fret, come winter.
p.s. Irony rules, as always. While I was writing this, the maiden voyage occurred! WITHOUT ME! Now the whole woodpecker family has gone dark, like the entrance to the cavity nest. No more burrie quonks to announce themselves, just the careful silence of watchful parents whose kids just got their licenses. Oh well, I suppose that the job of locating them gives me another good reason to explore the garden. And so I shall.