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The Best Part of the Day

Sunday, June 22, 2014

They often say it's the best part of the day. Whoever "they" are, I agree.

Dawn is the best. I feel like I'm stealing away when I wake up at 4:45, put on my shoes and go out into the fields. I go out to disappear into the light and the air, fragrant with the last of the honeysuckle and the first of the milkweed.

Indigo buntings sing very early. This male perched on a bluebird box along the driveway, singing his heart out in the darkness. Inside the box, a bluebird may be laying her third pale blue egg. So much blue. I stood and listened as long as he sang. 

Ground fog pours over the hayfield and into the road. I'm shivering a little this morning, a nice change from sweating.

The mackerel sky speaks of rain before this time tomorrow. There's been a lot of rain. I love seeing the wildflowers burgeon and grow huge. I almost don't recognize them, so lush they're growing.

It isn't hard to spot a striped skunk doodling along, digging pits in the haymeadow near the county road. Chet sees it too. He hangs near me, not giving chase. I think this dog's training is close to done. Only two days ago, he spotted three wild turkeys strolling on one of our favorite lanes, and didn't chase them, either. 

It is a beautiful thing to have a dog with judgement, who doesn't need a leash or even a word any more.

For a Boston terrier, such restraint is rare. They are half terrier, after all. My favorite part is that in both cases, I didn't have to say a word to him. He just knows that good dogs don't chase turkeys or skunks, no matter how alluring they may be. 

We move up on the skunk to try to get a photo with my iPhone. Chet sticks right by my side. He's been sprayed twicet. He knows. 

The skunk gets wind of us and does a meerkat act. It is very cute. Then it ambles over to a telephone pole and digs and digs. From the way it's digging and then pouncing, I suspect it has found  a nest of baby rabbits. But I'm not about to go investigate.  That's his bidness, and I'm not interested in bathing in baking soda and white vinegar today. We just watch. 

Here's the skunk, the dark spot at the base of the telephone pole, and Chet, watching without having to be held back. What a good boy. 

We leave him there, digging. And when we come back three hours later I go investigate and sure enough, there's a bunch of soft grass pulled out of a hole. He had found a nest of baby rabbits. They must've been small for him to gobble them up so cleanly. There are so many rabbits this year, and some of them are born to die. That's part of being a rabbit. 

 Mist hangs in the holler over Carl's house. 

We run down the dip and up onto the ridgetop, and it's so beautiful I can hardly believe that everyone else is asleep. The milkweed is about to burst into bloom. It's untouched. I haven't seen a monarch yet. I will wait, and so will the milkweed.

The scene is so perfect in the diffuse morning light it reminds me of a diorama painted by Frances Lee Jacques. But it's real, and I'm in it, and I'm grateful to be there. I couldn't do everything I have to do; I couldn't be who I need to be and take care of the people I care for without starting my mornings like this. Everyone has things that get them through their days. I wonder what the world would be like if we all got up in the dark and took three hours to dwell in, to move through such grace. I find it transformative. 

A Facebook friend whose updates often make me snort wrote this:

"I run. I run until I don't want to stab people. Sometimes I run a long time."

I'd never say that. But I'm glad I have a friend who would.

I'm also glad to have this friend, this solid dark polished ebony chunk of love. There's something to be said for being able to get a kiss whenever you need one, even if it's only from a dog. He's quite a dog.

The landscape looks to me like a little farm set, and I feel like a child again, creating perfect scene after perfect scene, lining up the white plastic fencing, the barns and the tiny brown and white cattle. This world is in order. I have only to move around to frame and appreciate its exquisite symmetry. 

Today I record birds, as I do every time I go out, on a little folded bit of paper. Today I hear or see 63 species in three hours, which feels darn good to me for late June. I say that because everything I'm logging now is likely to be staying around to breed. This is the second run in a row where I record rose-breasted grosbeak, two different males  a couple of miles apart. I'm very excited about that. I've never had June records of RBGR. Only one July record in 22 years. I also log five singing yellow-throated warblers and two worm-eating warblers, in addition to ovenbirds, Kentucky warbler, American redstart, yellow, blue-winged, and black and white warblers. Life is good.

Recording the birds I hear every morning has become a comfort thing for me, like doing a crossword puzzle or reading the newspaper. I am reading the newspaper, the news that means something to me.
For those who can read bander's code (or my bad approximation of it), here's June 22's list.



We've had a RBGB couple for weeks at our sunflower feeder. Oh, happy days!

Posted by Anonymous June 22, 2014 at 4:37 PM

Lovely. Just lovely.
Only two quibbles--"even if it's only from a dog"? ESPECIALLY if it's from a dog!
And, second quibble, some of us just are NOT made to get up with the dawn's early light. But we are wired to stay up into the wee hours--also calm and quiet.

Your morning runs are vicariously good for me too. I appreciate those Ohio landscapes, and the sounds of birds you paint with your words.

I love your Facebook friend's quote. If I ran, I would probably feel the same way.

I just played a fun game trying to figure out what all the abbreviations stand for - with only moderate success. But that of course means I paid close attention to the list and have two copyediting remarks. HA! You have WBNU on there twice, and I think RWBB is actually RWBL... I also marvel at all the birds you have there. I expect if I was much much better at identifying their calls than I am currently, I'd be aware of more birds here than I am now. Baby steps...

Give Chet Baker a big kiss for me, please!

I was thrilled to see several monarchs today as we checked the part of our bluebird trail that is along a prairie remnant near Northfield. They posed beautifully. I don't suppose we'll see a lot of them this year, but to see some, now, is a gift. I hope you'll see some soon.

I wake up as soon as the cliff swallows start talking under the eaves just outside my window just at first light. I too, can't wait to get out and snoop on the lives of wild things while getting my senses bombarded with smells and light.

Love that picture of Chet on a hay bale.

And I would have to type most of your codes into eBird to figure out what they are. I can write 'em but mostly not read 'em. My survey requires me to write MTBB which just adds to my confusion.

Now that you have fully trained and greying, are you thinking about another? Would Chet Baker be a mentor?


And this post is a best of season! There is magic in these long days.

I love your world, and the way you relate to it. Just reading your blog calms and grounds me.

I love absolutely every word of this post, every picture of the sky, the fields, that loveable dog. And I am hugely grateful for the bounty of this world, and for how much of it is right outside your door. You drink it up, and you share it with all of us. You nourish us all.

Meanwhile, I'll be sticking to regular crossword puzzles. Your shorthand is too puzzling for this low(er)intermediate birder.


Posted by KH Macomber June 24, 2014 at 4:54 PM

I live in San Diego, CA, so not many baby rabbits to be seen. And our skunks eat the cat food! I saw baby rabbits born in our front yard when I was a kid growing up in the Chicago burbs. And I had NO idea skunks ate them. Understand the food chain--but still makes me a bit sad.
You wrote: "The landscape looks to me like a little farm set, and I feel like a child again, creating perfect scene after perfect scene, ... ." Your photos--I can almost smell the morning mist and the grass and the hay and whatever good smells Mr. Baker puts out! Thank you always for sharing your world with us. Loved your white bison blog also. Hope he took your cares away and lightened your load.

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