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Need Joy? Come on Over!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020


Not that anyone needs color and light and joy right now...I thought I'd offer up a little virtual stroll through the greenhouse, just to stick our noses into a few flowers. This is what greets me when I open the greenhouse door. Needless to say I find excuses to go down there about five times a day. Hooked on it. It was a rough winter, all rain and no sun, but now that the plants are getting some sun and heat, they're exploding into blossom. 

I find this interesting. When my big hibs froze on Jan. 30, 2019 (heating failure due to frozen gas line), there were a few tiny shoots around the base of The Path's trunk that didn't die back. They have grown a little and are blooming like crazy now. I don't know if it's because they're so close to the fertilizer, but they are much the best blossoms this plant has put out. It's dopey looking but I LOVE IT.

Creole Lady is still bewitching, but she's decided to lay back to let The Path, with her dress around her ankles, take center stage. She'll kick it up a few notches when she finally gets outside in May. 

And there's a Lady in Waiting. Look at this tiny baby Creole Lady that I got in the summer of 2019! She's finally coming into her own. More flower than leaf...

Two blossoms at once is very unusual for a little cutting like this. But so gratifying. My huge Lady slumbers behind her. I absolutely love having an understudy that's small enough to carry into the house should the need arise. Like, drastically plunging temperatures, foretelling another disastrous greenhouse freeze.

This plant...I live for its blossoms.

The Thai Giant crown of thorns is just ridiculous, 3' tall and loaded with peppermint-striped flowers.

Started from a 2" long cutting taken in 2016. I have tried to take cuttings of this one but none have rooted for me. Sometimes it just works. Sometimes it doesn't. 

This little Gartenmeister was a tiny shoot that sulked all winter long, then sprang to life when it got sunny. I like to carry this plant over because I'm never sure if I'll be able to find it in the spring. 

Same for Trandshen Bonstet. That one, far as I know, you can't get anywhere but The Glasshouse Works in Stuart, Ohio. Mine is 4' tall now! Roots really well in plain water!

A volunteer impatiens peeking out from under the foliage of my willow-leaved fig. This is the magnificent tropical bonsai that froze last year, and has somehow come back. It looks like a hairy sea urchin right now, but I have faith it will make some decent branches in time.

The geraniums are just spectacular now.

Black Knight is a volcano of the darkest possible foliage and gleaming coals. 

Can't wait for Happy Thought to open its scarlet tanager-red single flowers.

Due to its interesting start in life, this Happy Thought plant has a ridiculous number of individual trunks. 

Both Happy Thought and Vancouver Centennial (shown below) have a really interesting habit of making baby plants amongst their flower heads, way up there on the end of a long stem. It's so weird. I have observed this for years and always wondered what's going on with it. Two years ago I started experimenting with trying to propagate more plants from these funny little leaf clusters. Vancouver's plantlets always got mildew and rotted away in my rooting chambers (just a clear plastic cup inverted over a pot of damp soil).  But two years ago I managed to root a tiny leaf cluster of Happy Thought, and that's the plant in the photo above. It grew painfully slowly, but it grew, and it's a fine, fine plant now.

Of course, I will keep trying because plant propagation is one of my vices.

Update from Indigo Hill

Monday, March 30, 2020

Refuge--a place to get away from it all. And there's so much "it all" out there right now. I cannot tell you how good it is to have both my kids here in Ohio with me, safe. To not be alone and worrying about them someplace other than here. To finish up Phoebe's two-week quarantine, mandatory because she flew not only through Madrid but also through JFK Airport in NYC to get home--and to finish it up with flying colors, all of us still healthy. We haven't had a proper hug and certainly not a kiss in almost two weeks, and she's been doing her own dishes and laundry, but we are beginning to relax, 13 days into it. Hoping we're in the clear. There has been some stress baking going on.

I initially wanted her to stay put in the Canary Islands, feeling it was safer than subjecting her to all that travel, but Fulbright insisted all its students come home. It was a very, very bad few days for Phoebe and Oscar and all concerned. It was a very bad time for students abroad all over the globe. Dreams shattered, plans scuttled...but what else is new? It was such agony. What was the right thing to do? Brave the airports and airplanes? Defy the order and hunker down? No course of action seemed to make sense. But to their credit, Fulbright got on it early and kicked all their students back across the Atlantic. Now I'm so very glad she did come home. And so is she. I've little doubt she'd have slowly lost her mind in her third-floor apartment, with Spain's strict shelter in place restrictions--and fines if anyone's caught on the street without a good reason to be there. Oscar is toughing it out with his beloved dog, Arafo, and he and Phoebe talk several times a day. Another miracle--being able to talk for free with a boyfriend who lives on a hunk of basalt in the middle of the Atlantic. All hail What's App.
It got warm for a couple days. We all ran around in our summer skivvies. Then it got really windy!

Here, she can go outside, hunt wildflowers, garden, watch birds, run, play with Curtis and Liam. We tried to fly a kite off the tower today and got it good and stuck in a treetop instead. Saw that coming.

As long as we don't go to town more than we need to, which is about every 7-9 days for food, we can go wherever we want. We never run into anyone out here anyway. It is a surreal feeling, to know that all this space is ours to inhabit, knowing how many people are confined to small apartments, even to cruise ship berths akkkkk!  afraid to leave for the contagion all around. Knowing this, and empathizing with people all around the globe, makes for a very unsettled state of mind, an agitation that never leaves you. I can feel the disturbance in the force. I can feel the panic, the unhappiness, the deprivation, the fear. It's a drumbeat under every breath we draw.

I keep having to pull back my frenzied close focus and remember these deep, deep blessings, this airspace we get to inhabit, cleaner now than ever before now that there are no jets going over; water everywhere clearing up, air getting sweeter. We must all look at this. We must be grateful for those suddenly thrust into the front lines of war---the health professionals. And the grocery stockers, cashiers, managers, whose jobs were always vital, but are now high-risk. People everywhere, keeping us supplied and fed, risking their own health and lives to do it. It's inconceivable, but it all happened in a matter of days. We must all reach within and dig deep for strength. We have it so easy out here right now. But everything could change in an instant, and that is the drumbeat we listen to, the one we can't not hear.

I ache for John Prine, who as of Monday, Mar. 30 is hospitalized, in critical condition. This incredible man fought his way back from cancer, twice. Got his voice back. Never lost his lyrical and music genius. Kept performing, kept writing, kept singing! And now this. His music is part of the fabric of our lives. His lyrics run through my head as I go through my days. Gonna be a long Monday.

One great and unexpected joy is the ability, with the Zoom app,for us to yak with my sisters and nieces and nephew from our respective bunkers around the country. It's an e-melee, a free for all, with us talking over each other and laughing a lot. We'll figure out how to better moderate the chaos when we meet again. After all that has happened to our little threesome in the last year and a half, to have this--our family!! is so sweet, like rainwater when you're parched. Here's a dopey little video with those of us who could attend signing off from our last cocktail hour. So much love, and so many blessings.

I wish the same to you. I wish you health, love and peace. All we can do is watch it roll out and take care of ourselves and our loved ones.

Into the Woods We Go

Saturday, March 28, 2020

When the sun came out on March 22, we knew what we had to do. We had to go look for hepatica. 
I have a couple of places. One, I found just last spring. It rocks so hard, and it's about 7 minutes from my house. 
I called Shila and told her to come out. We'd take our own cars and stay a ways apart, but we'd get to experience the woods together. 

First thing Liam found was some good coon prints. OK, so they're out and about. Batten down the bird feeders. 

Impudent hickory (or buckeye) buds were everywhere.

So was hepatica. It likes cold, north-facing slopes, so it wasn't getting much sun at all, and we had trouble finding any that were open. But I love this shot, with the golden sun and PawPaw Creek shining green behind the nodding flowers. They come in white, pale pink, pale lilac, and deep blue. All the same species (round-lobed hepatica).  My hepatica Grail is a deep blue individual. I think it's a bit early to find one. I will be back, and I will find one.

I saw a little bunch of likely looking leaves high up the slope and started climbing (well, crawling) toward it. 

There were wee buds on it. I couldn't decide if they were going to be Dutchman's britches or squirrel corn.

I got a nice slice of blue sky and more rocky slope in this shot. 

And then I climbed higher yet, where I found one--ONE!! gorgeous specimen of Dutchman's britches in full, unequivocal bloom. The leaves were identical, and the yellow cast on the buds confirmed the ID. It is devilishly hard to photograph these little ephemerals, because the camera wants to focus on everything BUT the blossom. 

Unbeknownst to me, Shila grabbed this shot with her 400 mm telephoto (because we were maintaining quite a respectful distance between each other).

I am grimacing because it's HARD to keep yourself more or less upright on a 45 degree slope with an 8 pound camera hanging off you, and slippery mud and exactly the WRONG boots with no tread because you thought it would be really muddy, and you can't see jack on your phone display because the sun is so bright, so you just grit your teeth and shoot away and hope. Then you throw 9 out of ten photos away. But you love every single minute of it!

After that, everyone had to climb up to find the perfect little britches too. I figure it was out when none of the others were, because it had this huge sandstone boulder to reflect heat and light on it.

The sun has been such a rare commodity this winter and spring that I look at these photos and marvel that it was ever this bright and beautiful--and that was only two days ago. 

One of the cool things about spring ephemerals is that most of them don't open unless there's warm sun. So it HAS to be beautiful out if you're going to go looking for them. It naturally follows that you're going to have a wonderful time.  These are spring beauties, lined in pink. Their bulbs can persist for hundreds of years deep in the soil. 

Just look at these little things! So dainty, but so persistant.

Speaking of persistant, here's a hackberry tree Liam found. Someone had tried to chop it down, and then tried to burn it. The tree responded by discarding the wounded trunk and making a new sort of bark skin over it. It looked perfectly healthy.

We clambered back down the slope and the kids stopped to gaze into PawPaw Creek. This is the spot where Liam found his "Flosaraphtor" (velociraptor) claw so many years ago.  If you want to time travel, you should probably read this one first. 

In a bit of perfect irony, the kids found a mystery for their mom, the Science Chimp. 

Who was utterly amazed that a tiny hominid had been walking in fresh mud on a cool spring day....must have been Homo habilis, or Lucy!
No knuckle prints, so it was truly bipedal...
I'm schtumped!!

Traffic was so sparse they just flopped down in the sun. That's my kind of country road. In case you're wondering, we did not bring Curtis because he had been out on a huge multi-hour hunt, and he's kind of a pain to keep on a lead when I'm scrambling on all fours up 45 degree slopes.

Phoebe gettin' down with the spring beauties.

Ah, it was so sweet to be out with my kids and our friend, in the burgeoning woods of March.

Small Skunk, Big Victory

Sunday, March 22, 2020

It had been ten days since I first saw the skunk, since Curtis first charged it and was stopped in his tracks by the horror in my voice. Each afternoon at 5 sharp, the little animal had trundled into the yard (usually from a different direction each time, telling me she had us on a route) and happily eaten a small bowl of Fromm's kibble. I'd kept Curtis inside at that hour, because who needs to tempt fate? I had no idea if the lesson of that memorable day had taken in his brain. I'm still getting to know him, and I have enormous respect for the power of his prey drive, the instinct bred into him to go for the kill.

The skunk and I had fallen into a routine. She responded to my voice by advancing toward me, not retreating. I could walk right past her and set her bowl down and she'd bumble like a stumbly kitten to the goods.  Charmingly myopic, she followed the scent of the food and seemed unperturbed by my watching and photographing her as she ate.

She was moving better, but she still had to hop with that broken hind leg. She would never win a race. A skunk doesn't have to be fast. All it really has to be is black and white, and armed.

It's funny how fast I can get attached to something like a crippled skunk. All I have to feel is that I'm somehow helping it, and I'm gone, all in. 

To be fair to me, she is absolutely adorable. Not the fanciest, by any means, but the cutest for sure.

After ten days of this, I felt I knew how she'd react, and finally felt comfortable doing another experiment with Curtis. I put his leash on and walked quietly out into the yard while the skunk was about. Watch what happened next!


I think you can hear how pleased I am that our dog has finally had a change of heart and mind about skunks. Because his hunting instinct is so powerful, I honestly never thought I'd see the day. That makes the gift of his cooperation all the more wonderful. I have the feeling this lesson will hold, on or off the lead. I think he's put it all together that Ma wants him to stay away from skunks. What a good boy!

As I write, it's March 20, and she's been here a solid two weeks. I hurried to set her kibble out this evening at 5 pm, as always. For the first time, she didn't show up. Aww, heck. Doggone it. Now what? Was she in a burrow somewhere, giving birth to tiny kits, broken leg and all? Had a great horned owl grabbed her? I hadn't smelled a struggle... Had she just changed her route, or found a carcass somewhere to feast on?

With wild friends, this time may be the last you'll ever see them, but each one I come to know, no matter how inconvenient or smelly they may be, is a gift. This little skunk stayed long enough to teach Curtis how to live with his neighbors. She was kind and patient and grateful, and those are good things to have in a friend. Here's hoping we see her again, farther on down the line.

Wait. There's more. 

Update: The compost area was heavily anointed with skunk aroma around 11 Friday night.  And the skunk was back at 3:45 pm on Saturday, March 21, hinting broadly that it was time for her kibble.  Being well-trained, I obliged. 

Sunday, March 22: She spent a couple hours in the compost pit from 3 pm on, sorting through some meat scraps that found their way in. Ignored her kibble. 

 This is her I-don't-want-to-talk-to-you-right-now glare. My kids, who are both in residence with me, eating like kings and sucking down every drop of bandwidth until such time as the world stops ending, are making fun of me as per usual.  Now, because of how obsessed I am with "that crippled skunk." 

Her name is SugarBean.

 That is all from Indigo Hill. 

Fun With Skunks and Dogs

Friday, March 20, 2020

I first saw her March 7, moving slowly, even for a skunk, across the sideyard. It took only seconds for me to realize that something was wrong. She was injured, probably with a broken left hind leg. The instinctive helper in me was instantly and permanently sad. There's really little way that I can think of to help an injured skunk, without getting yourself permeated with its noxious scent for the next few months.

Oh, it was so hard to watch her hobbling along. Try as I might, I couldn't think of a way to capture and hold her to get her into care, without rendering myself unspeakably smelly. I know of someone who recently tried; valiant Deb caught an injured skunk and took it in her car to a rehab facility, but even there, people were utterly amazed that she'd do that. She and her car got good and sprayed for her kindness, too. I love skunks, but even I don't love them enough to be willing to do that.

You can see the unnatural arch of her back that says she's favoring the near hind leg.

I've been continuously living with this stench, both intense and faint,  ever since Curtis Loew came into my life, and I can tell you that it's not something I'd willingly invite by trying to handle a wild skunk. As of his last event in January 2020, he'd been sprayed three times in 11 months. The events were evenly enough spaced that juuust as he was starting to smell like potting soil and sunshine again, he'd go and get himself doused. It has been thoroughly discouraging. How can such a smart dog be so durn dumb about skunks? Is a fondness for playing with mustelids one of the many traits that got him surrendered by his former owners? I would bet so. In all his nearly twelve years, Chet Baker got sprayed twice. The first time was his fault (Ooh! Look at the kitty! Does it want to play?) The second was a complete accident (taking a 10:30 pm mad walk, we both tripped over a skunk in the pitch dark). And after that episode, when Chet saw a skunk, he'd immediately sit down, clear his throat, watch with great interest, and refuse to go any closer. He was not slow. Neither is Curtis; in fact in many ways Curtis is more clever than Chet. But he's also a cur, bred to hunt, and therein lies the problem.

 I heard Curtis one morning in the third week of January 2020, deep in our west woods, giving an angry, commanding bark. I didn't  like the sound of that bark. It sounded like he had something cornered, low; his treed animal bark is higher and more yelpy. And it wasn't too long before he came lolloping up the meadow, long strings of foamy slobber coating his head and chest. He'd stop to roll, then keep running toward home. What the heck did you get into? Oh. OH. OHHHH. Crap!! Not again!!

By this third time that he'd pulled this, I'd figured out how to handle it, and I told him he was NOT coming in the house. No, I left him outside while I prepared a bucket of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dishwashing liquid.  Here's the recipe:

  • 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide 
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap
 I gloved myself,  leashed him, and made him stand on the sidewalk while I lathered him up, three times in a row. It was absolutely miserable for us both. Only when I got him to where I could stand to be near him did I carry him straight to the downstairs tub for more peroxide rinses and then a real hot bath. I did not allow him inside to jump up on furniture or rub himself on the carpet, all of which he did in the two previous episodes, anointing my house with a stench that lasted weeks. DisGUSting.

Far as I knew, I had a dog who was never going to learn about skunks. I realized that, in Curtis, I had a macho-a-s dog who thought it was worth it to get sprayed, if he could just get the right grip on that funny little animal. The first time, he'd rushed a skunk as the kids walked him out the meadow.  A good spraying ensued.  I had the opportunity to test him on a long lead not long afterward. I spotted a skunk feeding in a distant meadow and walked him obliquely toward it, leash slack, without saying a word. (This was a test.  Everything is an experiment). He spotted it, went on alert, stalked it (not a good sign) then, forgetting he was on lead, bolted toward it. I was only too happy to bring him up with the leash and give him a good scolding. You idiot! Unreformed, clearly, and utterly unrepentant. You want me to hunt, right??

 In our next encounter, he was walking at twilight ON A SHORT LEASH with ME HOLDING IT and Shila right beside us when he dove into a ditch and came up twirling around in a circle with a SKUNK in his JAWS. That time was extra special. There was so much screaming!  Shila and I still laugh our heads off when we talk about it. Spinning! Screaming! Cussing! A real stinky ride home in my car! Which stank for weeks! And in this fourth encounter, he'd cornered one deep in the woods and taken it right in the kisser. NOT LEARNING. Not even CLOSE. Some might call him an idiot. I knew it was something closer to invincibility, stubborn, butt-headed courage. It was worth it to him, for the thrill of the hunt. And this was bad.

And now I had a badly injured skunk right smack in my yard who couldn't go anywhere fast. Great. I could see this was not going to end well. A lot of people would have solved the problem with a bullet in the skunk. I am not like a lot of people. I prefer to lead a more interesting life than that.

Watching the little animal, I decided it was probably a female, since it was the smallest adult skunk I'd seen. I could also tell the injury was recent, and painful. I suspected she had been hit by a car, since both legs on her left side seemed to be affected. I don't think Curtis could have done it, because the last time he was sprayed was back in January, and here it was March 7. And he certainly would have been sprayed for his efforts had he grabbed her and injured her.

Over the next few days, that skunk showed up in the compost area every day at 5 pm. OK, for now the plan was to keep Curtis inside in the late afternoon. It was a plan that could work in the short term, but it was only a matter of time before Curtis would stumble across her. I dreaded that, but all the same I was fascinated by her, and the way she was learning to compensate for her injuries. She seemed to move just a little better with each passing day. I hatched a plan to support her with food until she could get around better. I suspect that most people would think that was dumb. Even I thought it was about 85% dumb. But I couldn't help myself.

 It started innocently enough. She was rooting around in the compost pile, and I went over and picked up a window-killed cardinal that I had laid out for the sharp-shinned hawk who got robbed by a bobcat in my last blogpost. The sharpie had eyed the dead bird but never took me up on the offer. He is a grown male, perfectly capable of catching fresh food. Sharpies are not scavengers, like their phlegmatic buteo cousins. They're finicky hawk royalty. The cardinal had been lying in freezing temperatures for three days, was still good, and I figured the hurt skunk could use the protein. So I crept as close to the compost pit as I dared, lobbed the bird in a high arc and brought it to a perfect landing about 6" from the skunk's head. The skunk jumped comically, looked around, followed her nose, and immediately dug in. She ate the cardinal's head, crunching down its massive beak with impressive power. I cannot imagine swallowing a cardinal's beak, but she did it. (Maybe I'll find that poop!)  Then she picked the bird up and carried it into a trumpetvine tangle to finish her excellent meal.

I don't have photos of all that happened the next time I saw the skunk. It was a couple days later: Monday, March 9, a beautiful warm afternoon, and I had the windows thrown open to air the house out. I was in the studio,  washing the floor, and it suddenly occurred to me that the skunk ought to be in the yard about now. I looked outside and the first thing I saw was Curtis, moseying slowly across the side yard. Ut-oh. He stopped for a pee. I scanned the yard. His head came up, ears pricked, and he went tense. I followed his gaze to the innocent little skunk, bumbling toward the compost pit maybe 100' away.

Like an arrow shot from a crossbow, Curtis launched himself at the animal. And just as quickly, I hollered NO!! NO!!  NONONONONONONO CURTIS NO NONONONONO!!

Because the windows were open, Curtis heard me, picked up on the anguish in my voice. For once, he did not go selectively deaf, as he has so many times when I've tried to turn him off a scent. And that dog stopped in his tracks. Turned. Tucked his tail and groveled up to me (By then, I'd thrown myself out the front door and was headed out to get sprayed, too). The skunk stood her ground. She hadn't even lifted her tail. Curtis was at my feet, miraculously odorless and thoroughly chastised. Most amazing, he was saying he was sorry. Who are you, and what have you done with my bone-headed huntin' dog??

A miracle had occurred. To me, it was on the same scale as Moses parting the waters or a nun in a cinnamon bun. I had somehow called a thick-headed mountain cur with a prey drive the size of Nebraska off the easiest prey he'd ever get to grab. It all spoke to the immense value of offering a firm correction at the very moment it is needed. Which is exactly at the moment the dog is doing the stupid thing. Not before. Not after. 
At. That. Moment. 

I praised Curtis, laughing and crying at the same time. He sheepishly accepted my hugs, then slunk off toward the front door. I tried to call him to me, so we could go a bit closer, look at the skunk together and talk about why we don't mess with skunks. He was having none of my yammer. He was done with that scene. 
Score one for the skunk! One for Curtis Loew! Score a huge one for Zick!

Slow clap for the dog.

I was so pathetically grateful to the skunk for holding her fire that I put GoodBoy Curtis inside and fetched a handful of his kibble to throw to her. In this video, she's gladly vacuuming up my offering. Yep, 85% dumb, and 100% grateful, that's me. There's just something about skunks that I adore, and no amount of inconvenience and discomfort that they cause can change that. My heart surged with hope that, against all odds and Curtis' inborn ways, we had finally found a way to coexist.


You know there's more to the story. There's always more.

Like a Cat in the Woods

Monday, March 2, 2020


March 2, 2020, couldn't be any more different than March 2 of 2019. Last year, today was a Sunday, and Wendy and I were hosting the biggest birthday music party we could humanly pull off, for Bill. We all knew it would be the last birthday he'd have, and we wanted it to be the best one. And it was. Beloved musicians drove and flew from all over and that man played as if he were possessed, all day and into the night. He said it had been the best day of his life. Now, Bill was given to hyperbole, but we knew he meant it, and that it was true. And why not? His favorite friends were there, playing his favorite music, and everybody was freely showing their love for him. He was playing like the devil had gotten into him. And, of course, it had.

He was on fire, inside and out, and it was beautiful and sweet and terrible to see. Music was his reason for living, and man, did he live all that day, that wonderful day. I'll never forget what he said later, recalling that day. "I swear, I could go, and if there was gonna be music, I'd rise up and play another twelve hours. It means that much to me."

Today was different. It was quiet and cool and drizzly and there was nobody here but me and Curtis. I was thinking about him off and on, thinking about his birthday tomorrow, wondering how to mark it.

The cardinals pippering, the doves rocketing, the goldfinches careening, the yard exploding. A dark blue bullet swooped in, doing an elaborate loop-de-loop with a bird practically as large as he. Though their forms were no more than blurs, I knew it had to be a tiny male sharp-shin chasing a mourning dove. They climbed higher and higher, and the dove turned over in flight and stooped toward the ground, and the sharpie threw out one foot and snagged it like a cocklebur snags your sleeve. And they both tumbled to the ground, head over tail, and everything went silent. 

I grabbed my binoculars and my big camera and slipped downstairs and out the sliding door. I peeped over a rise and there he was, glorious, mantling over the captive dove. A full adult male sharp-shinned hawk, a damned rare bird any more. Oh joy. He will eat today. Much as I love mourning doves, having been mama to three, I wanted this hawk to eat today.

He wanted to fly away, but he couldn't, because he had to kill the dove first. I took two shots and retreated the way I'd come, head down, showing him I meant no harm, that I'd leave him in peace to finish the job. No photo was worth spooking him off his hard-won meal. The thing to do in this delicate situation is to get out of there.

Once inside, I raced up three flights of stairs to the birdwatching tower. The windows were streaked with rain, and I had to shoot at a terrible angle through two panes and rain too, but it was worth it to leave the little hawk in peace.

It may look like he's just loitering around, but he's squeezing that dove for all he's worth. Killing  takes more time than you'd think.

As soon as the dove was subdued, the little hawk tried to take off with it. And it was clear that this was not going to happen. A mourning dove weighs around 4.2 oz. A sharp-shinned hawk weighs around 5 oz. FIVE OUNCES. How does it cram so much fire and life into five ounces of flesh, bone, feather and nerve? Barely, that's how. Sharpies are all fire, all nerve.

Time and again the hawk tried to move his prey, and succeded only in making a couple of feet of headway. It wasn't clear the dove was dead yet, anyway.

 Ack. Are the doves' eyes open? Yep. Hard to watch, but watch I must.

It was interesting to see the predator suddenly vulnerable, now re-cast as prey. The sharpie desperately wanted to get into cover with its catch, knowing that he could himself fall prey out in the open. All it would take would be a passing Cooper's hawk, and he could lose both the dove and his life.

It was an impasse. I was settling in to watch him take his meal from the tower window, hoping he could pull it off without being attacked himself.

Suddenly, the sharpie took off, leaving the dove behind. What the heck? I followed him with my lens to the lone Virginia pine in the backyard.

There he sat and craned his neck, looking concerned. Instinct swung my lens back to where the dove lay.

And I saw with unbelieving eyes the tawny brown reason the sharpie had spooked.

The cat approached softly, stalking, unsure that the dove was really dead. Cats are careful. Cats are not rash.

And when it bent to take the bird in its jaws, the dove's wings stretched out in a last convulsion, a farewell to everything. Almost tenderly, the bobcat gathered the bird up.

Every cat owner has seen their pet with this look on its face. This is mine. Nobody had better try to take it from me.

The beautiful thief glanced around, the dove that had seemed so huge and unwieldy to its original captor, now but a trifle in its jaws.

Mixed emotions, the order of the day. I was heartbroken to see the sharp-shin robbed of such a fine meal, a meal for days. And I was absolutely thrilled to see a bobcat in my yard once again. I hadn't seen one in the yard since Curtis came on the scene. I was delighted to think that bobcats still stalked the margins, watched the feeder action. (And I had just been wondering this morning where the Norway rat who'd suddenly shown up had gone to.) I marveled that the cat came in, likely having seen me out in the yard just minutes earlier. And yet it did. I marveled at everything. I wondered who had sent these incredible things to me. The show goes on, and somehow I'd been here for it.

It turned, as cats will, on a soft pivot

and solemnly bore the dove away for good.

The cat simply melted into the woods and vanished. I have gone through my many bobcat photos but I can't say I recognize this animal.

It was just a bobcat, on a cool drizzly day in March, a day that was much different than this day one year ago. A day for reflection, for grief, for missing someone so special.

How I wish he were still here to see this, to see us. I still don't understand why he had to leave.

But he has melted away, like a cat in the rain-wet woods.

The sharp-shin bent to pick the feathers off his feet, wiped his bill on the pine branch, and flew off down the orchard.

He made another pass at the feeders just before it got too dark to see, but he didn't catch anything. 

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