The dog is always the first to greet me as I step out the back door onto the porch. The horses gather together in one of their seemingly random spots in the south field. Cali (one of three cats) scoots along the fenceline near the shed.
There are more photos on Flickr and you can listen to the 2:54 audio track I recorded (and edited out noise on Audacity), embedded here:
[audio:http://zepfanman.com/MVI_4086.mp3|titles=Birds & train 2min54sec]
I turn and see the two geese standing by the old strawberry patch in the north field. They are regular visitors. I return quickly inside to get my bird identification book.
One has to go around the front of the house or take a crotch-crushing step over the fence to get to either field; we haven’t attached a second gate to the new chain-link yet. The dog would like to join me, but I leave her behind to whimper. She’s learning not to bark at everything that moves, so I hear her no more than 2 or 3 times in the 2 hours that I’m gone.
I step over the old fence and take a few pictures of the geese who slowly walk further north to keep their distance from me. Two other birds dart around the yard, one with an insistent chirp that I don’t recognize. I will look it up in the bird book later as they are too far away to identify. [Killdeer? and No Clue! bottom left.]
It is a quiet day and I hear nothing but the creatures of the farm. Even the wind is quiet and there is only an occassional car passing by as the sun begins to fall. I am prepared with my backpack and find my way to the southern field to a spot on the small lagoon hillside that had been beckoning to me for the past few hours. There is a small bit of moss, weeds, and grass suitable for sitting, so I take up my post and continue to observe.
It is a sunny Saturday. Another perfect representation of Spring, no more than 70°F. The warmth of the sunlight on my sweater permeates through to my back, so I remove the garment. I sit dressed in my ratty white vneck, old jeans, and even older pair of boots.
There are probably half a dozen species of birds chirping in and among the evergreens that cover almost the entire property line along the eastern fence. The frogs in the lagoon are easily startled; they sound like party horns as they jump to safety below the algae-covered surface of the water. Someone must be hunting as I can also hear gunshots to the south every once in a while.
One of our hog-riding neighbors drives his Harley down the highway. From our house, we can see travelers approaching a half-mile away on this road into town. Oh, it’s probably not one of the neighbors – many people make their way down this road to test their wheels or maybe just to get away from the housing developments that envelop the highway just out of sight from our home.
My binoculars and camera are poised for action, but I’m more in the mood to sit and write than to abandon my vantage point by the lagoon. These bones are never comfortable in one place for more than an hour, so I make small adjustments during my vigil.
Likewise, the horses rarely stay in the same spot for more than five minutes. At one point they line up like a firing squad 30 paces from my corner of the lagoon. They all walk closer to me, likely desiring a snack – but my hands are empty. Cody is always the most patient, maybe the friendliest. He stays by my side for several minutes. The horses brought flies and I blow one away from my face. The sound startles Cody and they all trot off to find a nice patch of grass to chew on.
Nathan brings the feed out as the sun gets closer to the horizon. It’s almost dinner time for the horses, although Annie seems to want to say hi to me on her own now. She drops a load of manure as she stares at me 50 paces away. She spins 720° and then makes her way back to the feeding area, but she stops for another 30 seconds just within my vision along the fenceline.
My aluminum water bottle has kept me hydrated during this commune. As I take another sip, two birds perch in the evergreens nearby. I can’t see them, but a third joins in with a raptor-like scream – it’s a blue jay. And then, for the first time during my visit to the lagoon, the frogs chime in, as well. They now sound like a dozen people walking on the creaking floor of an old house – or a bunch of rubber boots squeaking under bare feet. Either by their own accord or scared by the roar of a Ft. Knox helicopter, they cease their song less than a minute after they began it.
I stand and hear the familiar clucking of the neighbor’s quail. Their peacock asserts himself with a deafening “Nyah-AH!”, but I can’t see him. Their two week-old foals, however, are in view.
I have time to stay here longer, but now seems to be the right moment to return to my human abode. I follow the path that the horses have made back to the house.
<UPDATE April 21> I’ve decided that my original prologue sounds out of place, so I’ve moved it here to the end, instead:
This is a short journey to the far corner of the lagoon (the strange waste water runoff hub from the house)…
I’ve never been a good storyteller (first sentence above case in point), but I do enjoy writing. Take this as a peculiar narrative with photos – local color, or one of those “descriptive writing” exercises from grade school. Is this story lifeless without commentary? Does it leave room to insert your own feelings into the experience? I will introduce it with one suggestion: Most of us have learned to live without nature’s quiescence, fresh air, and space to think. </UPDATE>