Thursday, June 9, 2011

As the blackberries ripen and the moon draws full...

This is the season of making hay while the sun shines. And oh, does it shine! The heat is brutal, brassy, miserable. As workers mow the tall green pastures into sleek windrows of smooth-layered hay, horses and cattle seek cool mud near water or the shade of deep forest to rest during the nooning hours. Dogs and cats have taken to sleeping away the hottest times of day, as well.

Not in our house, of course. And with no enormous electric bill to pay, that's doubly nice. Mother Earth cools our house, for which we're grateful. Choosing a partly-underground design was a good thing, in our case. We love our house.

Our house is a soothing refuge in more than one way. It's where we go when we need to rest, a place of quiet in an upheaval of worry, of concern, and of endless demands on our time. Since this is our first real (not rented or similar) home, it's more than mere cement and lumber, metal roofing, and sundry other goods. It's a friend we can depend on to always be there, protecting us from the elements.

This spring's heavy rain followed by instant, blistering summer, has led me often to contemplate what must be going on with the wildlife in our region during the climate change currently sweeping the globe.

After I dropped Ronnie off to work one day last week, I returned home. Along the woodland road in to the house, I saw a small blast of dust just ahead of me in the headlights. It was nearing dawn, still very dark. I rolled the window down and stuck my head part-way out. A harsh croaking call was plain in the morning's forest, and I knew what I saw before me was a shy cousin of the whippoorwill ... a nighthawk. It had a bug in its mouth, which it swallowed as soon as it slammed the creature on the ground a few times to make sure it was stunned  enough to swallow, or even dead outright.

These birds hunt, mostly walking along the ground, at night. Their eyes are large and dark, like most nocturnal creatures. In the headlight, first one large eye reflected red back at the Jeep's headlights, and then the other. The result was eerie, to say the least. It flew a short distance to a small log protruding into the road, and perched. From there it surveyed its intruder (the Jeep with me in it) carefully, uttered another harsh call, and was gone.

A small story, and another chapter in the life of a planet mostly taken for granted by nearly every being of most species.

This year, I've seen more rabbits, heard more owls, and seen more foxes (dead or alive) on the roads and in the woods than ever before. I've also seen more predator tracks or sign than in years past.

The green things aren't immune to changes, either. Along the roads, I now see the tall white, flat heads of poison hemlock, where it was not able to grow in years past. Reports have it moving north year by year, into new territories. This rampant green change does not exclude invasive plants. This part of Kentucky, before official summer has hit, has the feel of a rain forest in drought: move, and it feels like even a human body can melt into nothingness.

Today, a baby rabbit ran out of the grass where a mower had just passed by. It ran almost up to my feet and stopped. When I spoke to it in soft, sing-song tones, it cocked a dark eye upward at my voice (since my feet and body were otherwise still) and sat there, listening, twitching small, long ears, and huffing in the shade the vehicle in reaction to the heat and the unaccustomed activity during the heat of day. It was a sleek, healthy-looking creature. It had come out of a tangle of thistle, blue-eyed grass, and lamb's-quarter shooting high out of the pasture's timothy and other non-native grasses.

I look at such a creature -- rabbit or nighthawk -- and I think of how different each of us is from the other. How every individual is the same in its individuality... how we all strive, we humans, to be different, in the same way.

And I know that I still do not believe in writer's block. Because as long as I can communicate in any way, I can write. If it's only a footprint in the mud, a scratching on bark or hide, melded in with blood or berry juice. The language has little to do with telling the story. To do that, we have to first live.