16 January 2007

The Doves, The Deer, The Monarch and Me

Our yard in Texas was large for the neighborhood. Mature crepe myrtles lined both sides of our long, L-shaped fence row. Red tipped Photinias marched along the back fence, maintaining our privacy from alley traffic. I was the self-designated lawn mower for our family. A job I adored, except during the months of July and August, when no one in their right mind wants to be outside past 9AM.
My yard in Texas was also a haven for doves. Doves are habitual in their nesting patterns- the same boughs and branches are occupied year after year after year. Doves are also known for the way they protect their nest. When danger approaches, they sit as still as statues until the last possible moment, hoping to go unnoticed until the danger passes on. Only their fight-or-flight instinct can make them leave their eggs. By my calculations, this fight-or-flight doesn't switch to "flight" mode until the danger is approximately 6 inches away.

Which makes it a bad idea to mow the lawn or play with the kids under the trees if you have a heart condition.

Many a day I spent chiding myself for not remembering the doves' nests as I mowed. My heart racing, my neighbors wondering at the screamy squealing they just heard, my palms sweaty. It would take me at least 5 minutes to recover from the fright of having a winged creature wobble- fly 6 inches from my face, cooing its gargly coo. They were frightened. I was frightened. We were all frightened. I just never could remember exactly where they nested in those trees! Makes mowing the lawn exciting.

Now I've moved to an area of the country that is heavily populated with deer. Watching the deer from my kitchen window is one of my new fascinations. I've observed that the deer browse according to a loose schedule. They frequent my yard for 3 or 4 days, then move along to let the plants refresh and regrow for a week or so. Then they're back. (This is probably old news to the naturalists and hunters out there, but I am a suburbanite through and through.)

Driving along the farm roads, I have also noticed that the deer have certain paths and crossing areas that they use. Passed down from generation to generation. Imagine what that would look like from the sky- vast networks of deer highways criss-crossing the landscape. I'm imagining the old Family Circle comics that follow Billy as he meanders around his neighborhood on some long-forgotten errand for his mother.
One particularly warm day last fall, the girls and I were eating a late lunch in the grass. Our backyard makes a gentle slope down toward the woods, and we lay there looking up at the clouds and the trees, watching the wind. We saw a Monarch butterfly flit by. Then another. And another. And another and another. Over the course of an hour, we counted THIRTY Monarchs. All flying the same direction- southwest. All heading to... Mexico.

Frankly, I was ecstatic. I'd learned about the Monarch migration when I was in elementary school, but that information was just "out there" in my consciousness. Until last fall, when I got to experience it for myself. I was awestruck. How do they all know where to go? How are they sustained for such a long journey? How do they know when to start their fluttery journey? How do they battle the winds? How...?

Somehow, seeing it for myself made it a reality. It was a reality before, of course. Just not one that I'd experienced.
For every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.

I know every bird in the mountains,
and the creatures of the field are mine.
Psalm 50:10-11
And then there's me.
I build my nest and protect my chicks. I browse my world and wear down my paths by trekking back and forth over the same ground. Running the same errands, having the same conversations, thinking the same empty thoughts, doing the things that mothers do. I flit from flower to flower, from joy to sorrow, from delight to frustration. Migrating my way toward heaven.

Do I dare to think that Jesus doesn't see me? Doesn't know the paths I take? The paths I wear down from daily use? Do I really believe He doesn't know where I make my nest? Do I think He is unaware of the flowers I flutter to, the joys that light my eyes, the sorrows that dim them? Do I comprehend the care, the organization, the joy and elation He feels as He watches my heavenly migration?

These all look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.

When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.

When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.

When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.

I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the LORD.

Psalm 104: 27- 30, 33-34


Blogger Roberta said...

I can really sense the beauty of God's creation in this post. What a beautiful experience to observe the butterflies, and know the deers patterns (I love those family circus comics).

The dove part was funny. But you know where I come from they are also called pigeons and there are websites dedicated to their...well, shall we say...afterlife experience.
Rats with wings, I've heard these pest referred to as. (don't think I'm totally heartless though.)

Beautiful Psalm too. I made up a little tune to the last 2 sections for memorization so that is now going through my head.

6:03 PM  
Blogger Michelle Gregory said...

Makes me long for the day when I'll get to live in the country. My nature experiences consist of watching birds in my small backyard in the middle of the city. Once in awhile, we'll see blue or white herons flying from one golf-course waterway to the next.

7:07 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Erin, this is so beautiful. Seems you were in a meditative mood writing this.

And, I see, too, you have a history with wildlife. Doves. Deer. (I would warn you off a relationship with the skunks, though.)

10:38 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

Funny you should mention that, LL.

We have some "issues" with groundhogs out here and my next door neighbor, in his attempts to catch them, instead caught a skunk. Now, I ask you, WHO in their right mind is going to march up to the Have-A-Heart trap to release a SKUNK?!

He left it there while he debated what to do.
His 6 year old son took out his brand new Super Soaker 3000.
He marched down the hill.
To the skunk.
In the cage.
And he sprayed it.
At the skunk.
And the skunk.
Sprayed back.

10:44 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Oh, I'm laughing so hard. Precious!!!

12:26 PM  

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