Counting Gains and Losses
by M.L. Faunce
After some 12 years of living by the Bay in Churchton, I find myself marking days not by jotting things down in a journal but by noticing things returned.
On a recent cold and dark Saturday morning with the window ajar, I lay in bed listening to the quiet. No whine from a neighbors heat pump, no motorcycle cranked up by another (your neighborhood, too?). So when I heard a faintly audible sound that wasnt coming from my sleeping pup, I sat up and took notice. Drifting over wetlands outside was the unmistakable soft hoot, hoot, hoot of an owl I hadnt heard in years.
Other things returned this last year, too. The northern bobwhite for one. Gone for years, then zot! on a summer day, the clear crisp notes of this quail-like bird pierced the air like an arrow. A box turtle visited on the 4th of July. Later, a praying mantis fixed it spindly legs to the window screen at summers end. The Carolina wren I wrote about three years ago in this paper that roosted in a little hanging basket by my front door reappeared this winter with a mate. At least someone got lucky. I wondered if it was the cotton balls I stuffed in the basket for her comfort that did the trick.
In Bay Country, we can count on many creatures to return regularly: tundra swans; bluebirds, in my yard at least; cardinals most definitely by dawn and by dusk they visit each day. A cast of characters too numerous to mention hummingbirds, kingfishers, dark-eyed juncos all return to us in multitudes. Read the poignant little book, I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven, and youll understand this richness of nature. How when creatures are lost they are gone forever, and when we take the time to know them, they are always ours.
Deer hurtle over backyard fences as if at a track meet, heading for the Bay. No deer Olympics lately, except on the roads. A rooster that announced every day the first few years of my residence by the Bay crows rarely nowadays. Ghost of? What became of the Lost Goat sought in the sign posted at the head of Franklin Manor Road this fall is anybodys guess. I failed to note the phone number (of the owner, not the goat), though I remain intrigued to this day. Can anyone enlighten? Still, for me, the things that have returned far outnumber those that havent.
I know that not everything comes back to us, really. We suffer losses both large and small. We forget and are sometimes forgotten ourselves. Still, much comes back to us: Not always in the form we recognize; not always the object of our desire but in the spirit hidden deep in our hearts. When we have taken the trouble to observe the nature around us, and listen close enough, we hear it call our name.
Dont forget to join in the Great Backyard Bird County, February 14-17. Go on-line to the Audubon and Cornell Lab of Ornithology to learn details: www.birdsource.org.