Monday, May 10, 2010

Bless the Beasts--Even Predators

Purple has come to Birdland in the Irises and Sweet Rocket. My once-a-month mowing plan has already had benefits. I found a Redbud sapling in the tall grass, which would surely have been mowed over in the old days. Yesterday, we toured the gardens of Japan House with our friend, Susan, and came away inspired, hoping to bring a little of the spirit of the tea garden and dry garden to Birdland. What a lovely, fragrant, and informative walk.

But these peaceful musings were interrupted this morning. I was measuring coffee into the percolator basket, and happened to see Ursula cavorting outside the kitchen window. Now, I love my puppy, but I brought her to Birdland for a specific position, as an apprentice to Isis. At Birdland, everyone has to do a little bit of work to make this a farm, and Isis, the Lionhearted, is the defender of Chickens, but she is 14 years old, and, let’s face it; she won’t be around forever. She is failing in many ways. She is as deaf as I am, and sometimes would rather sleep in the sun than defend her home. She deserves a tranquil retirement. The plan was for her to teach Ursa the ropes. Isis, my yellow lioness, and Ursula, my black bear cub, would protect their realm.

I pause between spoonfuls to see what my puppy is playing with. She is crouched down (not in pounce posture, but with rump up, tail wagging, head extended up in a playful manner). I step forward to see who she is greeting—and drop my spoon, knocking over the basket and spilling coffee because her new friend is…a Coyote!

I run outside and the coyote is clearly confused, pacing back and forth on the edge of the field. Isis, in her dotage, seems to be taking cues from Ursula instead of leading the attack. And Ursula has probably already given the posture of submission. (Hi! Please don’t hurt me! I just want to play! Want to play? Do you? Please don’t hurt me! I’m harmless! Look—here is my belly; here is my throat! I’m harmless!) Ursula looks back at me and jumps for joy. My presence apparently indicates approval of her game. Maybe I’ll even join in the fun!

I advance toward the interloper, and she retreats a little, but not much. I’m in my socks and robe, and the grass is still wet with dew. The canine signals are all mixed up. The dogs want to play, the Coyote wants breakfast of chicken and eggs. The four of us do a strange quadrille. I shout and wave my arms. “Seriously?” says Ms. Coyote, eyeing the dogs inquisitively. I begin walking, then running towards her, and the dogs run too, tails wagging. I reach the edge of the bean field, and Madam Coyote stays about 20 feet from me. When I stop, she sits, waiting for me to go away. When I press forward, she gets up leisurely and strolls toward the meadow. We cross all the way to the grass waterway in this fashion, where she lies down, biding her time. “What fun!” says Ursula.

Where is my lion? Where is my bear? My wet socks are now icy, and not much protection against last year’s corn stubble. I realize I’m going to have to signal to everyone that this is not a game, and I suddenly run, yelling—Braveheart style—toward the coyote, my arms windmilling. The dogs lope along after me. The Coyote retreats some, grudgingly. However, the herd of deer I hadn’t noticed before at the back edge of the field starts, and runs for the woods. Imagine a middle-aged woman in her socks and nightclothes running across the field. Of course she’s going to trip. Of course she must then get up and run again so the Coyote doesn’t interpret her fall as the posture of submission. Eventually we reached the edge of the meadow, but I’m not sure we got our message across. When I finally turned back, she was lying casually just beyond the field. I walk back, thinking I might just keep the chickens cooped up today. Thinking about building scarecrows with pinwheel heads and flopping arms to stand watch at the edges of the yard.

Respectable Coyote, I honor your place in the web of life. If not for you and your fellow predators, we would surely be over-run by voles and moles and rats and even cute little bunnies. But can’t you find plenty of those in yonder meadow? Can we agree to respect each other’s territory?

Run in Beauty; Hunt in Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in the balance of nature.

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