The Balance of Nature

Living out in the country has its drawbacks. We are a good 15 minute, 10 mile drive to the nearest grocery store. If we want to go to a movie in the evening, it is even further – nearly 15 miles, and an infuriating drive through the traffic congested streets. Friends don’t just “stop by.” Bicycling to work is possible, but not feasible. Add to that the fact we’ve got animals – three dogs, one cat, five horses. And fences to mend, stalls to clean, a house to maintain, hay to put up…sometimes the lure of town living is strong. 

But then we sit out on our porch on a Sunday afternoon, hearing nothing but the rustle of leaves in the cottonwoods, an occasional airplane, a neighbor’s tractor humming in the distance. We have an unobstructed view of the foothills. On a clear day we can see Pike’s Peak. We can take a three mile walk and never touch pavement. The drivers of the few cars that pass give a friendly wave. The air is clear (except when the wind blows, which it does perhaps all too frequently!) We see Swainson , Redtail and Sparrow Hawks. Peregrine falcons. Bluebirds, hummingbirds, magpies, crows, sparrows, finches, bluejays and meadowlarks. Bald eagles and turkey vultures. We’ve got fox, coyote, raccoons, skunks, rabbits, deer and an occasional mountain lion passes through.

Most of the time we all live in relative harmony and balance. Sure the dogs have had occasional run-ins with the skunks. And we’ve lost a cat to the fox family. And I’m aware that the fox hunts the rabbits and the mice (and sometimes my neighbor’s chickens.) But out here, there seems to be enough space for everyone to exist without encroaching on anyone else’s space.

That is except for the colony of bats that took up residence in our attic. We’ve tried to coexist, but they make a mess and frankly, we’ve had enough. We tried a couple of years ago to put wire netting up where we thought they were getting in. They came back the next year (and brought family, I think) and found new entryways. They leave in the fall and we forget about them. They arrive in the spring and we groan, knowing we’ll have to live with them another summer. We like their mosquito eating tendencies. They are kind of interesting to watch as they leave each evening and swoop around, snatching up bugs.

But we don’t want to share our home with them. So we’ve got a guy coming in today to seal up all but a few entry/exit spots. He’ll create “one-way” doors so they can get out but not back in. He’ll put up a bat house on the back of our hayshed. (I’m not sure how we’ll convince them to move in there – maybe a “no deposit, first month free” deal will entice them?) Hopefully, they’ll decide it is time to head on down to Mexico for the winter, and then find the bat house next spring. (I have visions of fifty angry bats pounding on our windows at dawn tomorrow, screaming for us to let them in.)

I’ll tell them there’s room enough out here for all of us. Just not in our house. 




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The Little Things

Driving on a country road on a Sunday, I noticed a small flock of sparrows in the road ahead of me, picking up seeds that had dropped from the trees lining the road.  As I got closer, the birds flew up into the air. All, except one, who needed to grab one last tasty morsel. I swerved to miss her, but she flew right up under my car. A quick check in the rear view mirror confirmed I had hit her. Now I know most people would feel bad, but drive on. But something made me turn my car around and go check the tiny creature who certainly was lying dead in the road.

As I drove up, I could see her tiny body, seemingly lifeless on the road.  As I approached her, I noticed one small wing spread out as if in flight, the other folded back, her head tilted at a terrible angle. As I picked her up, I was amazed to feel the beating of her heart in my cupped hand. Her eyes were closed, her body limp. And yet her heart beat furiously. So I took her back to my car, expecting to hold her until she died. 

But after a few minutes, a wonderful thing happened. Her eyes opened, and she looked up at me with some bewilderment, turning her head and trying to open her wings in the cocoon of my hand. For a brief moment our eyes locked, and there was some sort of visceral communication between us. I got out of my car and opened my hand and she flew up into the trees, rejoining her flock.

The experience filled me with overwhelming joy and I am thankful that I had listened to the little voice in my head, that child-like voice that begged me to turn around and check on the welfare of a tiny sparrow. The voice that didn’t care that I was running late, that didn’t believe that the bird was dead, that understood that saving the life of one small sparrow was the most important thing I would do that day.  The voice that gave me the gift of holding a beautiful little bird in my hand until it was strong enough to fly, then opening my hand a watching it fly, on wings that were steady and sure.

It made we wonder how many times I’ve quieted my inner child. The one who wants to wander through fields, studying the insects and birds, the rabbits and the foxes. The child who wants to exist in a less structured world; to slow down the pace, take the time to really see, really hear, really live.  I think I quiet that child all too often, and therefore miss what is really important. I am too often “going” to something, and too infrequently “being.”

 In painting, that translates to worrying about the outcome; painting for "a show" or painting what I think people want, instead of painting what my heart tells me to paint. The paintings I am exhibiting in the show, "The Muse Unleashed" which opens this Friday, June 1st at Timeless Creations  are paintings from the heart. Painted in the here and now.

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