Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Critters now and then

At a pet store recently I saw some wonderful small lizards (maximum growth length was 9 inches) that responded to human voices. I guess Pavlov's theory is true; I think the lizards were hungry and they knew that humans provided the food. They leapt up from their normal reclining positions and began clawing at the glass front of the cage. My natural instinct was to call someone to feed them.

I also saw some gorgeous Gouldian Finches - red heads with bright blue, yellow and green bodies. Even the more muted colors of the females was beautiful. They were expensive and I don't particularly like taking care of birds; so we didn't really consider buying them. When I came home, I checked the internet to find out more about the birds; they are an endangered species in Australia. I hope the birds we saw were not illegally imported but were raised in the USA. The internet also said that the birds required a lot of care and special living conditions such as constant temperature and humidity. I'm thankful we didn't consider buying them, but they were truly beautiful creatures.

I think I just love critters...possibly as much as I love people. Soft cuddly critters are my favorites, but the elegance of horses and the marvelous fur of certain cattle delight my senses. I certainly wouldn't consider cuddling such larger critters. The lizards around our place fascinate me, and they love our fountain. We have several sleek red-winged black birds that come to our feeders and some woodpeckers that are so cocky and agile.

Yesterday we went for a boat ride and cruised some of the osprey nests along the river; we were rewarded with glimpses of baby birds in a couple of the nests. What fun to watch the parents feeding the babies and flapping wings to keep them down as we approached. The babies are large enough now to rebel against Mama's wing-flapping; so they poked their heads up to see what was going on. They'll be flying before long, and I will be delighted to watch the ones across the creek as they mature and finally leave this nest.

All these thoughts bring back good memories of living on the farm in Mississippi, where I was allowed to go to the woods alone. The sounds of the cottonwood leaves rustling in the wind were my lullaby. I brought home chunks of fungi that grew on dead trees and arranged them with colorful leaves or bright green weeds. I picked dewberries that grew along the garden fence and ate them before I got back to the house. I watched bobcat kits playing in front of the den by the river. And, I learned about the various snakes that lived in our woods - which ones I could simply step over and which ones to avoid. I picked up the shed skins of bugs and snakes and anything that was different and interesting. In the clearing behind the house, I gathered pecans - the little ones that are so sweet but so hard to crack.

I've even written poetry about the cotton blooms in the field next to the house. And, I sang "Secret Love" from the top of the walnut tree in our front yard, pretending I was a popular country music star. I planted magnolia seed at the edge of the house and watched as they grew into seedlings; now they are huge magnolias in the yards where our families lived. I divided my red amaryllis so many times that it lined the entire front yard. I avoided the day lilies growing in the ditch by the road. Water often stood in that ditch, and I was afraid of the snakes that might be there.

I was alone much of the time as a youngster on the farm. Now, as I am retired, I cherish my solitude as much as I enjoy my friends and partner.

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