Friday, February 24, 2006

Time Passages

Some people mark passing time by calendar, work or school schedules. I mark time passing and season change by what animals I see/hear and what plants I find. Take Spring--we've had some wonderful days of heat and clear skies, but from what the animals say, spring is still on the way.

Cedar Waxwings are a dead give away for the end of winter--for me. I know they come in sometime early winter time but I usually don't spot them until quite late in their stay. I first hear their high pitched 'weeeeee weeeee' before I see them. Finally I spot their mini flocks and am satisfied that we are now better off than before because the waxwings are patrolling the area. You rarely see one alone; usually they travel in 10s or 15s, sometimes double that. I call their recon groups 'pods' as they remind me of the Jetson's and how they travelled in their little pod ships.

Robins used to come through fairly often before the neighborhood was developed. There would be 50 drinking from the pool next door and then they would fly across the street to forage in the neighbor's pristine golf course grass. Long ago Juncos even visited but haven't returned since.

Driving towards Wildlife Rescue, I marked off a mile so that I could run and know how far I'd gone. I came upon the most wondrous sight--a huge flock of wild turkey!!! They all began to move away from the road when I approached (I honestly thought it was a vulture reunion!) and as I slowed, I roughly counted about 60. They all walked then gathered speed and flew over the pasture fence away from me. There is nothing like the sight of 60 large birds taking flight (however short). They landed beyond the fence and scooted down into a dry creek bed ravine. I paused and remembered to breathe--grace.

Parking under the oak tree at the sanctuary, I ventured into the rock building and heard the waxwings above in the sleeping hackberry tree---ahhh, there they are. I have been wondering where they've been here at the house and thought since the winter has been so mild, maybe they decided to stay home in the north. But no, a nice sized flock of 40 or so were in the branches above.

Only last week I had the front door open and heard robins in the neighborhood. They've also been obviously absent, even in the treeline behind the house. But alas, a few scattered through letting me know that yes, it does feel spring like but winter's not giving up quite yet.

It is February, the time of wild anemones and lavendar violets. Of sprouting sunflower seedlings and others I can just guess at. Of awakening day lilies and iris. And migrating skunks looking to continue the lineage no matter the travel or sacrifice.

I noted on my 45 minute drive to the sanctuary there were an uncommon number of dead skunks on the side of the roadway. Unusual as these critters somehow avoid the ultimate result of living near a highway. Come to find out, February and early March are the mating seasons for these little jewels and it's the males that are killed looking to procreate. I am saddened for them--if people knew more about what a skunk's job is in the lifetime, I believe they would be more empathetic. Same goes for possums, foxes, coyotes, and raccoons. Ahh, but I digress.

The brown rabbit was given to the sanctuary because whomever owned him could no long keep him. His story is vague as are many of the stories of the animals that pass through the clinic. His hind end is paralyzed and he gets around rather well by his front legs. He has superior upper body strength.

I reached down to him on his pallet and my hands touched a softness that surprised--some described his fur as silk, maybe satin, but I thought both were far too rough compared to what I felt. Like water running over fingertips; like a newborn's skin; like a lover's eyelid.... ever so wonderful... addictive....

I massaged him from neck to frozen back legs--no one had even thought to do this. He laid so very still and was so very muscular. After the massage, I scratched from whiskers to tail--I can't imagine going through life with no back scratch!!! I asked if I could visit the others in the clinic and take him with me and I was told sure. So we went on our own field trip outside. As soon as we walked out the back door, his nose went on overdrive and his ears perked. We visited the little orphaned lamb and her new friend Axis fawn. Neither of them knew what to do with Brown Rabbit as he cruised their home. From their point of view, we had nothing of nutritional value to offer so we were in fact, invisible to them. That didn't stop me from stealing nose kisses from them both before Brown Rabbit and I departed.

I set him down near the small white rabbit grazing on the lawn. At first, neither outwardly acknowledged one another, then the white bunny came over to Brown Rabbit and they greeted each other. Then the little white one hopped straight up in the air, circled Brown Rabbit, then paused. Brown Rabbit lifted himself on his front legs and turned in a circle following the white one. Oh it was quite the moment. White bunny hopped away and Brown Rabbit began to explore in earnest. At one point we both heard the 'skree' of a hawk far away and he froze. Ahh--instinct.

We toured the outside area fairly well for almost an hour and when it was time to go in, Brown Rabbit was visibly unexcited. I put him back on his pallet where fresh alfalfa waited. He quickly lost interest in me and began to eat.

I was able to greet some of the newest residents of the clinic--tiny squirrels and possums, eyes not even open yet. Baby season has begun. I must make the time to help out--prioritize.