THE LIVING AND THE DEAD

Here are some things I’ve noticed about Tucson.

One is that I live in a wildlife park!

There’s a Cooper’s hawk, for example, that takes its kill to this one beat-up branch of the juniper in the front yard. I glanced that way the other day and there’s a total bird corpse with the tail feathers spread that I cannot bring myself to dislodge. I’m hoping it just disintegrates up there.

That was after reading an article somewhere in which the writer noted that zillions of birds die each year but that we don’t generally see them, either because they crawl into a bush to die, or something eats them right away, or they’re so light that they decompose quickly.

The very next day I unlocked my front gate as I do each morning and a dead bird was lying smack in front of it. A few weeks before I’d already found another dead bird in the side ramada.

So there’s that. Then the other day I spotted a Gila woodpecker, a bird the size of a pigeon, clamped onto and slurping away at the hummingbird feeder. Which is kind of like coming upon a high school linebacker drinking from a baby bottle.

Later in the day I heard this weird tapping/rustling sound coming from the kitchen and thought “Oh my God, is there a freaking mouse in the sink?” So I tiptoed out and after a while figured out that another (or the same, hyped on sugar) Gila woodpecker was on the other side of the kitchen window, viciously pecking at the main post of the ramada, hammering away and then craning its neck in the most fascinating way to angle its beak into the hole.

An armada of varmint squirrels keeps coming up onto the back porch and shoveling potting soil from my plants every which way.

I recently swept up a dead baby lizard on the front patio.

The place at night is…swarming might be too strong a word, but let’s say the moths make themselves at home. As do mosquitoes, small fly-like creatures, and any other number of minute zooming winged insects.

A corollary phenomenon: What with the general desert landscape and color palette, many many objects lying on or by the street could be dead animals–or they could be rocks, twigs, branches, palm tree refuse, or clods of dirt, mud or dust. So walking down the street, I’m sort of constantly jumping back or skipping a heartbeat or going “EEeeeek!” only to find that I’ve been frightened half out of my wits by a dessicated cactus pad.

Although the other day I was ambling down the sidewalk and briefly thought, “Why that looks like a dead squirrel up ahead, ha ha,” and when I came abreast it really was a dead squirrel. Though thankfully it had been dead for quite some time and was well ready to be made into a hat for Daniel Boone.

Also, this has happened many times, I’ll be wandering around the house and bend down to pick up what I think is a crumb or cracker fragment or squashed raisin and just as I’m about to pick it up, the thing moves!

For God’s sake, what am I, on safari? I wondered the other night.

Anyway, never a dull moment. I enjoy living so close to “nature” and look forward to many more adventures–with the living and the dead.

11 Replies to “THE LIVING AND THE DEAD”

  1. Joyce Bock says: Reply

    What an enjoyable column, even if it was about dedicated things.😁 Isn’t it heavenly to slow down and see, really see the creatures we share this world with. Although I try not to look right at spiders, whether dead or living. I am 75 ( how can this be) and retired. I used to whiz past everything on my way to somewhere “important.” Now I live in awe of the actually important things.
    I’ll bet you have Already read many years ago the Annie Dillard piece “Living like weasels.” It reminds me of what you wrote. And, Annie Dillard is a convert too. I am a convert as well but it occurred 57 years ago. What does that make me? A soon to be dedicated convert. Har har.
    Blessings, Joyce

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thank you so much, Joyce, your comment came through fine–(I have the settings I can review the comments first as once in a while I get a hater). Yes, it is one of the fringe beneifts of age–it does slow us down a bit and also restores some of the childlike wonder we may have lost along the way…Funny, I just bought a used copy of Three by Annie Dillard (An American Childhood, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and The Writing Life), which I haven’t read in years…I will check out “Living Like Weasels” which may or may not be in the book I just bought but I’ll find it. I didn’t know that she’s a convert, though given the natural world wonders that she celebrates in her writing, I’m not surprised…Anyway, right, soon enough we’ll be like that squirrel…in the meantime, here’s to life in all its fullness!

      1. Philippe Garmy says: Reply

        And I thought you were about to pull a Stephen King on us all!

        1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

          Ha oh no, I would never impose that on my beloved readers, Philippe…:)

  2. Stephen Sparrow says: Reply

    Funny Heather. Yes every living organism eats some other critter to survive. I read many years ago that American Robins can potentially reproduce at a rate of 700% p. a. and if they kept this up for twelve seasons without any mortality there would be more than twenty million flying around. Fortunately in stable critter populations the birth rate equals the death rate. Starvation usually levels things out.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Right-o!

  3. Expedition to the Pole is her experience of the Eucharist.

  4. Joyce Bock says: Reply

    They are both in Teaching a Stone To Talk

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Okay, Joyce, also good to know, thank you–

  5. Heather, if you put a moth ball in each one of your potted plants (just lay one on top of the soil), the squirrels will leave the soil alone. It won’t harm the plants as long as you just use one.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh fantastic, good to know, thank you! Cause those squirrels are starting to be a problem!

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