Out for a walk with toddler grandson, I hear tapping in a tree. I walk around it until I spot a woodpecker high on a branch. I pick Edward up and point out the bird. We both stare until it finishes its lunch and flies away. The scene comes to mind as I’m watching “Nature” and hear the Himalayas described as “a place to see the power of nature and the fragility of life.” So is our suburban neighborhood.
In the Himalayas, a snow leopard stalks and chases a markhor goat. Right under my front window, a cat battles a black snake. They freeze and stare at each other. When the snake finally makes a move, the cat pounces. The snake slithers up the wall, drops, tries to hide under the wood siding, is batted out by the cat. They spar for a good half hour until both give up and wander away. In that same front yard, a crane has stalked a lizard in the mondo grass, and flocks of ibis stroll through occasionally, nibbling at the lawn. Down by the library, an alligator lives in a drainage ditch.
As Edward and I kick a ball back and forth, sparrows begin to peep in the oaks and dash from branch to branch. A mockingbird calls and glides to another tree. I wonder what the fuss is about. Then comes the indescribable whistling “scree” of a hawk, and there it is, wheeling in its self-assured way high above the houses. One of them glided into our back yard when it saw a snake entangled in netting that I wrapped around a fig tree to keep squirrels away. I saw it from the kitchen window, hopping forward to snap at the snake, but pulling back as the netting tangled its talons. By the time it gave up, it had made a long gash in the side of the snake. Some little birds, diving and chirping, drove it away. The snake had pulled the netting so tight, I couldn’t work a blade in to cut it loose. I saw the eyes lose their light.
The nature program shows people erecting an enormous flag-bedecked pole that is supposed to convey their prayers to the mountain top where their gods reside. Mine goes with me all the time. He shows His character in great oaks that grow from acorns, in the smooth bark of crape myrtles, in fluorescent fuchsia ti leaves and the exotic yellow-flowered shrub that my South American neighbor says can help regulate diabetes. This created world has neighbors who smile and garbage truck drivers who honk the horn and collectors who wave to my grandson and make him feel like the center of the universe. And I get to stand there with him.