It was so quiet on my canyon run this morning that the wing thrusts of the resident courting ravens’ wings actually echoed as they dove. I heard each one distinctly twice. Always a good sign when it comes to emotional health — theirs and mine.
Watching the ravens and listening now to the also-echoing, also-passionately-in-love doves, I scanned the horizon, and indeed surveying all that I’ll vainly call “mine” from atop the impressive, hundreds-of-miles-across vista provided by the uppermost plateau the Funky Butte Ranch’s black diamond driveway (this is where the chairlift should let off), it was easy to choose, mindset-wise “Another post-Anasazi neo-Rugged Individualist in sync with the Cosmos” over, say, “So much neighbor feud evidence.” Both focal choices were options in every direction.
It helps what Bertie Wooster would call The Overall Outlook that this is still, though only just, the time of year in the high Land of Enchantment desert when I’m glad to see the sun is already up. There are still a couple of hours before non-optional siesta. Jogging back down to the morning goat-milking, the first light over the butte didn’t so much end nighttime as reveal land that operates (as every New Mexican knows) according to its own physics.
The conclusion I draw after a similar lesson pretty much every day for a thousand days in a row (sublesson: for the nineteenth Millennium in a row, nature once again provides a human the ultimate light show — today’s episode is spring light filtered trough new walnut and peach tree foliage) is that I prefer life not with no one whispering in my ear, just with hummingbirds and child song rather than, say, car alarms and ambulances doing the notifying. Or late night reality reruns.
Speaking of late night, the last sound I heard under strong evidence of intergalactic intelligence (lotta stars visible, is what I’m saying) yesterday was the Funky Butte Ranch great horned owls. They were likely nesting here above this ranch before people were. Or at least since the Anasazi honed the chert and obsidian tools whose flakes I’m always finding everywhere. My computer told me that successive generations of the long-lived species will occupy the same nest. This year’s chicks (there are two) are the great-great-great grandchildren of the batch from my first carnage-filled year. In fact, owl nest-clearing is quite the annual rite: I’ve seen terrified-then-soaring fledgling flying lessons every spring since I’ve lived on the Funky Butte Ranch.
I love being the interspecies newcomer. You can see the lifestyle sigh in the studiously scanning Strigidae eyes as I and my toddlers march loudly down to milk the goats every morning. In their day there was no singing. Just swooping. ‘Least the two-leggeds draw the squirrels to the front doorstep.
“Thank you for keeping the (garden-eating) ground squirrels in check,” we tell them whenever we think of it. Their Funky Butte cliff nest arches over the garden and orchard like the upper deck pub at a modern sports arena. Their hoots echo even on high wind days. It’s a major component in the rhythm section of the spring Funky Butte soundtrack.
Other than choosing to fence the obvious garden spot seven years ago (and thus turning sand to worm-crawling dank soil via goat poop), I don’t feed ‘em. The owls. They could live anywhere. But on my annual climb to their nest with my kids to say hi to this year’s family while, for homeschool biology class, collecting squirrel-bone-filled pellets (my oldest carried a magnifying glass), I was palpably appreciating a new facet of the blessing of this other family in what you might call our ground/air duplex. It was a reason beyond even their free, fairly comprehensive anti-rodent patrol (my neighbors have stuffed replicas perched on their garden gates, this being the desert version of the scarecrow). It was the fact that we have without fail got along since the moment of our arrival, when I had one and they six fewer rings on the generational family tree. These birds show that I can actually consistently coexist peacefully and even affectionately with any neighbors at all.
It’s thus all the more of a compliment that their home is so physically close to mine because with their vision and hearing (again, thanks Internet) we’re not just sharing a duplex. We’re sharing one with thin walls. I can see them from the porch, from the goat milkstand, from the second floor of my kids’ playhouse. They no doubt know my entire schedule. Even my outdoor clothes chest and bathing habits.
The larger lesson, what you might call the perfection-of-the-universe-when-we-just-listen lesson, has been the oft-repeated theme this spring. In fact, it was while I was appreciating the Duplex Harmony blessing that a new sense was serenaded (another good sign: appreciation overlap): I smelled the season’s final plum blossoms wafting ineffably through the air. What a heart enriching, heaven-confirming miracle it is to watch a fruit tree fuzzily budding. I realized with (if possible) even further joy that this fall I might start seeing the payoff of six years of orchard work. And with about two weeks to go until last average final frost, the blossoms have come and gone on apricot, peach and plum and I’m fairly delighted to report that all look solid – they look like trees! Hooray, human thinking ahead.
Below the owl’s nest, I nudged the kids quickly through the early spring wildflowers and arrow-ready willow because all this joy and revelation had spurred a number (a growing number) of thoughts in my leaky, outside-aerated mind that I wanted to jot down. Sigh. Tough working life. In and out I go, to finish a book revision or a magazine article. Life, as a rancher, father and writer, is really about harnessing the absentminded professor . Working in both R&D and marketing. Here are some of the thoughts I managed to get down:
–The cottonwoods are leafing out visibly by the day. Like a minutehand.
–This the time of year when I’m still happy the sun’s already up. My lips get just the right amount toasted during milking. The seasons mean a lot here on the Funky Butte Ranch.
–My son, with impressive retention, asks of every tree, plant, herb, and wildflower, “What will it give us?” The next time he sees, say, a globe mallow, he tells the world, “It will give us orange flowers and ear medicine! Thank you globe mallow!”
–Wow. Just noticed I’ve stopped caring about the breakdown of the back-up electric heater. Sun’s doing the job! Solar breadbox heater‘s totally providing all conceivably needed blazing H20. Must call plumber to at least listen to his estimate one of these days.
–(Note: this is the thought that caused me to rush down from the owl’s nest to jot down thoughts before forgetting them): There are your big picture/long term thinkers alongside your short term/this Saturday night thinkers. But, vitally, there are both kind-hearted spirits and mechanics in both. (Another gift of fruit trees: the comforting awareness that for some, it’s possible to have a rough first 300 years and still turn out all right.)
–Here’s my concern with social media as they exist today, or at least as multiple friends have explained their participation: it is used car salesmanship. It is using people you call friends to sell things. Acting like real friends, but really being salespeople – for a widget or idea of our own, or for the widget or idea of someone you’re trying to help perhaps because they’ve similarly helped you go viral. Is that how we want our relationships? Oh, by the way, here are my Twitter and Facebook fan page links.
–I realize I’m not checkin’ the weather in advance of a coming river trip. No point being lulled. A healthy “expect the best, prepare for other than that” philosophy seems to usually work. Hope the water is high, though. A river trip without getting in the boat is like a honeymoon without intimacy.
And I had one other thought that I forgot. Something about how perfect the universe is. About being conscious in it seeming preferable to not. The whole morning left with me with of my favorite “Everything is Possible, and It Will Be Right” sensations. This can be encapsulated as the “the Big Bang happened, and everything since is not just literally interconnected but up in the air” theory of existence. It’d be fun to ask for a doctor’s recommendation to access that.