The Inspiring Distraction of Nature

It’s surprisingly hard to write while sitting outside. Nature is inspiring, but it’s also distracting. No sooner do I begin to compose a coherent thought when the sudden waggling of a tomatillo plant indicates the woodchuck has stopped by for a snack. A flash of orange and black among the zinnias tells me the monarchs are here, looking for their daily allotment of nectar and pollen. A loud buzz and a quick series of “cheeps” is a sure sign that the hummingbird is working the jewelweed and the sunflowers and is not too happy that Athena is watching. Or is she? No, she’s not really into it at the moment…

Then there is the sky… On days like today, the sky is active and full of stored energy, just waiting to let it go when it feels ready. Warm breezes carry the cottony cumulus over the yard and beyond the trees; they seem to be on a mission. Above the clouds, the sky is a powdery grey-blue, a bright but hazy melange of water vapor and dust particles that may coalesce at any moment into a towering cumulonimbus that produces a rip-roaring thunderstorm… or not.

A small plane comes into view over the trees, it’s engine changing pitch as it circles the neighborhood. Another warm breeze brings the sound of the late-summer cicadas, their whirring buzz rising and falling in intensity. Who can concentrate with all this going on?

It is, of course, all worth the distraction. When the words don’t come, you can just sit back and take it all in, soaking Nature up in all its distracting glory like a thirsty sponge. It’s really amazing that there’s so much going on in what is usually just a distant backdrop to our lives. And when we do want to bring this backdrop closer for our inspection, we feel that we need to create artificial enticements in order to experience this connection. Not true!

For example, we have, in the past, fed the birds from various feeders throughout the year. Not just winter, but through the summer, too, so that we could enjoy their beauty and intriguing behaviors. Turns out, there’s no need to purchase expensive bird feed and put up feeders (only to watch helplessly as squirrels and raccoons and chipmunks make off with the precious loot, destroying the feeders in the process). Just plant a variety of flowers and let native plants have their way. That’s all there is to it!

This year we planted a large area along the back fence with various flower seeds–a sunflower mix, marigolds, zinnias, borage, lemon grass, and chamomile. Everything sprouted and grew with vigor except the lemon grass, and perhaps that’s not such a big loss. The chamomile did surprisingly well (I’ve tried it before with little success), but it was quickly overshadowed by the other larger flowers. Besides adding beautiful color to the backyard, all summer these flowers have attracted butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds in search of nectar and pollen. Now that most of the flowers are going to seed, the cardinals and the goldfinches spend hours there every day. I’m hoping to collect some of those seeds, myself, but there certainly seems to be enough for everyone. Of course, with an abundance of greenery around, you often get the occasional uninvited guest…I did take some time yesterday to collect a few seeds. Some of the zinnias and marigolds have finished blooming and are ready for harvest. Then there are these yellow aster-like flowers that I bought last year but can’t remember what they’re called… they reseeded themselves and did pretty well this year.

I really want to cut some sunflower heads, but I don’t think the seeds are quite ready yet, even though the birds and squirrels seem to be going ahead. Sunflowers are a new thing for us; seed collection (and next spring’s planting) may be successful, or it may not. Either way, we’re learning.

It’s all an experiment, though… our gardening motto is “go ahead and try it… see what happens.” There’s always next year. 🌸


A Not-So-Quiet Interlude

August 30, 2017 – Somewhere off in the distance, a squirrel is annoyed. The cardinals are not too happy, either. Sipping my coffee, I listen to their sounds of displeasure… the squirrel with its clacking and wheezing, and the cardinals with their sharp, quick chipping. Normally, this time of day is reserved for crickets and cicadas. What has set off the alarm this morning? It could be our visiting cat, Athena, patrolling her territory. 

Or, it could be a passing hawk. We’ve seen Cooper’s and red-tails many times. Most likely, I’ll never know. The woods are still thick with greenery this time of year, and much of what happens there is hidden from my view.

I have only the sounds to hint at what may be taking place. These events don’t last long, though. Soon, the cat will move on or the hawk will fly off, and it will be all crickets and cicadas again.