I have a T-shirt that reads, "I kayak to burn off the crazy". Ain't that the truth. With all the ugliness that is in the world, I find kayaking, watching wildlife, and just being outside in my garden are ways I get back in touch with what's beautiful and miraculous.
I'm grateful everyday that I live in a place where I can see wildlife just outside my door. The first thing I do every morning is look out my bedroom window to see who's outside. It's as if I find a nourishment in this activity that I can't get any other way. Sometimes I see a group of deer munching on the lowest leaves of an oak tree or a female bluebird with her mate sitting on the fence. Little moments to be sure, but very fulfilling.
Once in a while, I see something unexpected and kinda exciting. Fulfilling as well.
Occasionally I find myself carefully scrutinizing the grass under the poison oak bushes to see how many jackrabbits are hiding there in plain sight. It's part of my ritual.
There is always something to see. Always.
I'm sure I miss interesting things that are right in front of me. When I step outside, I have to remind myself to use all of my senses to discover what's out there. Even if I don't initially see or hear anything, I might still smell the vinegar weed or tar weed when I walk through the grass. Sometimes I don't see the skunk, but I know when he's been in the vicinity. And there are little signs everywhere left by the animals who live here. Ground squirrel and gopher burrows pepper the hillside. One doesn't have to be a talented tracker to see the pathways that are left in the grass by deer, ground squirrels, and voles. Even harvester ants leave pathways as they pick up bits of plant material along their frequently traveled trails.
Under the redbud is a collection of droppings where the Black Phoebe likes to sit and wait for an insect to fly by.
A recently emerged Monarch Butterfly has left an empty chrysalis on the back of a lounge chair. Seeing this type of evidence gives me almost as much pleasure as seeing the animals who left it.
There is still plenty out there that can take me by surprise.
Occasionally, something happens that really causes me to take a step back.
Recently, I was photographing a jackrabbit, quail, and tree squirrels from my deck.
Suddenly, a Red-tailed Hawk took a California Quail right in front of me. It happened so fast and I was so surprised that I didn't even try to photograph it as it happened. After I caught my breathe, I thought that all of the animals I had been photographing were gone. Well, that's no surprise! It must have been a heart-stopping moment for those animals.
But after a few moments, I began to see that most of them were still there, now hunkered down and motionless. They were all making the most of their natural camouflage and had become almost invisible. We all know about these strategies for escaping predators, but to see it so beautifully demonstrated for me was one of those little miracles that happens every day. These are moments that I feel privileged to witness and I'll never forget.
So when I'm outside, even if I think I'm alone, I try to be quiet, inhale, look and listen. I try to replace the crazy of the world with that nourishment that nature provides. It's there if I am open to receive it.
By the way, if you couldn't find the 5th jackrabbit or the two fawns in the pictures above, here's some help.
This is a painting that I did years ago of a doe and her fawn beautifully camouflaged in the trees and brush. I think it demonstrates how easy it is to overlook something that is right in front of you.