HOUSE RULES by Susan Wingate
A chickadee just landed on our stainless steel barbecue out back on the porch where I have placed a bowl of mixed seeds for finches and other songbirds. I can only imagine, from here, the sound of its feet as they tap across the metal. We feed the animals that traverse our property where we live, here on our tiny island in the Pacific Northwest.
Today, we have gusting winds, up to fifty miles per hour, making thick linty clouds scud by in a constant show called The Elements. A small yearling fawn just walked across my view looking for oats and deer pellets and acting a bit annoyed that he hasn’t found anymore from this morning… he showed up then too. His soft ashy brown coat looks lumpy where his new thicker fur has begun to grow in.
The days got cold fast this season. Forecasters have threatened the worst winter since the 1950s. I’m not looking forward to that. I fear one of the does, one who looks like she got hit by a car, might not fair well in a harsh winter. But, I watch out for her and run out with a bowl of food and an apple (her favorite treat) whenever she shows up.
A black fox waits around in the woods somewhere, hiding under fallen trees, downed branches and thick coverings made from leaves and pine needles, moss and dirt.
We only have one house rule here: No One Goes Hungry.
Of course, because we feed wildlife means we have the usual criminals, thieving crows and starlings, vandalizing raccoons (last count we had about twenty), and a stray dog or cat who break-and-enter every once in a while.
I even saw an otter once swimming in our pond. Just its head, that’s all I could see but I watched him dog-paddle his way from the road side of the water over toward the field side, where another home sits off in the distance about one-third of a mile away.
A few years back, on that same pond, I got to watch another kind of show, one from which I wrote my award-winning poem, “The Fisherman, the Eagle and Jesus.” The temperatures had dropped into the mid-twenties and the pond had a thick layer of ice covering it. An eagle suddenly landed on it and must’ve seen a fish just under the frozen water because it began to snap at the ice but seeing it a futile effort began to chase the thing around. It looked like an eagle ice skating. A magical sight. Its mate came to the rescue and their offspring followed, a mottled young bald, maybe a year old, its head hadn’t turned white yet. Then, a guest showed up as well, a silly black mink undulating its way out onto the frozen pond. It stopped short when it ambled too close to the family of bald eagles. It turned on its heels and scurried away after realizing its error.
So, as I sit here, I’m amazed to think I live in this haven of wildlife, pristine air and bucolic land. After thirty-nine years of life in Phoenix, life up here feels dreamy as I watch Robert, our pup, looking out the French door tracking the chickadee while it hops around the back porch finding food and nibbling on bits of millet.
Y’all be sure & check out Susan’s new book. EASY AS PIE is the second in the Bobby’s Diner series.