Wish I'd Said It

Weeds are flowers too - once you get to know them.

- A. A. Milne

Thursday, December 08, 2011

An Evening On The Deck & Another Thing (#242)

We’re deep into the first week of December and evening’s curtain descends early. The clocks went back a few weeks ago and it’s only a few sleeps ‘til the longest night. It’s cloudy, so full dark will arrive by 5:00.

It’s 3:30 and I’m standing on the back deck, surveying my yard, camera within arm’s reach. The feeders are full and seed has been spread on the ground, on the pillars of the deck, and upon various flat surfaces within the yard. It’s breezy and verging on pretty-darn-cold-ish, about 2C (35F). I have my warmest sweatshirt on – a thick, black, hooded beastie that zips up the middle. It’s layered over a regular sweatshirt which tops a t-shirt. Blue jeans (over jockeys if you must know) adorn my lower unit. My feet are in semi-warm socks and your garden variety house slippers. I have a baseball cap on, backwards, so I can angle the camera vertically without the bill of the cap interfering. I realize the slippers are a weak point. But for now, I am comfortable.

I sip a fortified beverage and await visitors.

As does Ben, the Jack Russell Terror.

Which, I’m sure you’ll understand, limits the visitors to those whom Ben tolerates. Generally speaking, if they sport wings, he tolerates them. (Unless he’s only had one walk that day and there’s no squirrels around. On those relatively rare occasions, he may chase anything -- while doing his best to convince himself and any appreciative human onlookers, how that mourning dove might possibly, kinda, if the sun was in your eyes just so, have looked a little like it could have been a squirrel.)

Most afternoons my favourite wee birds, the chickadees, are the first to arrive. If the blue jays are in the hood, they’ll swoop down right away as well. They want those peanuts before those dang squirrels get ‘em.

There are four of those dang squirrels, all of whom are black. Having watched the family throughout the spring and summer, we refer to them as Mom and One/Two/Three Of The Triplets. Normally, at any given time, one or all of them are scouting the yard for goodies, whilst keeping a wary eye/ear out for Ben.

It is these interlopers for whom Ben has sworn eternal enmity. Luckily for the squirrels - for all of us, really - Ben is quite un-terrier-like when actually in a position to do damage. I’ve seen him catch a squirrel. Twice. Each time, he took a half-hearted nip of squirrel tail and stopped – waiting for his prey to regain its equilibrium and the chase to re-begin.

Wise Momma Squirrel had Ben figured early, of course. She knew exactly how high he could jump and stayed just out of reach. (Why did the words, “how like a woman” just leap into my head?) In any event, her progeny, though not so self-assured as Momma, soon learned Ben’s moves and reacted (or not) accordingly.

Tonight there are no chickadees or jays. But I’m thrilled with a couple of visits by a female Downy woodpecker to a suet basket hanging within decent range of my zoom lens. During two visits to the suet, totaling perhaps three minutes, I shoot nearly 100 frames. (You’ll likely see the best of the results on my photo blog one of these months.)

By the time the Downy leaves the second time, darkness is enfolding the yard. I shoo Ben inside and he doesn't argue much. It's getting cold for real. I re-fortify my beverage and return to the deck.

The squirrels, two of them, are enjoying Ben’s absence. As usual, they take no notice of me. The clumsy Two-Legs-Who-Brings-Food is no cause for alarm.

Full dark in a few.

The sparrows arrive in a noisy conglomeration, 25 strong. And leave in a flurry, after a quick nosh.

The usual latecomers, the juncos and mourning doves, arrive next. It’s too dark to photograph critters and has been for several minutes. I put the camera in the house and fend off Ben’s half-hearted attempt to follow, before heading back outside for a few more moments.

Clouds mottled with magenta and purple drift over the western horizon. The temperature has plummeted with the light, and darn-near as dramatically. I realize I can’t feel my toes. Darn stupid old age and stupider post-stupid-heart-attack circulation! 10 years ago, it would’ve taken another hour or two and standing knee-deep in river water before I numbed out.

A soft tik-tik in the near-dark of the cedar hedge heralds the arrival of the latest visitors to Chez Baron. So, I postpone my departure for a bit, rocking side-to-side and trying to flex my toes. A male and female cardinal are always the last to arrive. I can just barely make out their silhouettes along the fence.

But it’s too-soon fully dark and I’m too-soon cold to the bone, despite the fortifying beverages. I’m grateful for the warmth my house offers. And grateful that I could watch Ben squabble with the squirrels and the birds gather to feed and a sunset that kissed the sky goodnight with passionate colour.

I remind myself that winter doesn’t last forever. And that a guy in longjohns and a snowmobile suit can stay pretty darn toasty for hours without moving a heck of a lot.

C’mon winter. I’m ready.


                                                          The Other Thing

I did something that kind of surprised me last week. I started a message board.

“What the heck is a message board, Frank?” some of you ask.

Well, it’s like Facebook. Ish. Only older-tech. Sorta’. It’s a place on the interweb where folks can have a leisurely conversation with each other, or post a joke or cartoon or link to something they find interesting.

Anyway, initially I thought I’d start one that was mostly of interest to writers. Because writing is a major interest of mine.

But so, I realized, is photography and the outdoors and fishing and music and art and philosophizing and opining about various subjects. So, whether or not you have an interest in writing, I hope you’ll take a peek and consider joining. All you need do is invent a user name and a password. Then post a howdy-do in the Introductions area (or anywhere) and before you know it, you’ll be message-boarding!

Drop me a line if you have any questions or difficulties.

The board is called Writer’s Nest and you can find it here: http://bwritersnest.runboard.com/

Hope to see a few old friends, make a few new ones, and get to know some of you a lot better.


Anvilcloud said...

Great description. You're a fine writer.

Linda at To Behold The Beauty said...

You really do have a gift for the written word, Frank. You have managed to paint a picture with words that rivals some you "paint" with your camera.

Reena said...

So enjoy reading you ... you need to post MORE! Love the phrase "a sunset that kissed the sky goodnight with passionate colour."

Tabor said...

I find in the early winter I start to use the heavier downy wear. It is hard for me to return inside...no fortified drinks as I have enough difficulty walking and photographing!

messymimi said...

You make even the cold sound worth tolerating to this child of southern warmth.

Love your writing.

ellen abbott said...

I love stories be they words or pictures and you tell both kind pretty good.

Frank Baron said...

- Thanks, AC.

- Glad you enjoyed, Linda. Thanks for the compliment.

- Thank you, mm. You're very kind.

- Tabor, I'm saving the heavier clothing for Jan/Feb when it's REALLY cold.

- Thank you, mimi.

- Thanks, Ellen.

Thanks to all for taking the time. This was a long post and a test of readers' mettle. :)

Leah J. Utas said...

Terrific words, Frank. I felt I was right there with you.

Anonymous said...

Just what I needed- another way to NOT get projects done. I manage to stay away from the AW Cooler, and here you come with another fun message board. Thanks Frank. Love the post about the birds though I'm not a fan of winter. Of course, you, living in Canada have a longer, colder winter, so I guess you've had time to learn to like it. :)~Nita

Frank Baron said...

Thanks, Leah. You manipulate the alphabet pretty darn well yourself.

Nita, we sure learn how to survive it. Liking winter is a stretch for some -- but yeah, not me. Winter has much to offer.

Thanks for the visits. :)

Hilary said...

This sure was a lovely account of your evening(s) on the back deck. If it weren't for winter, I'd be there with you. Instead, on this particular night, I was out shopping, noticing that very same sunset and hoping you were snapping photos. It turns out that the photos weren't necessary. No snapshot can rival how beautifully you described the evening.

Dianne said...

this is a love letter to nature, to a autumn evening
so lovely

and of course I am always pleased to hear about Ben

Cay Sehnert said...

Late to the party as often, I add amen to all of the above. Very nicely done.

Frank Baron said...

- Thanks, Hil. You're very nearly too kind. ;)

- Glad you liked, Dianne.

- Thank, Cay. About time you got yourself one of these blog things....

Reb said...

Oh, I felt like I was right there with you...my feet even got cold! That sunset was wonderful though :)

Frank Baron said...

Reb, next time let's both wear warmer footwear. ;)

Midlife Roadtripper said...

We have made it to the solstice this night. Tomorrow, a few more minutes of daylight. Means I will begin to watch the sun retreat back across the top of the lake - back to its summer highway.

I think I like that route best.

Bruce Robinson said...

Man! I must have missed the post where you promised payment for syrupy comments. I was probably cutting the grass.

Thanks for the board (I think). Having "shiny object syndrome", as described in the only book on fishing worth owning, I am all signed up.

Merry Christmas to you and all of those who see this message, and may the new year bring you joy and happiness exceeding your wildest dreams and expectations.

Frank Baron said...

MJ, that's the route I prefer as well.

Bruce, the board is evolving as we speak. The more the merrier. :)