A Season of Sun, Song and Flowers
The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."
Early summer is one of my favorite seasons in New Mexico, here in the high desert where I live.
The cactus are blooming, cultivated gardens are beginning to burst forth, and the bees begin their delicious industry in earnest. And I am overly eager to start my courtyard gardens once the front courtyard wall is finished. The new house now has stucco, and I can turn my attention to landscaping, gardening and acquiring a greenhouse. The time to plant in New Mexico comes a bit later in the season, due to the heavy springtime winds.
Along with the absolute joy and beauty of the flowers, are the birds. I've noticed here that they are especially generous with the singing of their songs: distinct, melodious and arresting. Catching the strains of a song, I often stop whatever I am doing in order to savor the sound. In certain Indian or Native American traditions, it is said that, "If you know my song, you know me." I always try to identify the song so that I might know the singer.
Recently I heard a new song. That is, it was a song which was new to me, and I was curious about the type of bird from whence it came. I went outside and surveyed the landscape. Having just moved to this 50 acre property, I am still learning the topography, as I endlessly try to take in the stunning, 360 degree forever views. So, I begin focusing on the tops of nearby trees, in hopes of spotting this magnificent singer.
I follow the music and there he is, perched atop a nearby Juniper. The first thing I notice is his remarkably long, curved bill, which is reminiscent of a black sickle; and his narrow, lengthy tail. His coloring is a warm, medium brown, with touches of gray and rust. Having never seen this Robin-sized bird before, I stand studying his features, enjoying his music and wondering who he is. After a time, he takes flight and I make my way inside to peruse my Audubon Handbook for Western Birds (by John Farrand, Jr.).
Well, this vocal, energetic singer is a Crissal Thrasher. The picture is absolute confirmation, and regarding the song, said to be typical of thrashers the book states, "deliberate whistled notes with much repetition and individual variation." Having heard several concerts since that first sighting, I think it is the individual variation which I find so captivating. This guy sings his heart out and is both lively and creative.
Every year around this time, this season, I am reminded of a lovely verse from the Song of Solomon, and it makes me smile, "The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of the birds is come..."
It is always good to take time to reflect on the various gifts each season brings; and to be thankful. Here in the high desert the beauty is so compelling and the seasons so distinct, it seems as if one cannot help but be profoundly and endlessly grateful. Yet amid one's perennial gratitude there are the realities and challenges of the often very harsh elements.
In a marvelous book, "Gardens of Santa Fe," by Anne Hillerman with photographs by Don Strel, we get a sense of some of the challenges which come with our 7,000 ft. elevation, hot dry summers and frigid, snowy winters. Hillerman writes, "Gardening in Santa Fe is not for sissies, nor for the faint of heart. Creating a garden in Santa Fe's arid, breathtaking landscape often demands the muscle to turn clay and caliche into soil with a million shovels full of compost. It requires fortitude when a twenty-minute hailstorm transforms a summer's worth of blossoms into confetti. It demands persistence..." And on it goes.
I love to hear our neighboring owl as that hauntingly beautiful signature call makes his presence known in the stillness of the night. And yet I am not naive about the necessity to be both vigilant and respectful of this land and its various inhabitants. Unattended, the smallest of our three dogs could easily and devastatingly become of culinary interest to that magnificent bird.
In the vacinity of our property at the top of a mesa, we have a few neighbors; we are about a mile from each other. A couple of weeks ago one neighbor's dog suffered a rattlesnake bite, and another's dog was attacked by a coyote. Both were lucky in the sense that they are recovering. Last week a tarantula found it's way into our hallway and I wasn't very keen to interact with it in my bare feet.
This is the season of intense, sunsplashed days, the songs of many birds, and fragrant, colorful flowers here in the Land of Enchantment. A time to be appreciatively aware of all its many wonders, even as we need to repectfully beware.
Whereever you find yourself, I hope you enjoy the unique gifts of your season. Spend time outside. Listen. Tend to your life and your dreams as if they were a beautiful, cultivated garden. And may the main harvest of your heart be gratitude.
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