Return to Little Piney
After being away for a month, I was happy to be heading home to Little Piney, and anxious to see what the 100+ temperatures and scarce rain had wrought. As I pulled up to the house in hot mid-afternoon, Little Piney was silent and still except for three squawking crows. The feeders were empty and abandoned. The grass–waist high and green in July– shone silver and had fallen leaving the fields looking dry and weedy. The fields were not as scorched as I feared, but the grass around the house was crisp and brown. In spite of the watering bags I placed around each little tree planted in the spring, I lost most of them.
It was early evening before I was free to take a slow walk around and say a proper hello to Little Piney. Near the house I heard tiny peeps from small morning glory-cloaked trees . With a closer look I spied three hummingbirds darting in and out of the leaves. I was happy to see them! By breakfast next day, the hummers were draining the porch feeder as if we had never been gone.
As I walked back toward the lake, I began to hear familiar bird calls and songs–woodpeckers, vireos, pine warblers, cardinals and a few new ones, yet unidentified. A curious young mockingbird watched me from a perch near the road. A calling red-shouldered hawk lit on a bare branch and was soon joined by her mate.
On the other side of the trail, atop an old dead pine, five young bluebirds gathered outside a nest cavity. Looking up at their high playground, I thought that a nest box must be boring compared to a tree house.
I surprised two brown rabbits and two small deer along the way. As I approached the lake, a great blue heron rose and vanished in a flash of long wings. All was well by the lake–canoe and picnic table in place, poison ivy under control, fish, turtles and frogs present and accounted for.
A gang of crows cawed raucously around the bend of the lake as they often due when they harass a hawk. I walked toward the noise for a better look, and as I reached the corner where our property meets the woods loud screeches pealed from the closest trees. Over my head rose two large birds, still crying out. I saw a flash of blinding white, powerful beating wings and long legs extended past square tails. A pair of Snowy Egrets! One circled back briefly and then they were gone.
Really at home
When I pulled in to Little Piney earlier that day I was loaded with worries and to do lists. For the first time ever, I didn’t feel stress shed like a snake skin and a mantle of peace, gratitude, and joy fall over me as I approached. I always smile when I turn off the highway to drive the last mile between towering pines, but not this day. I noticed what I already know, that anxiety kills joy as fast as a coyote kills a rabbit. Now that I was spending time with Little Piney visiting my favorite trees, pausing at the loveliest views, and silently making contact with the creatures I felt the peace, joy, and gratitude return.
Speaking of coyotes, that same night we heard a very loud concert of yips and howls at the new full moon. We realized that the pack was just down by the lake, here at Little Piney.
The funniest animal behavior of the day was the appearance of a roadrunner on the well house roof, who later came around to the front porch and tapped on the window. Very neighborly of him to welcome us home!