The skirmish rattled me awake. I had been raking all morning and stopped to take a little siesta in the sun. On high alert, I cupped my hand over my eyes and peered over at the bushy hackberry trees but saw nothing. Not even Kitty who had scampered outside with me when I decided to soak up a little afternoon sun. This was not good. Yelling Kitty’s name over and over I walked down to the lane and around the hackberry trees, fearing I would find Kitty slashed into pieces by Cody, the coatimundi. Cody had returned after a long absence drawn, I’m sure, by the scent of pecans. I knew it was him, he was comfortable around me. When I walked down the lane, Cody would startle, see it was me and relax back into his scratching. But he didn’t know Kitty.
Coatimundis are related to raccoons only bigger, muscular, and extremely agile. He carries his ringed tail proudly like a flag and loves pecans and oranges, both of which are plentiful here at the ranch. His teeth are sharp his claws even sharper and when cornered he’ll use them. Kitty has sharp teeth and claws too but Cody outweighs her by a good thirty or forty pounds.
I rounded the trees, scanning the ground, calling for Kitty but there was no little black and white cat anywhere. My heart sank. Kitty and I are buds…we came here together from Chicago. I couldn’t have made it through that first long, watery winter without her companionship. Together we endured flood after flood, squirrels in the attic, scorpions and heat. She chased butterflies while I planted the garden and became a world class mouser. I kept calling her over and over….Kitty!
Then I saw him. High in a mesquite tree, Cody clung to the end of the longest limb. Kitty! Creeping out along the branch, Kitty was going after Cody, not the other way around! I couldn’t believe it! Well, yes, I could. Ever the alpha animal, Kitty was not about to give Cody an inch of territory. The skirmish was Kitty treeing Cody and now she was going to finish the job!
“Kitty!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. Stopping her creep she looked down at me with irritation for interfering. Standing on tiptoe I reached up and hooked my forefinger through Kitty’s collar and yanked her down snarling out of the tree. Cody’s body sank down in relief as I carried the squirming cat away.
“Don’t you know that Cody is bigger than you? That he could kill you with one swipe of his claws?”
Kitty gave me a murderous look, roaring at me as loudly as she could. She was one mad cat, highly upset that I disrupted her fun. Kitty or Cody….considering Kitty’s attitude, I’m not really sure who would win that fight but I didn’t want to pick up any body parts, whether they be cat or coatimundi. I tossed Kitty into the singlewide and as I closed the door she showed me her backside. When Cody appeared the other day, my dog Oro chased him up a tree. But I managed to train Oro to leave Cody alone and now the two animals ignored each other. Kitty was another story.
I went back to my raking, Cody scratched in the ground under the orange trees, Oro snoozed in the sun. Deciding I needed a drink of water, I opened the door to the singlewide and wouldn’t you know it, Kitty snuck out the door. Spying Cody she stopped short and dropped into a predatory crouch.
“Kitty!” She stalked away from me heading straight for Cody. Now Cody and I get along as long as we keep our distance but now Kitty was within five feet of him. There was no way I was going to get that close. I grabbed my rake and using the tines, gently scooped and herded Kitty away from Cody. Watching me put Kitty in her place empowered Cody. He suddenly found his cojones and boldly stepped towards Kitty.
”Cody!” To my surprise he hesitated. Afraid of tangling with Cody myself I turned the rake on Kitty once again. Kitty snarled her anger as I scooped her again putting as much distance between her and Cody as possible. Kitty didn’t get the message but Cody did. He detoured around the orange tree and headed up the mountain. I breathed a sigh of relief, Kitty meowed mournfully and Oro continued to snooze.
When I came to the ranch I figured I would have to get used to dealing with wildlife. What I didn’t realize was that the wildest life would be none other than my Kitty.
Seeking calm, I slipped into the lounge chair in the yard and put my feet up. It was not the prettiest of days. The pale gray sky was evenly soft, the wind nonexistent, the horses lazily grazed. A flip of the coin kind of day: heads partly sunny; tails overcast with a faint scent of coming rain. I became part of the landscape adding only the sound of my breath. But it was not quiet. Birds noisily chirped as they fluttered and flocked over the fallen pecans. Gradually, one by one, they drifted down to the pecans until twenty or so tiny wrens covered the lane. Ravens twirled high above, wings sharply slicing the air. Cardinals snacked nearby on seed blocks perched atop fence posts loudly cracking the seeds open with their sharp beaks. To my eye and ear, nothing changed but in an instant the birds scattered and as I watched they repeated the pattern. Drift down, scatter. Drift down and scatter until I finally realized the birds were scaring each other with their sudden movements. When disrupted each flock rose as one, but as they settled they moved individually, one after the other, like waves on the ocean back to the tasks at hand. What lovely sentient beings. Watching them move, there is no doubt in my mind that they feel pain, fear, peace and joy.
A reader of my blog recently commented on my piece about Brandon the skunk’s death. Brandon is a friggin’ goner and he deserved it. The first part of that statement, unfortunately, is true. But he did not deserve it, no more than these tiny birds deserve to frighten each other. At times I envy the critters around me. They don’t worry about mortgage payments or whether or not they have the cash for groceries. They don’t worry about property lines. They don’t have to change the oil in the car and keep it running smooth. They simply move from place to place in search of shelter and food, taking it as it comes. Brandon lucked out for a time finding a warm home replenished with food until he met his untimely end. The birds will do the same.
I am connected. I am nature. But at times, it slips away from my awareness and that is when the monkey mind takes over. I seek calm by drowning myself in nature. I spent a few mornings greeting and welcoming everything around me. Good morning trees, good morning stones, good morning grass, good morning birds, good morning prickly pear, good morning mouse, good morning snake, good morning creek …. It was exhausting! There are over a million beings to greet and even if I took all day I couldn’t get through the list. As usual I was over-engineering. Monkey mind stuff all over again.
Yesterday I walked outside and stood in silence for a few minutes acknowledging each direction. That was good but left me unsatisfied. This morning, in my usual spot, I turned east unsure of what to do or say. My gaze fell upon a small desert broom, its fingers of brushy leaves brightly green against the brown dust. Walk with me today. Keep me as light in spirit as your tiny leaves. Turning to the south I spied an orange stone. The uneven surface and indentations took shape as an elfin face and made me smile. Walk with me today, little one. Let’s play! Let’s sing songs and dance. I couldn’t help it, my smile became a giggle. Turning west I lifted my eyes to the bare branch of a pecan tree, its limbs reaching for me as if seeking to hold my hand. Walk with me today, arm in arm. In response the branch bowed low in the breeze. My gaze once again fell to the ground as I turned to the north. To my delight I saw a hill of dirt covered in bird tracks. Walk with me today; show me where you are going so I know where to go too!
I stretched my neck back to look up to the sky. The clouds formed a hand with one finger pointing straight up and I laughed. So now you’re giving me the finger? Or showing me the way? Either way I’ll take the laugh and the direction! The finger cloud turned to a windy wisp. Back to Mother Earth my eyes returned once more to the mound of dirt and the bird tracks. I admired the dust so carefully mounded. Walk with me today and keep me grounded.
And now I sit. Watching and not thinking. Simply watching, listening, smelling and feeling. The birds continue their mealtime acrobatics, shoots of grass are springing up green, and the breeze gentles its way into the day. I am calm and peaceful. Stop and smell the roses is a cliché but it holds a valuable lesson. Focus on a few small things, ordinary things. Keep it light. Keep it simple. For when I do, the ordinary isn’t so ordinary anymore.