I have a rather odd habit in that I like to sit and read, in the easy chair by the glass doors which look out into my back garden, just before sunset. The light is dimming, and it gets harder and harder to discern the page in the dwindling daylight, but there is much yet to see.
A movement catches my eye. I smile as a cottontail rabbit comes into view. She twitches her nose and munches on a few grasses (all right, I’ll admit it—weeds ).
My garden is very minimal: Just a few desert plants, lots of rocks and pavers, and one of the best views of the Santa Catalina mountains on offer. The back yard is much as it was when I moved here. I added a tortoise, a pagoda, and a Buddha image, all of concrete. To me, the unobstructed splendor of the mountains needs no other frame.
I feel fortunate I don’t have a dog, not because I don’t like them—I do—but because the rabbits wouldn’t come into the yard if I did. The bunnies squeeze themselves into and through the decorative drainage openings in the low brick wall surrounding the garden. Those openings are necessary because of the flash flooding we can get in the desert. The water rises quickly, and alarmingly, and needs some place to go.
The bunny feels safe here, walled off from predators, but still with several escape routes at her disposal. I see her friend or mate watching from the other side of the widely spaced iron-bar fence. I can see see right through the fence, but it keeps the coyotes and wildcats out. (Don’t ask about the snakes!)
What’s that jumping up and down at the top of the rise? I’ve not seen a roadrunner act like that before. Could she be making a nest? Or ferreting out some prey?
Now there’s a quail. I have mixed feelings about them. The tufted quail are among our most common birds here (the others being doves and roadrunners). The quail arise with the sun—and I do not. This would be fine if they’d keep quiet about it. They insist, however, on greeting the dawn with the most appalling sound; something like a cross between a “hoot” and a “caw”, at a pitch and volume destined to penetrate my dreams.
Soon, though, the first hatchlings of the season will appear. Quail have about 8-10 chicks each hatching, and although less than half will live to torment me as adults (the rest being snatched up as tasty lunches for roadrunners, owls, and hawks), when I see the line of tiny cherry-sized little fluff-balls-with-feet, who follow both their parents everywhere; whose two parents wait patiently and help them jump down from the bricks of my wall; I forgive them everything.
As the last light fades I spot a bright red cardinal preparing a late night snack. I can no longer see to write on this, my favorite day.