Several weeks ago, before we got all this snow, I was in the kitchen and Julia was upstairs, and she suddenly came running downstairs to tell me that she'd seen a bunny! In the yard!
I was skeptical, since we don't see that many rabbits around here, and when we do, it's usually much warmer, but she insisted that it WAS a bunny, and that I should come see. I got my camera and we went upstairs and into the bathroom, because the window in that room gives us the best overall view of the back yard. We can also see right into the yard of the people living behind us, but I try not to look because they seem to have such an orderly backyard and ours, even at its best, seems kind of unruly.
Anyway, Julia pointed toward the very back of the yard, where our raised bed is, and where, between that and the stockade fence, we've planted two nice long rows of garlic bulbs. I didn't see anything at first, not even a bit of motion, but Julia kept insisting "it's right THEYER!" so I kept looking. And then, right near the fence, I saw a little furry creature moseying along, nosing at the ground. He looked gray, rather than brown (most of the bunnies we see are brown…or all of them, really) but I figured bunnies CAN be gray. He had a fluffy little tail and seemed interested in the grass and not so interested in the garlic, which was a good thing.
I opened the window to get a clearer shot, and took a few pictures of him as he moseyed along, bunny-like.
And then, to get a better look at him, and to figure out what the "but…still…" in my head was all about, I pressed the little "zoom in" button on the back of the camera as I looked at one of the images I'd just taken.
Okay, I'll zoom in for you. While I was zooming in with the camera that day, I said…"Julia, I don't think it's a bunny."
Yes, as you've already deduced, it was a squirrel. The lack of long ears is obvious, but that didn't even register with me except, I guess, subconsciously. The fluffy tail insisted, along with Julia, "Bunny!" But…no.
That was December 1st.
Later in the month, as the weather got colder, I started putting seed out for the birds and the squirrels. I don't view the squirrels as pests, even though they devour everything they can and chase the birds away from the two platforms on our deck. They're hungry, too. And they're cute.
Annoying, but cute.
And Squnny is among the squirrel visitors to our yard.
He's a bit shy when he's eating, but that's okay. We know it's him. (Or her – I have no idea.)
It's not a bunny, it's a squirrel. Julia was pretty disappointed, actually, so I said "It's not a bunny, it's a Squnny!" and she seemed happier with that.
So any time Squnny is eating here (which is probably daily), I let the kids know and we take a look and say hello.
Sometimes he eats on the platform closer to the window.
Same with the birds, actually. They're entertaining characters, furry or feathered, and it's nice being able to watch through the kitchen windows while I'm doing the dishes or rolling out cookie dough or kneading bread.
Or making suet cakes.
The squirrels really like them and tend to hog them most of the time. But the birdies like them too, when they have access.
I've got a bunch of different feeders through the yard. We have a tall pole in the back corner of the yard, near lots of trees, and that's got a mixed seed feeder and a suet feeder – one of those metal cages that the squirrels usually can't steal.
Carolina wrens like the suet, too, but they're a bit timid and so far have only eaten at this corner feeding station. One day I got within about five feet of a pair of them. It was very cool. I went back again with my camera, but couldn't get as close. They hop around a lot, so they're hard to photograph from a distance without a zoom lens and a tripod.
I am not sure why we feed the birds. I mean, I know why – it's to give them food, especially through the harsh winter months when food is scarce or covered in snow.
It was horrible, and involved me struggling into clothing that didn't fit (horrible enough in itself) and a relative complaining that "you have to do it yourself if you want anything extra around here" – which, in the context of the dream, meant that I wasn't being, basically, a good hostess.
The alarm went off and I woke up with a sharp, horrible across-the-forehead headache and an even worse ache in my still-in-the-dream heart. The comment – which was, yes, just a dream, must have emerged from the pot of perceived inadequacies I keep on the fire in a corner of my mind. I try not to fan the flames or stir the pot too often, but something must have triggered it. And I woke up wanting to cry – okay, I DID cry – with frustration, because dammit I've baked cookies and tonight we're making a fabulous dinner and last night I made FLAN at 8 at night for heaven's sake, and I'm making tortillas FROM SCRATCH today for the fajitas we're having tonight and WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME????
But who am I talking to? Just me. The only person, probably (I hope) who ever thinks I'm not doing enough.
And it's funny…I think I worry that the cookies won't be up to snuff this year, or that I'll overcook tomorrow's roast beef, or the Yorkshire pudding won't puff up…and EVERYONE'S CHRISTMAS WILL BE RUINED because of it.
I worry about what the other people in my family will say – or what they won't say, but what they'll think – or – more accurately – what I imagine they're thinking but not saying and not even really thinking because they've moved on and SO SHOULD YOU, JAYNE.
Maybe that's why I like feeding the birds and the squirrels.
They just eat. I don't know if they're grateful or disappointed in what I put out there. I don't know if they're really capable of being grateful or disappointed. If there's food they like, they'll eat it, and if there's not, they'll move on to the next house with feeders. And that's that.
Yesterday Alex and I were at a hardware store picking up a bag of lump charcoal for tonight's grilled fajitas…and we took a look at the bird feeders while we were there. It's winter; of course I need another feeder. I wanted one with suction cups that I could stick on one of the kitchen windows. Alex thought that was a sensible idea.
"I like feeding the birds," he said to me. "It's doing a good deed."
He's got a knack for that, my little boy. Of saying the right thing at the right time.
That's all it is, feeding the birds – a good deed. I get nothing, really, in return, except a bit of entertainment and the occasional good picture if you ignore the splatter marks on my window.
And that's enough.
So I'm thinking I need, perhaps, to just adjust the way I approach all the baking and cooking, especially this time of year when the external pressure is on to make it a MERRY Christmas and a HAPPY Holiday, dammit. I need to learn to just let go of that, of that imperative. Because really? People are going to be happy or they aren't. They're going to be merry or joyful, or they aren't. And it's not up to me to ensure their happiness or merriment during the holidays. I can't fix their broken toys.
And really? No one's expecting me to do that – except me.
So I should just shut up.
I've baked the cookies.
That's my thing…my "gift to bring" perhaps.
Little, sugary, highly caloric, good little deeds.
And that is – or should be – enough.
I hope you all have a warm and loving and peaceful Christmas, if that's your holiday, or that you had a warm and loving and peaceful Hanukkah, or Yule…or that your Kwanzaa will be all those things, too.
I hope your home is filled with hugs and laughter and yummy food and cozy slumber.
I wish you joy.
And I thank you for reading my rambling posts, and for coming back and reading more of them. I thank you for your comments, and your emails. I thank you for being a part of my life here on this little website.
You brighten my days.
Thank you. And Merry Christmas.