Monday, 4:40 a.m. I should know better than to try and get started on laundry before daybreak. As I carry the clothesbasket out through the breezeway, I hear a fluttering of wings, and when I open the laundry room door and snap on the light, suddenly something is trying to perch in my hair, which is still wet from the shower, and beating its little wings against the back of my head. Something else is madly circling the tiny room. Carolina wren fledglings! I watched them take their first, do-or-die flights from their natal nest in the eaves just last week. They’ve made it about as far from home as I have.
While the one manages to extract its feet from my hair and flutter over to the window, the other bird falls down behind the dryer. And I no sooner set the basket down than the first one is clinging to the back of my head again. I haven’t had a haircut in about six months, and I guess it makes sense that a terrified and disoriented young wren would seek refuge in the only brown thing in the room. I reach back and shoo it off, and it flies over to the hot water heater and gets tangled up with the pipes.
Neither bird seems likely to go back outside until dawn. The dumber of the two is still fluttering madly in the corner behind the dryer. I could go ahead and start the wash, but the noise and rocking of the machine would probably scare the crap out of them – what crap remains. This has been a real shit storm, did I mention that? I back slowly out of the room, leaving the door open, and snap off the light.
I examine myself in the bathroom mirror. My quilted shirt seems to have taken most of the damage. There’s bird shit on my sleeve and bird shit down my back, but my hair looks O.K. Did St. Francis have days like this? Did he ever just tell the birds to bugger off?
Tuesday, 5:45 a.m. While I drink my coffee and listen to the dawn chorus, I’m watching the smaller of the two porcupines that lives in the crawlspace under the house eat my elm tree. The poor thing looks sparser every year, but what the hell – if the porkies don’t get it, Dutch elm disease will.
By the way, did you ever notice how many weird things we blame on the Dutch? Dutch oven. Dutch courage. Double Dutch. Dutch uncle. What is it with the fucking Dutch? I could go on, but I’d better stop out of respect for my ancestors – who were, I’m sure, quite normal, albeit Dutch.
The porcupine waddles out along a small branch and stands on its hind legs, freeing its forepaws to grab and stuff nearby twigs into its mouth. This reminds of the way the Baltimore oriole that I photographed two weeks ago used one foot to pull leaves in range of its bill. Unlike the porcupine, though, it was interested only in what was on the leaves, not the leaves themselves.
As I watch the porcupine, I find myself imagining in great detail what might happen if it fell. This is not unheard of, and evolutionary biologists hypothesize that the danger of impaling itself is high enough to account for the presence of an antiseptic chemical in the porcupine’s quills. There’s a lesson there, I think: if you write with a poison pen, make sure you have the antidote. There’s nothing that bothers me more than someone who can’t take what they dish out.
Wednesday, 10:30 a.m. Here there be Squirrels. One of them keeps looking in the kitchen window at me while I write; it has to hang upside-down off the drainpipe in order to do so. Every time I hear it rattling against the screen, I whirl around and stare back. Call me paranoid, but I can’t help thinking it’s looking for nesting material. I feel its beady little eyes boring into the back of my head.