Seattle Life in the Yard

Sustain biodiversity: garden with native plants.

Garbage Day

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This was a garbage day which requires the mundane task of collecting all the garbage, recycling and composting to get everything out in the bins at street side before the noisy trucks come to pick up our household refuse. I stepped out the back door with my hands full, trying not to get my clothes dirty, when I heard the full chaotic sounds of dozens of birds. I stopped and craned my neck to see if I could tell who was here on this sunny winter morning. They are mostly oblivious to my presence as they inhabit a larger more complex plane of existence, being able to fly through the air, they exploit the vertical without machines. I am so jealous.
Several Juncos were flitting around. I think a pair of them has a habitual nest spot in the front yard, because when I do yard work there, during nesting season, they scold and follow me till I leave the space they have claimed and use so much more productively than I. A flock of chickadees with their little fat light colored bellies are flying from tree to tree in a noisy mass. I heard Flickers make their single tone call, then saw a flash of under wing orange as one landed high up on the side of a weathered utility pole. That pole is so worn and craggy that it is not safe to climb any more, but it is plain wood and has no creosote treatment so it substitutes as a tree snag and might support a few bugs for Flickers to eat. I have seen Flickers on this pole many times in the past and there is a hole toward the top that I like to think might serve as a nest hole. The Flicker this morning “walked” a few feet up the pole, each time pulling its head and body close to the pole as it repositioned its feet up, then pulled its body up and away as it moved up a few inches at a time, keeping an eye out for bugs while it climbed.
My favorites, the Stellar Jays, are definitely back. They make such a unique sound that cannot be mistaken for any other bird. When I hear them, I always think of my childhood experiences of camping at Ohanapacosh on Mt. Rainier, where the “Camp Robbers” would tear apart any food related item that was left unguarded. The huge Mt. Rainier Ravens would stand aloof in a close tree, talk to each other and bob their heads up and down, but the Stellar Jays were very brash about landing right on the tables, turning their heads to look at us with one eye expecting us to share and showing off the exquisite blue of their feathers up close.
This garbage day was the type of cold but sunny winter day that is a hopeful pleasure this time of year because our short & gray Northwest winter days can get so dreary. Dawn is earlier, spring feels soon and this was a noisy glorious morning of birds and brilliant sun to make my heart swell and break with gratitude. As I stood taking in these sights and sounds that so clearly express the beauty of life, I was abruptly overwhelmed with the heartbreaking sadness for the impending death of a friend and the devastating impending loss to be felt by family and friends. My two opposite emotional sensations felt so acutely connected; the amazing fullness of life and the tragic loss of it.

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