One need not leave the patio…

…to enjoy a bit of the natural world.

This weekend I have spent my time doing the on-call thing for work.  Right now I feel drunk, although not from alcohol.  From lack of sleep, yes.

I’ve had perhaps two hours of rest since five in the morning on Friday.

Needless to say, it’s been a hell of a weekend.  And not in a good way.

Still, my want to take walks and snap photos suffers no lasting damage from such times, for it is with a great sense of gift that I can stand outside on my own patio and get a fix for my need.

Nature comes to me, you see.

Clance standing outside the patio fence (20081005_13300)

Clance[1].  For some time I thought I would never see his cross-eyed face again.  He disappeared for more than a year with but one or two minor visits in early 2007.  I hoped for the best and feared the worse: that he had been adopted and that he had died, respectively.

Then he suddenly reappeared maybe two months ago.  Now he comes running when he sees me on the patio and he purrs and meows as he speaks to me with trust and affection.  I’m thrilled to see he’s alright.

A male house sparrow (Passer domesticus) perched on the patio fence (20081005_13353)

A male house sparrow (Passer domesticus).  Whilst kneeling on the patio floor trying to snap photos of a lizard, I heard the tiniest bit of noise beside me, something much like a dry leaf rustling against an old log.

Slowly I turned and looked over my shoulder.  There hardly an arm’s length from me perched this little bird.  He clung to the fence and glanced about as though he’d lost something.

In truth, I put birdseed out every day.  The sparrows join the cardinals, the blue jays, the mourning doves, the rock doves, the Carolina wrens and a litany of other species as they each vie for their bit of the bounty.  My little sparrow friend probably wanted to make sure no threats lurked about before he dove to the ground for a bite to eat.

A friendly fly (a.k.a. government fly or large flesh fly; Sarcophaga aldrichi) standing atop the patio fence (20080516_05296)

A friendly fly (a.k.a. government fly or large flesh fly; Sarcophaga aldrichi)[2].  It sat atop the patio fence soaking up sunshine.  If I approached too closely, it scooted off in one direction or another, but it never flew away—at least not until it was ready to do so.

I enjoyed watching it, appreciating its behemoth size and dazzling contrast of colors.  And the fact that it was so tolerant of me made it even better.

A male green anole (Anolis carolinensis) challenging me from the tree with this throat fan fully displayed (20080613_06520)

A male green anole (Anolis carolinensis).  He spent a great deal of time challenging me as I stood and watched him climb down the tree rooted just outside the patio fence.  Having been confronted by my share of anoles, I thought nothing of this contest save that it made for a good photo opportunity.

What I didn’t know would be discovered later.  He defied me only because he meant to woo a lady of his kind who hid in the branches above him.  Minutes later I returned to the patio and discovered his display had so impressed her that she had succumbed to his ways.

Yes, the two of them stood on the side of the tree and consummated their meeting in a public display of affection that would so offend James Dobson and his bigoted ilk that they—the lizards—likely would have found a new constitutional amendment being passed to stop reptile procreation altogether due to its immorality.  But I found the exhibition mesmerizing and educating.

A rock dove (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia) looking away (20080202_01690)

A rock dove (a.k.a. common pigeon; Columba livia).  Ancestor of all pigeons, this species, despite the unwarranted disgust by many humans, brings a profound beauty to its surroundings.  The iridescent feathers, the amber eyes, the tolerance for our ways and our places…  Well, I find them intriguing and beguiling.

A Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum; Didelphis virginiana) eating cat food outside the patio fence (20081102_14542)

A Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum; Didelphis virginiana).  Part of the cleaning crew, in fact, as you can see this one readily went to work on the cat food I had just put out for Clance.  After the cat had his fill, he walked away.  That’s when, much to my surprise, this opossum scampered around the corner, ambled up to the table so to speak, and began munching away.

Oh, and the marsupial knew I was there.  I knelt next to the fence only a yard/meter away, so every sound and movement I made set off alarm bells for this small juvenile (not as small as the baby, though).  But I know something about them: their eyesight is relatively poor, although they can hear and smell like a top predator.  Staying downwind of the little cutie and not making a lot of noise meant it only looked at me with suspicion if I moved too much or accidentally sounded my presence with some clumsy racket.

A male cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus) perched atop a leaf (20080620_07043)

A male cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus).  My favorite insect in all the world, and a most gentle and placid leviathan if ever there was one.  The huge colony of these beasts that surrounds my home thrives only for a brief period before falling under the heels of time’s onward march.  But during that short life they captivate me to no end, and they give of their calm nature the companionship made possible only by two disparate lives sharing a clear understanding: we can be friends.

— — — — — — — — — —

Notes:

[1] Many would argue that domestic cats are not natural.  I beg to differ.  The wildcat who gave life to this species has been pushed to near extinction by humans.  What can fill that ecological niche if not the very children of the parents put to death by the march of our intelligent advancement.

That said, I don’t like the idea of outside cats, I don’t like seeing them outside fending for themselves and being exposed to all manner of illness and danger, yet the humane side of me—the part of me that knows what it means to be human—likes even less the idea of seeing them go hungry and without compassion.  I put lots of money into no-kill shelters each month in hopes that some of these lost souls will find a home; meanwhile, I have no intention of turning my back on them when I can afford to offer a meal, a bit of attention and friendship, and a kind soul to whom they can speak.

[2] Amazingly, this is not a macro shot.  I stood some distance from the fly and zoomed in to take the picture.

[3] The photo is bad, I know, but I took it in very poor lighting and with the camera on the wrong settings.  I was more intrigued and enthralled with the opossum than I was with making a piece of art.  So sue me.

4 thoughts on “One need not leave the patio…”

  1. I a stunned by the beauty of these photos! They are incredible, I especially can’t believe the shots of the fly and wasp. What is your zoom lens, the Hubble Telescope?

  2. Thank you so much for the generous compliment, Danny. I’m glad you like the photos.

    And I laughed uproariously on the Hubble Telescope comment! That was utterly hysterical.

    Surprisingly, I use a simple point-and-shoot camera right now. It’s the Canon S5 IS. Thankfully it has a 12x optical zoom (6.0-72.0mm f/2.7-3.5/35mm film equivalent: 36-432mm). I’m already running into walls with its limitations, but I still have to admit it works wonders from time to time.

  3. Dear Jason,

    A few days ago I flipped over this post, while at work. An idiot walked into my office to ask me a question regarding business, just as I was about to comment, and boy was I irritated!

    YOU can photograph bugs. NatGeo should track you down, ya know.

    Your Canon S5 IS is something for me to consider. I have only one camera worth using – my dear Fugi, and a few other ancient ones. I need a back-up like your Canon or maybe something smaller and pocket-sized when I don’t want to take the risk of losing it off the side of a boat.

    I imagine you lay flat on the ground to photograph your bugs like I photograph lizards?

    LOL!

  4. Thank you, Mary! I’m glad you think the insect photos were good.

    I laughed about someone walking in and interrupting you while you’re browsing the web, and how that’s about as irritating as things can get. It’s hysterical how lots of people feel the same way, including me!

    You got it right about snapping pictures of insects, although I’ve also been known to wriggle in the mud just to get a good flower image. I figure my clothes and I can be washed, but a good photo opportunity shouldn’t be wasted.

    The Canon S5 IS is a good point-and-shoot with a good lens, although it’s still just a point-and-shoot camera, so it has frustrating limits.  I’ve kept my little Canon S50 since it’s smaller and can slip into a pocket (also, as you say, I can drop it in the water or out the car window and not feel as though the world has ended).

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