My home is a green spot amidst the brown barrenness of the desert. The wildlife is drawn into the coolness of the non-native trees, to the drip of the water faucet left barely on.
The birds add their notes, twittering and chirping, above the white noise of the wind moving throughout the property. Together, they are an omnipresent sound. At times, whispering. At others, roaring.
Drawn to the sprouts of new plants, the birds bounce around the garden plot, a fact my mother bemoans every year when her vegetables start budding. But she doesn’t leave them defenseless. A system of wooden boxes and rusty metal screens protect the vulnerable plants in their first weeks.
Tap, tap-tap! Insistently knocking on the window as if to rouse me from sleep, a roadrunner greeted me the other day. They aren’t know for flight. His appearance on the roof of the second story struck me as curious. And, the pair of swallows have returned to their mud nest on the front porch. They are a sight that comforts my heart, the promise that “the swallow herself finds a home.”
Every morning, my father pours bird seed into the feeder outside the kitchen window and we have the pleasure of watching the large and the small, the colorful and the plain eat together at the base of apricot tree.
Loudest among the music of our property is the bass call of the owl, “Whoooooo, whooooo.” Watching over it all, he lives in the tallest of pine trees on the fence line.
In my desire to respond to his welcome, I imitated the sound and sang back to him: “Whoooo, whooooooo.”
To my delight, there was a response. “Whoooo, whooooooo…” It made my heart flutter and my mind race with thoughts– Was I able to commune with nature? Was I having a St. Francis moment? I walked in the door filled with a deep awe at the moment that had passed between the owl and I.
A few minutes later, I heard the back door scrap against the tile. As his steps progressed into the house, my father called out, “Whoooooo, whoooooo...” It reverberated down the hallway and meet my ears.
A moment of realization flushed over my face. My St Francis nature moment had been nothing more than a long-distance communication with my dad, cleaning up for the day down at his shop.
“Dad!!! Was that you?!?!,” I yelled with a pretend accusation in my voice.
He laughed. I debated whether or not to tell him that I had been fancying myself a person with special animal communication abilities.
My parents have taken on the role of subduing the earth around our home. After his morning walk, my father reports on the tracks of animals and with a warning in his voice, evidence of snakes. From the high vantage point of the tractor, he moves dirt across the property, leveling and building up. My mother, when she has secured the garden’s defense, searches out the perfect combination of flowering plants to bloom on the patio and sweeps the blowing sand from the corners where it gathers.
To celebrate their 40 years of marriage, my sister and I bought them a variety of plants. All have a red-colored leaf, blooming at different times throughout the year — a pomegranate bush, an elm tree, some others with fancy names that escape me. Perpetual red; a sign of abiding love. But, really there is no need for the witness. Because doves, a staple of wedding and anniversary cards, eat breakfast outside the kitchen window and roost in the pine trees behind the house.