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Thursday, July 3, 2003

Sometimes I wonder what the other animals think of me.

Every time I move in the direction of a door or window, birds scatter to the winds. They have a right to be nervous. They're like small children who have been trained not to speak to strangers. Run away and make a loud noise, little birds. But here's some food and here's some water. Come and get it when you're sure it's safe.

Sometimes the hummingbirds will come around when I'm watering the garden. I'll spray an arc of water for them and they'll dart in and out of the fringes of it. They've been pretty scarce lately, but I can tell they're still around by the slow draining of the nectar in the feeder, which I filled less than a week ago. I know the hit-and-miss showers they accept from me aren't a fluke, though, because it's happened several times.

Usually the time of day I do the watering is the time of the swallows. They're always around in the late afternoon, swooping and soaring and sailing on the air currents, down toward the ground and up toward the tops of the giant oaks. I can sit on the back porch at five or six o'clock these days and see an air show that will rival the pyrotechnic displays around the country this week.

And when I'm watering and the swallows are out, I try to tempt them with a spurt from the hose. If I adjust the nozzle to "jet" and spray as high as it will go, the birds will dart past the stream as if inspecting it. They might be attracted to the movement, or to the water itself. Maybe it's the rainbow I make when I do it. But it adds something to the swallows' performance.

The lizards, on the other hand, hate it when I water. I'd avoid getting them wet if I could, but they're the same color as the ground and it's hard to see them until they're frantically dashing for higher ground, glistening in the sun. I don't believe they want to glisten. If they did, they wouldn't be so good at camouflage.

I always talk to the lizards. I apologize, and try to explain how they can avoid an unexpected soaking in the future. They cock their heads, so I know they're listening, but by the next evening they've apparently forgotten the lesson.

Some of the creatures who run away when I approach move so fast that I can't tell what they are. Something small and roundish was hippity-hopping away from me this afternoon, but before I could focus it had already disappeared under a shrub and never came out again.

When I moved in here, there were dozens of tiny frogs all over the yard, but I haven't seen many since the first few weeks. I did see one today, when I picked up the bucket that was overturned on the porch and the little guy hopped around in a circle and then made its way off to the side. When I last saw it, it was heading toward the camellia bush.

And those are only the animals I can see. There must be many more that can see me but never make themselves visible. I have to wonder what they think of me, too.

3 July 03

Outside my garden, looking in.

As I was driving down the road tonight toward my nephew's house for a barbecue (more about that tomorrow, maybe), I saw a mockingbird harassing a crow about three times its size. The crow just wanted to get away, I think, but the mockingbird was having too much fun. Or maybe it had a different reason for wanting a piece of the crow. As with people, you have to know the whole story before you can judge.

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There's something to think about in Jon Carroll's column about the "culture war" in today's Chronicle.

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: Interference
"Sometimes I watch the finales of novelas that I don't even follow, just to see all the great payoffs. One of the two I watched today ended with a wedding, the other with a bullfight. (I didn't see that one coming.)"

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