It’s early spring in the Pacific Northwest. The morning is crisp but the afternoon is ideal for working in my vegetable garden. As I walk outside, I hear the sounds of sorrow coming from my ancient Cedar tree. “Boo Hoo Hoo” cries the bird in a soft monotone. I look for the bird but I can’t see it.
The Port Orford cedar the bird is perched within is a rare sight in the Pacific Northwest. It is one of the extremely few that survived the soggy conditions of the soils. I had a pair of the trees but one fell in a windstorm giving in to its disease. This one is well over one hundred years old, a testament to survival against all odds. Now it is providing protection and a home for dozens of birds and I am lucky enough to enjoy not only its beauty but also the life that teems within. Even the grand American Bald Eagle uses the very top to seek its prey.
Boo Hoo Hoo I hear over and over again. The long draping branches of the tree provide perfect cover for the birds. I carry on with my work. I have vegetables to tend to. I recently planted my seeds and look forward to a plentiful harvest come fall. Every day I check on my onions and several of the red onions are plucked out of the ground. The sweet white onions remain untouched. My marigolds also seem to be a delectable treat for some birds.
As I walk towards my garden, I startled two pairs of Eurasian Collared-Doves I had not seen roving through my garden beds. These doves are large pale gray birds with a cinnamon brown wash over its back feathers. Its nape is ringed with a black half collar. The females are paler than the males and are almost white. Ah, so this is the source of the sad sounds and the sampler of my onions. They allow me to get fairly close to them before they fly off.
These doves are closely related to the Ringed Turtle-dove and the Mourning dove. They have no trouble reproducing and have proliferated since being introduced to North America. The Latin name for Dove is Decaoto. Decaoto in Greek mythology was an overworked underpaid servant girl. (I do have a place in Greek mythology!) The gods heard her prayers for help and changed her into a dove so she could escape her misery. The dove’s call is said to echo the mournful cries of her former life. If this is so, why are they creating more work for me? It seems they have forgotten their woeful past.
I complain but I don’t really mind. I enjoy the multitude of bird available in the Pacific Northwest. I have learned many of their names and their associated sounds. My great discovery last year was being witness to the mating ritual of the humming bird. The male puts on a show of flying fast up into the sky then diving back down. The rapid decent of the bird’s wings creates an air horn sound. So peck away birds. I will be your servant girl. Perhaps I will come back as a dove in my next life.
Slowly the day warms as sun rises in the sky. Eventually the temperature will reach its peak in the low 70’s. I complete some tasks before I begin working in the yard. It will take me several hours over at least two days to get the dirt moved. After moving the dirt my ability to move will be severely reduced. I injured my back twenty-five years ago and it has never been the same. Add to that an aging body and you have a recipe for an extremely sore body.
My garden is in a sorry state this year. Mild temperatures over the winter coupled with a vacant home next door helped the weeds run rampant in my garden. The task ahead of me is overwhelming but it must be done if I want to enjoy organically raised vegetables and fruits by the end of the year.
This year I decided to try laying newspaper down over all the weeds and grass growing in my beds. First, I knocked them down with a string trimmer. Yes, they were that bad. That’s why I decided not to try to pull them. Each bed took an average of three wheelbarrows each.
Now, a smart person would have hired this task out to a much younger person. But let me tell you why I decided to do it myself.
1. Kids just don’t want to work for their money these days. With kids being given cell phones as young as five, they just don’t see the point in working for a little extra money.
2. I just don’t see a kid doing the quality of work I do. I’ve had kids help me before but they just want to rush though and get to the payday.
3. I like the workout. I am feeling muscles in places I forgot I had muscles. It’s good to know I can still perform hours of manual labor and semi function at the end of the day.
4. It’s an awesome sense of accomplishment that no one else can understand. Yes, everyone could see the awful state of my garden this year. I look at my neighbors’ garden lying untended for two years now and think, you have lots of work to do. Soon my garden will be overflowing with organic vegetables and fruits. It’s a joy non-gardeners don’t get.
5. I’m cheap. I said it. I just don’t want to pay someone for the work I still can physically do. So I will pay for it in sore muscles but this too shall pass.
And then there’s the fiery sunset that closes out the day. Welcome back spring.
I have to confess. I have been under a lot of pressure lately. Life never seems to get any easier. I know people wonder why I am distant, short and sometimes downright nasty. But no one ever asks. Maybe they are afraid to ask. More likely, they don’t want to know the answer. Knowing the answer means they might have to help.
We lie to people all the time. ‘How are you? I’m fine, how are you?’ It’s a common exchange and one full of lies. We don’t want to know and we don’t want to tell. Instead we label people and talk about them behind their backs.
I find when being honest with people two things happen. The conversation either ends abrubtly or people start talking about themselves. When that happens I know they were not listening anyhow. People don’t like to talk about the hard stuff so we keep our relationships superficial.
I trust the rare few with what I have to deal with. It has a lot to do with the way I grew up. Never having anyone looking out for me or protecting me from the danger that lurked in my own home made me a soldier in my army of one. I turned inward for strength and protection. It wasn’t easy but I made it through. A few people knew some of the truth about what was going on but they could offer no help.
Pressure and stress get to us all. Insanity lies just below the surface for many who have been pushed too far too long. Without mechanisms to cope in place, many turn to drugs or alcohol to feel better. Maybe that is why voters are choosing to legalize marijuana. This is part of the reason heroin has become an epidemic problem. I have spoken to many addicts and asked them why they chose to be a slave to their drug of choice. The predominant answer is there was an emotional trigger. An emotionally challenging situation came up and they had no resources to properly deal with the situation.
Drugs have never been an option for me. A long talk with a good friend who knows how to listen over a cup of coffee would help. Good listeners are hard to find. A vacation would be nice too but that is out of the question for quite some time. I am saving my time off for an emergency I know is looming nearby. In the meantime, I will sit on my porch swing with my dogs under my feet and read a good book.
The next time you see someone clearly struggling under pressure, find out what they need and give it to them. You will feel better about yourself and you just may have saved a life. When the time comes where you are the one in need, may you find a hand extended in love.
I have a difficult dog. He’s a good dog. He just takes a lot of work and personality management. I recently learned of a support group for owners of difficult dogs. I could put a group like that to good use. We are closeted owners. I fear people judging my dog and calling him a dangerous dog. A dangerous dog is a difficult dog that is not managed.
My dog does not like other animals. He has learned to quietly observe horses and cows but if they were to come near him he would go after them. Other small animals are prey to him. Dogs, his own kind, are a huge issue for him. I have cried many tears over Moose’s behavior. Scared to death someone would take him away from me, or worse, kill him, because he hurt another animal. People though, are his great love. I never worried he would go after a human.
Moose and I are tightly bonded to one another. From the day I pulled him out of a kennel, the same day someone threw him out of a truck in a garbage sack, we have had a special bond. I love Moose deeply and I believe he loves me the same way. Wherever I go, Moose is my shadow.
Because of Moose’s issues with other animals, I had never taken Moose on a walk. Living on acreage, Moose gets lots of exercise. Last week, I decided to take Moose on a trail walk behind my house, muzzle free. It was a huge step for me. To be honest, I didn’t trust Moose or myself to be able to handle him. As soon as we got past our gate, newness exited moose. He began to outpace me and pull a bit. I told him to slow down and he did, instinctively knowing what I wanted.
As we walked towards the trial, my neighbor’s pack of ten or so dogs charged their fence and barked at Moose. Moose kept his nose to the ground ignored the dogs and kept walking. Moose shocked me. This would usually incite Moose into a frenzy of barking and lunging. I issued a pat on the back and a ‘good boy’. We carried on our walk. On the trail Moose would at times speed up but every time I told him to slow down, he did. Even though his nose was to the ground, we were in tune with each other. It was surprising and exciting for me. I must have said ‘good boy’ a hundred times.
At the end of the trail, I saw two pit bulls playing in the river below us. Moose had not spotted them yet. Their owner was with them throwing them sticks and all were having a great time. When Moose finally spotted the dogs his ears perked up and he was in an alert and ready state. I told him to ‘leave it’ and he kept watch on the dogs as we continued to walk. The owner of the dogs heard me and waved. I waved back and kept walking, so proud of my difficult dog. It was an eventless walk. Boring to some, a huge victory for Moose and I.