My Chosen Spot Contest Third Place Winner
The pond? The tree stand? Some place along the creek which meanders through the wood? So many, many lovely nature nooks—how could I choose? Then, suddenly, I knew. No need to wander far—not when there is our own yard, and in our yard THE TREE.
The west windows are wide open to the unusually cool August breezes. Framed on either side by lilac bushes, they draw us again and again to the view. Beyond the yard, the road, and the barbed wire fence, a wide sweeping bean field ends at the horizon and is framed on the north and the south by trees. Here we feast our eyes on glorious sunsets, and remember the deer we observed playing among the beans in days gone by.
Beyond the lilacs, the pink blossoms of the Rose-of-Sharon eagerly reach forth open throats to agile little Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.
Here House Wrens chatter in abundance every morning. Their gourd among the honeysuckle vines is empty now, but two other wren families join the chorus. Cardinals sing in the orchard that frames the south side of the yard. They have lost their eggs, which they had nestled into the honeysuckles, and I admire their invincible song. An Indigo Bunting adds a few lines to the chorus before flying away over the bean field.
A Northern Bobwhite calls, clear and close. I crane my neck to peer into the ditches and trees, but the handsome little quail is out of sight. Certainly its call is closer than our blackberry patch where they run among the brambles.
But all these are merely surroundings of THE TREE. THE TREE stands, a grand old guard of the mailbox.
Martins fly, chattering, over the tree. An Eastern Wood-Pewee pipes mournfully from among its green leaves. A Mourning Dove coos from the broken end of a dead branch, harmonizing with one of its kind across the road. Robins hop among the branches. A lone bluebird sings its plaintive song among the twigs and then departs. The gay chickadee and the stately nuthatch grace its limbs. Eastern Kingbirds fly screeching through the treetop.
Among the green branches, a broken limb sports a hole where, this spring, a pair of starlings raised a family. From some other cranny, two squirrels appear. They chase each other around and around the split trunk and gnarled branches, claws scratching the bark. There used to be six of them (four babies) frolicking on the lawn, but children grow up.
A half-grown squirrel sits on one side of the mailbox post. On the other side sits a half-grown rabbit. Together they hop to the grand old maple. The squirrel scampers up the trunk, and the rabbit hops around it. Are they friends?
In THE TREE there is THE HOLE. During the day it is simply a hollow burl in a dead branch. However, every evening, as twilight steals across the bean field, settles over the backyard, and twines itself in the branches of THE TREE, a sort of insect-like screeching crawls out of that hole. Pale faces appear in the window of the hole. Then, flapping and squalling, four fledgling Barn Owls emerge to begin their nightly ritual. They hop, crawl, flap, and fly from branch to branch, screeching for food from dusk to…sometime before we wake up in the morning.
Last night as we stood watching them, Benjamin glanced regretfully at the section of unmown lawn. “I wish I wouldn’t have to start up the lawn mower,” he said as he reached for the starter rope.
The motor roared to life. At that moment, two young owls left their perch and disappeared into the northwest. We glanced at each other. They were “our owls.” Benjamin turned his face northwest and lifted his hand in adieu.
I wish that would be the happy ending, but nature has its rules. This morning there are feathers under the maple tree. “I’m afraid it’s an owl,” Benjamin says. “There is only one wing left.”
We wonder what would eat an owl that size. A raccoon? They do eat chicken, as we have discovered by experience…but that is another story.
On Sunday night, we relax, talking late into the night. The rasping of locusts floats in the open window on the cool, dark breezes. The owls are out in the tree again, screeching, squalling.
Peace is shattered by a shriek, followed by dead silence.
“What was that?” I exclaim. “I think it was an owl. Something is at them again!”
Benjamin grabs a flashlight and heads out to investigate. I wait for sounds of fright or flight of the owl enemy.
After what seems like a good long while, he comes back in—you would never guess—it was a bobcat.
“A bobcat!” When I chose this week and our backyard, I never dreamed of bobcats.
“It was crouching in the grass at the edge of the bean field,” Benjamin explains, “just across the fence, maybe 10 feet (3 m) away. I thought it was a fox, it was so bold. Then it turned around and bounded into the bean field, and it was this short-tailed cat.”
“I clicked off the headlamp,” he continues, “and stood there in the dark, just looking around. Suddenly the bobcat was coming back. It was so bold, it was creepy.”
The week goes on. We rise early Tuesday morning. The owls are still screeching from their nest.
“Look at this,” Benjamin calls.
Right outside my favorite windows, between the two lilac bushes, shimmering in the damp night air, hovers a perfect spider web. The brown weaver sits silently in the center of her domain.
Later in the day, as the sun shines brightly on the west side of the house, I notice that this amazing piece of art has disappeared without a trace.
The afternoon is warm and quiet. A squirrel hangs headfirst from the twigs of the apple tree. In a minute, it flips around, apple in mouth, pauses on a branch for a forbidden bite, and disappears over the roof of the house.
The week is over. The story ends because it has to, but life in the yard continues to be “My Chosen Spot”—well, at least one of them. There are so many lovely nooks from which to observe God’s wonderful creation. But here I can observe nature all day long! I wonder what all you would see in your backyard if you kept track every day.