The pace softens by the Fourth of July. Days are warm. The sun has sung the world to life. It is time to sit and watch.
A scrub jay has discovered a treasure. What it is I am not quite sure. It looks like a nut or an oak gall. Whatever it is, he is determined to crack it open. He stands on a board by the driveway and hammers the thing against it. He attracts the attention of five other jays and of me, but the object remains unbroken. The other jays look on with interest, appearing to covet his treasure. One hops up to him on the ground close enough to grab the thing should he drop it. The others hover above in the tree, advising and scolding, or maybe taunting and teasing. He puts it down with a foot on it and repeatedly rams his beak against it in skull-shaking attempts to break it open. Finally, failing thus far, he flies away with it.
Within less than a minute a rabbit appears to take his place. She jumps a few feet down the drive, turns and jumps back. She turns again and retraces her path. Another rabbit appears. It too hops about at leisurely pace seeming to have nothing particular in mind.
Quail appear one by one out of the brush. The first, a male, takes up a watch. He looks nervously in all directions. Finally, when all seems clear, another quail appears, and then another and another. Adult quail lead the way, eight or ten in all, headed for our small pond. Then a mad scramble begins. Chicks covered with fluff and no larger than a tablespoon tumble down the hill. Surely on their first outing, they are carefully herded and ringed by their elders, each taking a vantage point in the outer circle around their small charges. They take turns drinking, fussing all the while.
At the end of the drive a small deer ambles by. No more than four feet at its head, it has two furry numbs where antlers will be. It strolls down the dirt drive and effortlessly springs up an almost sheer cut.
On the surface of the pond water striders dart about. A few weeks ago there were many not yet fully grown. Now there are a few large striders and dozens of miniatures.
Beneath the surface bloated tadpoles gulp down particles so minute they can hardly be seen. Here and there a few of them are beginning to sprout legs.
Yesterday evening I saw a rattlesnake coiled in the sun at the end of the drive. He startled me as much as I startled him. But he has vanished. I hope we have mutely decided to stay out of each other’s territory.
I wonder, as I watch these animals, if they are watching me as I watch them. Can they hope that I will live peacefully in their space as I hope they will live peacefully in mine?
For now I only know it is July. It is time to sit and watch.