The Common Kingfisher – Alcedo atthis
When it comes to Christmas, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. My traditions may be idiosyncratic, but it just isn’t Christmas without pickled herring, a string of cranberries on the tree, bayberry candles, and Medieval carols. Pink and lavender trees, Mannheim Steamroller, and Elves on the Shelves will come and go, but I’m satisfied with my old ways, and probably always will be.
Still, there are times when something new emerges from the clutter and cacaphony of the season and attracts my attention. Last year, it was a snippet of song that stopped me in the yogurt aisle of a local grocery. Light and rhythmic, it lilted through the store: a memorable melody with words sung in a language I couldn’t decipher.
Laugh at the antlers if you will, but laugh at your peril. That business-like look in the eyes of my beautiful calico is very real. Dixie Rose (short for Dixie-Rose-Center-of-the-Universe-and-Queen-of-all-She-Surveys) loves Christmas, and she intends to be ready when it arrives. Do not stand in her way.
Dixie arrived at my door as an unloved, four-month-old stray who became my first real pet. As a child I did receive a small painted turtle, but the poor thing met a most unfortunate end. My birthday puppy lasted only hours. A tiny but exceedingly enthusiastic black Cocker Spaniel, the pup terrified me and was sent packing by disconsolate adults.
Later, I raised a fox squirrel and laughed my way through four years with a prairie dog, but my relationship with Dixie Rose is of a different order entirely. I believe her to be the most beautiful and most clever creature on four paws. I don’t think she’s the most spoiled creature in the world, but we’re working on it – diligently. Continue reading
Christmas comes differently to the country.
Threaded around and through twin pieces of rusted rebar that serve as mailbox supports, the shabbiness of the plastic pine garland is apparent only to the mail carrier, or to the woman who trudges in slippers up the lane from her house, hoping against hope to find greetings in her box. From the road the garland appears perfect, full and fresh. From a distance, even plastic communicates the woman’s message: in this house, we celebrate. We mark the season. We share our joy with you, the passer-by.
Farther down the road, a wreath made of vines adorns a gate closed across a cattle guard. Its ribbon flutters in the wind, attracting attention, drawing the eye through the gate and into a pasture. There’s a brush pile and some uncleared mesquite. A few trees, pushed over and left to die, wait to be added to the pile. Despite the cattle guard, no livestock roam. There’s no stock tank, no house or pond – not even a pile of rusted, broken-down machinery. Only a despondent wind sighs through the fence and across the field. Continue reading