Tributaries: "The Wisdom of Neighbors"

By Susan Wider

Dark-eyed junco:          Relax into the slide.

A light dusting of snow covers the gently-sloping green roof of the bird feeder. You fly there—regular schedule, normal speed. You take it at a slide when you try to land; those wings back you up.

Bobcat:                        It’s okay to trust.

We watch you walk on the wooden deck rail; nap on the low, decorative stucco wall outside the bedroom; mark your territory in a flowerbed; investigate the space under the deck. You spend hours here with your mate. This place is safe.

Kangaroo rat:             Retracing your steps can be smart.

A red racer snake has chased you all over the property, and it just entered and promptly exited a tunnel that you recently vacated. You dive back into that tunnel again. Snake is long gone, hunting for you elsewhere.

Hawkmoth:                     What you really need may not always be right in front of you.

That honeysuckle blossom you are feeding on is fragrant with sweet nectar, and you fight the breeze to hover in place there. But when the breeze stiffens and overwhelms you, you let it blow you into a neighboring bush with even more juicy blossoms.

Cooper’s hawk:             Size does not matter.

You have seen a robin, a bluebird, and a pine siskin all bathing at the same time in that white birdbath. You try to fit in there for your bath, too. But only after they fly off, which isn’t a problem once they see you coming.

Pack rat:                       Never give up.

We own your land, so we dismantle your nest, first from under the old dog run, then from inside the stack of hollow concrete blocks by the garage, and even from the engine block of our ancient navy blue Jeep. You relocate under the deck. Smart. It’s too messy and difficult to get you out of there now.

Camel cricket:                Explore new environments.

I slap a clear plastic cocktail-party cup upside-down onto the tile floor to trap you inside. I ease a postcard underneath you to keep you in there while I pick you up. You scramble all over the image of the Eiffel Tower but all is well. You are only being moved from the dangerous bathroom to the leafy, plant-filled corner of the dining room. (Patience though, you might be sketched before release.)

Coyote:                             Choose your friends carefully.

You inadvertently make noise when you trot across that loose gravel in the driveway, but don’t worry. That woman in the open garage appreciates you and is grateful you are here. I will not hurt you.

Susan Wider lives outside Santa Fe, New Mexico with an assortment of hawks, woodpeckers, coyotes, rabbits, snakes, bobcats, and a husband. These critters all find their way into her writing. Her articles, reviews, essays, and stories have appeared in Orion, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Tennis View Magazine, Lighthouse Digest, Kiki Magazine, and THE Magazine among others. In addition to her on-going magazine writing, she is also working on several art-based and nature-based book projects. She is represented by Stimola Literary Studio.