A neighbor with a chainsaw helps me remove a fallen tree. He relays the yard’s history, helps us decipher the boundaries of a garden, one he tended in years past. He’s a contractor. A worker who works with him brought music and, with a wheelbarrow, lent a hand removing the tree. To both the worker and the neighbor, I am thankful. Yellow daffodils sprout around the house and in the yard. I imagine plucking a sprout of onion grass and eating it as seasoning atop a baked potato. This I do.
Toward evening I retire to the yard and sit beside a fire. The fire brightens as the sky darkens. Crickets and cicadas trade rhythms. Beside them ride the sonic traces of cars along the nearby autobahn. From the sky above comes and goes the sound of a helicopter. Sarah and I burn dry branches of rosemary. As night falls, I pull my chair closer to the fire and admire its warmth. The heat relaxes me. Afterwards I sit beside Frankie as she plays at her music table in the living room, awake a bit past her bedtime.
Sarah looks into how we might remove bats from beneath a section of our attic. They’re endangered and they’re cool to have around, in the sense that they eat thousands of insects per day; but their poop isn’t something we want collecting next to our house. Perhaps we can arrange for them a small bat house. Build them into a workable permaculture. Jonathon Engels is one of many who recommend that we “utilize wildlife.” Create good habitats for frogs, lizards, birds, rabbits, deer, bees, butterflies. Add fertility, spread seeds, create compost. Bats are skillful pest eliminators — pests that could otherwise endanger crops like corn, tomatoes, and beans. Bat guano can then be recycled back into the land as fertilizer. Bats are also pollinators. So let us build or buy a bat box. Mount it on a post in a sunny spot in the yard. The box should perch about thirteen to sixteen feet off the ground. Let us do our best to provide all creatures with homes. Scale up the ladders of the allegory; apply the principle more broadly. In all cases, it means overcoming fear of otherness. Build a culture that uses narrative to occasion imaginative identification with all of nature as kith and kin, while also responding lovingly to difference. Think of this as an alternative to the relationship to Otherness proposed and imagined by Thomas Nagel in his famous essay “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?”
A Monarch explores blooms of ivy beside me, some of the latter grown up the side of a tree, with bees, too, attending to its nectars. Sarah and I received word today that we’ll have to move within months of the arrival of our child. It will be an in-town move, however — and while moves for us are difficult, not least because of my masses of books and records, our hope is that out of this will come purchase of a home, whereas before we’ve always rented. The hope, too, is that the home will be a place where we can grow a garden and assemble an herbarium. Birds come over and sing to me. The butterfly folds its wings, and in shadow, as if camouflaged, disappears in the ivy, before flapping open, the ivy leaf transfigured, hosting in its place beings of vast beauty, elegance, and intelligence. Our minds begin to play with a name, one we share with others. It’s the name of my mother’s maternal grandmother; in its history, it’s associated with patronage of animals and nature; musically, it evokes a flowering cosmos.