Life on Earth,

by Jaime Gerard,

Tallmadge Express Editor;

The "wildlife" of my youth and the wildlife of my present often seem miles apart, but equally as special and memorable.

Wasn't last weekend gorgeous? Seventy-degree days with low or no humidity and a breeze -- that's what I call a perfect summer's day in Ohio.

I spent a few hours on Friday and Sunday with my close friend and Stow neighbor Deb Lutheran. Together, and separately, we experienced several close encounters with the local fauna.

Friday night we were sitting on my deck, talking, when we were buzzed, first by a chickadee and then by a hummingbird. It didn't take long to realize they were drawn to a fountain I had recently purchased for my deck. As much as they wanted to frolic in the moving water, they were obviously intimidated by our presence and flew off.

Apparently not bothered by our close proximity was a doe who ambled up to the corn crib I keep in my back yard.

"Is there any corn in it?" Deb whispered. I said I didn't think so, and crept into my house and came out of the garage with a bag of shelled corn.

Now let me tell you something about my friend, Deb: not only does she have a green thumb, she adores animals and has a way with them, wild or domestic.

Deb took the bag from me and slowly approached the deer, quietly talking as she walked. The doe just stood and stared. Deb emptied the corn into the crib and retreated to the deck, and still she never budged. Finally, she meandered off, choosing not to dine at that time, but hours later I flicked on my back yard light and caught her munching away.

Sunday, I visited with Deb and her husband, Terry. Terry told me earlier in the week he happened to look out their kitchen window and saw a group of squirrels congregated on the deck.

Thinking this was odd, he surveyed the back yard and discovered why the squirrels had sought shelter -- a red tailed hawk was perched on the chimney of the stone grille in their back yard, looking from side to side, searching for his next meal. Terry said he watched as the hawk flew to a vertical piece of driftwood adorning one of their flowerbeds. As if to blend into the wood, Terry said the bird went still, raising one of its legs like a tree branch.


Luckily, none of the birds bought into this ruse and lived to sing another day.

Earlier Sunday, Deb and Terry told me they saw the doe near their corn crib, nursing her two fawns. Deb said they were so little they had to crane their necks to reach her milk.

A momentary celebration of motherhood on Father's Day.

Later on, after Terry went inside, Deb and I were buzzed again, this time by an enormous dragonfly. We guessed he may have been hunting the mosquitoes that were trying to make a meal out of us.

Then we heard another buzzing, this one louder. We turned our heads toward the sound and there, hovering, was a hummingbird. He turned slightly and as soon as the light hit him we knew his gender, as the iridescent crimson feathers around his throat glowed.

He seemed to be looking our way, and finally Deb said, "It's your hat."

Sorry little fellow, I thought, only a red baseball cap, not a big, juicy hibiscus blossom.

My backyard adventure ends with a magical moment I experienced Saturday afternoon.

I was watering my newly-planted hostas when I caught sight of a whirring blur out of the corner of my eye that stopped in front of me, hovering. It was a female hummingbird. I stood stock still, like a living fountain, wondering what it was she wanted. Fearing I was going to drown the hosta, I slowly turned the hose.

Down she flew, splashing and bathing herself on the leaf.

In a flash, she was gone.

I felt so honored, so blessed to have witnessed something so exquisitely intimate and beautiful.

Immediately, I thought of a quote from naturalist Henry David Thoreau:

"I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn."

Well said, Henry.


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