It is a cold, damp Sunday morning in the middle of December. Grey.
On the lawn, three plump crows strut purposefully from here to there, pausing to pluck worms or bugs or seeds from the grass. They are together, but apart. They’re like teenage boys. They are cool. They are aloof.
In the garden, among the grass cover crop, a Stellar’s Jay flits from spot-to-spot, finding food the rooks have overlooked. The crows swagger; the jay glides. She is the prom queen, conscious that all eyes admire her beauty.
Jasmine, the neighbor’s Golden Retriever, stands behind the fence, tucked into the gap in the arborvitae, panting. Her black, beady eyes follow the movement of the birds. She shifts her weight from paw-to-paw, barely containing the coiled spring inside her. Were the fence removed, she would bound at them, snatch one in her jaws. Jasmine is the wallflower: the kid without a date.
The squirrels are the class clowns. Two of them have climbed down the walnut tree to feed at the nut basket. One of them is perched upon it, gorging himself on acorns and filberts and seeds. He’s finished the corn cob we put out yesterday, and has flung it to the lawn — a demand for more. The second squirrel makes repeated — but futile — attempts to snatch a seed or a nut from the basket. The first squirrel will not allow it. He shifts position to block the interloper, chases him, sometimes rakes a claw across his haunch. He will not share his bounty. The squirrels bicker in a fierce chatter.
The fat grey neighborhood cat, Crenshaw, is curled in a ball, sleeping on the porch, warm on the blanket we’ve placed there for him. He doesn’t care about the birds, or the squirrels, or the dog. There is sleep to be had and by god! he means to have it. He wakes when I inadvertently slam the door to the coat closet, but only for a moment. He is the apathetic outsider.
And somewhere, somewhere Simon and Nemo are exercising their inalienable right to be outdoors on a Sunday morning. Are they in the bushes, stalking prey? Are they digging among the roses? Are they under the porch, hiding, asleep? Behind the workshop? Exploring dark places? Are they next door visiting Oreo and Tsu? Spending time with Pook? Fighting with Flash?
No — here they come now, up the mudroom steps, pawing the screen door so that it bump-bump-bangs, signaling their desire to be let inside.
Later, Nemo sits and watches the squirrels. His tail sweeps the floor in fevered lashes. When the squirrels chatter, Nemo chatters. He wants outside now. He regrets having come inside for breakfast. A fattened squirrel would be ever-so-much tastier.
Simon is on the kitchen counter — in willful violation of Kris’ iron law — gazing out the window at the birdfeeder. He watches the finches and the chickadees as they peck at the millet, or hang in clusters from the cage in which we’ve placed a block of suet. The little birds love the suet. (So, too, do the starlings. There are no starlings this morning, however.) Simon is stoic. He may wish he could torment the birds, but he does not show it.
Upstairs, Toto is resting like a loaf bread, purring on the futon. She is watching Kris, who is sits at the computer doing her finances, shopping online, listening to Christmas carols.
I am wandering from room to room, admiring this wild kingdom.
In the evening, we drove down to Jeremy and Jennifer’s. While Kris stayed with Harrison and Emma, the rest of us headed to Zion Mennonite for the annual sing-your-own-Messiah. It was great fun, though I felt a little out of place. Not because I was an atheist in a church, but because I didn’t know my part well enough. Next year — and I do plan to do this again next year — I will prepare in advance. I’ll buy a copy of the score, and practice singing along to one of the Messiahs I have on CD.