A Small Stonewall

HERE AT THE CHURCH O THE PINES WE HAVE A SMALL STONEWALL. It is our humble attempt to emulate the great cathedrals and stone edifices of worship in Europe, with their ‘flying buttresses’ and soaring bell towers. We think we come close. The chipmunks like it, and this morning one of our little friends, dressed in his Sunday-go-to-meeting striped suit, is scampering and clambering all over it—then racing away only to hurry back again. The blue jays, always curious, also hop around the rocks, cocking their heads and peering into crevices, wondering what the busy little fellow has cached away.
It has been a busy week for all at the Church. Much returning from afar, much house-cleaning and homemaking and domesticity, with many still scouting the real estate market for the perfect place in a good neighborhood with a view. On yesterday’s walk, the Caretaker came across Brother Muskrat cruising the shallow inlet near the footbridge. The first hermit thrush of spring was seen hopping around an old log in the leaf duff. I have heard the first returning ruby-crowned kinglet, singing, “I’m-a-hunting-I’m-a-hunting” over and over again. Redwings sing “cong-ga-ree” from the cattails in Duck Bay. The geese have mostly settled in. The nesting eagles, Bennett and Jane, observe all the world from a nearby, secure, and undisclosed location.

Nearly every afternoon there is a game composed of equal parts ‘hide-and-seek,’ and ‘tag, you’re it,’ between the noisy, tell-all crows and the silent, great horned owls, who also have a nest nearby—though we haven’t yet discovered it. We thought we heard the baby greeping one night, out behind the garage. (Yes, baby owls ‘greep’ they don’t hoot.)

On the back trail in the red pine grove, neighbor Fred and I installed his ‘critter cam,’ by a ground burrow, and yesterday Fred came by with his iPad to show us a dandy collection of photos from day and night, showing woodchucks, red squirrels, blue jays, skunks, and, yes, the elegant and elusive Red Fox stopping by. From the photographic evidence, it appears that the hole—an excellent hole—belongs to Brother Woodchuck (whistle pig, groundhog) and the rest are merely persistent visitors—the Fox, perhaps, with evil intent. This is a dynamic that plays out over and over through the seasons and the years, with Brother and Sister Fox, members of the Carnivorous Denomination, alternately welcomed as Church members or kept at paw’s length. They are not the only ones, of course, accused of eating their neighbors or breaking other rules of good behavior. They were, we all know, made by a Power greater than themselves to be this way. So allowances are made—particularly for the foxes who are such fancy dressers and bring an element of style and panache to the congregation.

And so it goes at our humble Church, where we all try to Get Along and to add more life and beauty to the world than we take away. We wish you a Good Sabbath!

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