When I was little, this would be the time of year she’d be collecting long pine needles or salt hay to put around her roses, and checking on the last root vegetables to be harvested for the year. We’d all rake leaves [or chase the leaves as my grandfather used the leaf-blower], and then we’d help collect the output of the leaf shredder/mulcher to put in the compost heap by the raspberry cage.
I don’t have enough leaves to justify a shredder, although I guess if the Oak and the Yellowwood really get going in the next few years…
Here, all the asters but the white ones have gone to seed in the front meadow garden, and the goldenrod blossoms have faded to amber fluff. The first frost should be by shortly [although much later than my preference would decree; I’d like to get those bulbs in the ground, now that they’re here!]. The zheeeee! of goldfinches still occassionally zips above me as I work the ground, but more frequently I see small brown stripéd birds who skirl down into the shrubbery or peck among the stalks of plants looking for whatever has fallen that day.
I am ankle-deep in the trench I am digging, bending over frequently to remove stones from beneath my shovel. I hear somebird complaining, and look up.
Oh. Song sparrow. I whistle-cheep at it, adapted from the calls I’ve heard from pet cockatiels. It flies a little closer, into a thicket of tall ornamental grass that I have tied up like a sheaf of wheat, and after a few moments I can see it nibbling seeds. I go back to digging. Every so often the sparrow sings.
From the corner of my eye, I see a pinwheel of short, pointed wings ,with black and white bars. Four wings, two birds — one a bit closer than the other.
It gets closer, for reasons I don’t understand, and I realize it’s a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. Insects are what it wants, not seeds. I guess there must be some still around, because it seemed to pluck something from an stem and then flit even closer. You! What are you? What? What?
Kinglets were (I think) the last of the birds I got to talk with my grandmother about — one showed up around her birthday one year, and she couldn’t remember ever seeing one in the wild, either. I think of them as spring birds, although it turns out that we live in their winter range, so maybe they’re around more than I’ve noticed.
My grandmother would have wanted to hear about that. One of these days I’ll get around to reading more of her garden journals, which may be as close to conversation as we can get right now.
Two little Kinglets. Such small things. And yet such dear things: birds, bits of conversation, echoed garden chores, responses to seasonal cycles that come round and around, even if the people change.