I began keeping a nature journal decades ago. Below are excerpts from those journals sharing my experiences with dogs, cats and horses, and observing the natural world in Austin, Texas.
The last morning of February feels like the first day of spring. The redbud is finally beginning to bloom, surrounded by a circle of elegant white irises. A squirrel perches on the walnut tree stump, teasing Daisy who watches from the deck. The owl looks outside his box, catching the morning light.
The moment I walked into Willis’ paddock the cold front blew in.
Yesterday morning there was a dove stuffed in the entrance of Tim’s box, hanging upside down, beheaded.
The sky was a blanket of clouds as I pulled out of the driveway, the temperature dropping with each mile on Hwy. 290. By the time Daisy and I reached Scattered Oaks it was 36 degrees; icy moisture sprayed our faces.
Time began for light and life, for splendor and grandeur. Time began for seas and mountains, for flowers and birds. Time began for the valleys to ring with the songs of life, And for the wilderness to echo with the wailing of wind
December is an in-between time here, not fall and not winter. Autumn lingers, its golden mornings stretching through December. Here and there, a sudden cold front snaps us all to attention, freezing plants forgotten outside and reminding us to dig out warm coats and boots.
Each morning I walk the arroyo with Daisy and watch the Spanish oaks transform themselves, their leaves deepening to maroon.
Daisy waits patiently while our new foster dog, Rose, chews diligently on her rawhide bone. Daisy has her own bone, but what she really wants is Rose’s bone.
October just slipped by. When we came back from Yellowstone, it was still warm in Austin. Days drifted into the 80s, but the shift to cooler temperatures began as some mornings sank to 47 degrees. The first thing I see each morning is my neighbor’s cottonwood tree, now a glorious gold shining in the morning sunlight. It is the first color change of autumn in the neighborhood.
While Harvey swept Houston and south Texas with flood waters, carrying away homes, lifetimes, Central Texas – or at least Austin – bursts open with new life. Cooler temperatures and soaking rain have almost made us forget it’s still summer. The redbud tree has never looked so full and green. The sage is in bloom, delicate white flowers covering dusty green leaves and the salvia is a shower of red blossoms.
Last weekend the rain began and didn’t stop until Monday morning. Austin and the Austin area – Manor, Elgin – soaked up at least 12 inches. Houston got 52.
My eyes widened when I saw him. 55 pounds? Maybe. But tall, lanky, skinny. Where have I seen those markings before? My neighbor's Anatolian shepherd. He licked my hands and wiggled around. Yes, he was sweet. My eyebrows raised again. He was intact. They didn’t tell me that! Well . . . I said I would do this. Can’t back down now.
After months, I heard the owls one night this week, trilling loudly as I walked Daisy through the neighborhood. Searching dark shadows of tree branches for small oval shapes, I couldn’t find them. They are molting now, scattering gray and white feathers across Tim’s yard. The owls that visit my yard are gone; neither seen nor heard. This spring Daisy and I would often return from an evening walk and find an owl perched on a shepherd’s hook, head bent, searching the ground for bugs. Now the yard is empty and silent.
The owl peeks out of the entrance to her box. She is anxious to leave, her head inches outside the opening. It is 7 p.m. and still light, even in the grayness of an overcast sky. Daylight savings has screwed up everyone’s schedule. But not the owl's.
I have never seen a tornado, but now I have seen its aftermath. A tornado swept through Scattered Oaks in the early hours of the morning.
It started badly. The reins suddenly between Willis’ legs and then snapping apart with a frantic wave of his left front leg. I was trying to buckle the noseband on his bridle when his head reached toward the ground, searching for another slice of apple, no doubt. The reins slipped forward from his head, brushing the concrete floor. Willis stepped forward unsuspecting and then the struggle. There goes the riding lesson, I thought.
I heard the screech owls last night, an anxious cry shrieking through the darkness. The little gray owl appeared in September and is guarding her place in the box again this year. For more than a decade owls have nested in the yard, successfully producing several clutches of four or five owlets.