By Karen Brennan
The hummingbird feeder needs refilling. One cup of sugar to four cups of water, boil, then cool. Here they come now, sticking their long, curved needle bills into the feeder holes and slurping up the last drops, light speed wings a blur. In nectar competition are the tiny, dull verio who, in between sips, perch on the patio succulents. Others—cardinals, woodpeckers, glowing western tanagers, sequester in the mesquite, which is gigantic, many-branched and leafy. Anyone could hide there.
The other morning a Peregrine Falcon lighted on a branch then flew into a tangle of foliage, then hung out in a high reach, lost to sight. Smartly, the doves had already taken cover—they are good at burrowing in the oleander which, because of its thickets of sharpened leaves, is banned to the falcon; lizards shoot out from under and zip by me, terrified of my human presence. Well, who wouldn’t be?
Only for a time can we count on the birds, the weather, the persistence of lantana, bougainvillea, plumbago (watered by irrigation magic). The garden’s days are numbered. You can’t freeze the inexorable march of time or the tragic effects of global neglect. Nothing else, these days, is certain.
Certainly, we can’t count on democracy. It was always a vexed concept, a pipe dream engineered by white men for the benefit of same. As a white woman, I benefit by proxy, though we didn’t get the vote until 1920, and only at the price of imprisonment, starvation, sometimes torture. Black suffrage was earlier and costlier, and still evilly undermined by systemic racism, which is a way of shoving the lynchings, burnings and continual enslavement (in prisons, in poverty) into a tidy, bloodless phrase. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, police brutality, you name it, it’s hard to have faith in the system when the system is rigged against so many.
The alien invasion that is Covid has come to claim its due—our punishment for so many crimes we’ll collectively run out of fingers: all of the above plus a general disregard for anything but ourselves—a sort of shadow plague, the absence of empathy. Thus, I am propelled into the garden to commune with the birds and desert denizens, my solace in isolation.
If we isolate in our gardens, our houses, we may be able to avoid the swirling Covid planets and their payloads of poison– if we are lucky enough to have houses and gardens to isolate in, if we don’t need to perform essential work in order to eat, if we are not needed on today’s front lines to save lives, if we have the luxury of watching birds while elsewhere peaceful protestors, taking brave action, are tear-gassed by police or kidnapped by government forces. Where nightly we learn of this 2020 administration’s horrific actions and inactions. Where, as a consequence of all our failings to each other and to nature, there sits a bad man issuing malevolent decrees.
What country is this? What year is it again?
Oh yeah. 2020. DON’T FORGET TO VOTE.