Tag Archives: insects

Mowing the Lawn

I’m one of the few people in my neighborhood who mows his own lawn. Most people seem to use lawn services or teenagers but a few of us do it ourselves.

No one else uses an unpowered mower, though, and sometimes people look at me like I must be nuts, but it doesn’t take me much longer or really any more effort to mow with such a contraption, but it does require a certain amount of presence since I can’t just roll over whatever’s in front of me. I have to pay attention to rocks and sticks and piles of dog doo.

It’s that paying attention that keeps me doing it myself. I’ve come to know our little suburban yard quite well over the years. I wonder sometimes what kind of a connection, if any, those who don’t mow their yards actually have with the flora and fauna all around. Granted my yard is not a wild place, though there is wildlife—and not just the birds that come to the feeders.

The live oaks and cedar elms are the highways of the non-winged and so they make for good observing. I see ants trailing in the bark’s grooves and places where squirrels or possibly late night rats have gnawed the wood. Sometimes there are faces in the knots of the trees depending on how the light cuts and moves across the yard. Usually there are birds in the branches: chickadees, doves, titmice.

I really appreciate those trees on our blazing summer mowing days for the shade they provide as well as how they ensure fluidity: I have to adjust my path as I approach the them, thus creating places where I miss a spot or two, where my lines are gently forced to curves. These adjustments that lead to minor imperfections really appeal to me. I love those rebellious clumps of grass for refusing to be mowed.

Getting away from the trees (but not too far—it’s a small yard) it’s not uncommon to catch sight of black-chinned hummingbirds hovering among the tiny red flowers in the tangled and overgrown flame acanthus, a plant unsure if it should be a bush or a tree, but fully invested in its effort to take over the flowerbed and tumble out over the grass.

There’s little connection with nature for most of us in our day-to-day lives, and lord knows, I know my yard isn’t some wild space, but the wild creeps in on six legs or eight or four or none (yes, sometimes snakes; fortunately none with rattles) and I love those times out cutting the grass when swallowtail butterflies flutter around the edges of the yard or when I stop to encourage a frog to be on his way or when a dragonfly seems to follow me along my spiraling path.

Mowing is a slow moving series of moments and actions, repetitive and known, and yet in that there is the awareness that there is wonder and mystery in this yard on this street where everything can seem so far removed from nature, that is until you slow down and really see. We live right on top of so much and so willingly blind ourselves to it. It’s an easy trap to fall into and sometimes a tricky one to escape.

Perhaps this is why, when I finish mowing I typically feel surprisingly refreshed.

Queen Butterfly

Butterfly

These aren’t great shots, but I saw this butterfly while walking along the trail last week and I had to stop and try for a few pictures. I should have opened the lens a bit to widen the depth-of-field and improve the focus.

I looked it up in my butterfly fieldguide, and it appears to be a Queen, which is a member of the Milkweed Butterfly family and is related to the Monarch. As I’ve been doing my weekly bird counts along the trail by the house I’ve been trying to learn the other creatures that live out there. Butterflies are not too hard since they’ll often let me get close so long as I move slow. Perhaps next year I’ll try to learn some of the wildflowers and trees.

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I find butterflies fascinating and it’s quite peaceful to watch these little creatures whose lives are so short and transitory. Watching this guy sitting on the leaf, slowing opening and closing his wings as if breathing, was to fall for a moment into a different rhythm as breath synced with wingbeat. When I moved on, I felt as if I was waking up.

Discoveries Close to Home

On the tail end of a bike ride yesterday, I wanted to make it an even 23 miles so I turned on a street near our house and found a trail leading to another neighborhood. I took the trail, which led to a cul-de-sac with a small nature preserve only .25 miles from home.

The preserve is mainly a small karst formation with a cave underneath. The sign said that the cave is 85 feet by 45 feet, but only 2 feet high at its highest. The cave entrances have been gated off in such a way that bats and other wildlife can get in and out, but snooping kids are prevented from entering.

Later in the evening I walked back up with my camera and see if I could get a few pictures.

This is one of the caves that had naturally collapsed so there was no need to block it off. It’s now just a two foot deep hole.

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In addition to this dragonfly, I saw mockingbirds, white-winged doves and a number of deer that seemed to be running all around me, allowing only glimpses as they raced through the cedar. One of these days, I’m going to bring the long lens and some patience and try to shoot a deer.

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I liked the look of this fallen tree, rotted and teeming with life.

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These flowers ignited if only for a brief moment in the sun’s fading light.

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