My squirrels and owls.

“They all cook up in that gravy,” was my friend’s only response when I sent him this article on:  the squirrels of California. He was the one who had prompted my research, when a couple of days previous he looked through the window and drew my attention to an orange-tinged squirrel looking cute as it raided the suet feeder. He continued with stories and recipes from various times he’d shot squirrels and cooked them into stew, from childhood to recently.

Only in the last two years have I ever seen squirrels of any species on my property, though they are thick in the trees along the creek a block away.

Earlier this month the suet feeder was knocked to the ground, presumably by one of these critters. As you can see, I’ve now criss-crossed the S-hooks to make everything more convenient for both of us. It is easy for my squirrel friend to access the rich food while hanging from the stable arbor, and it keeps me from having to clean up a spilled feeder. This guy looks like a Fox Squirrel, which is not native. Only Sciurus griseus, the western gray squirrel, is native to California, and I haven’t seen them in my garden lately.

As I was already in the store buying a new block of suet, I picked up one more suet cage as well, bringing my total to three. They seem to be the easiest way to draw a few more birds here, since I took down my hopper feeder because of the avian salmonella outbreak two years ago. I could put it back now, but I haven’t put my mind to the project of maintaining it and filling it, etc…

I’m happy to report that lots of birds come, too, to the suet feeders, the fountain, to the thousand plants in the garden, and to the tiny insects that live on the plants and in the trees. It’s funny to see the hummingbirds check out the pomegranate bushes, which in this season have nothing for them to drink; it must be the fading red of the rotting fruit that draws their attention. As soon as the flowers come, the hummingbirds (and the carpenter bees) will be there.

I’m always excited when a Nuttal’s Woodpecker drops by, because it’s not very often. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any other species of woodpecker here. They are too quick for me to photograph them, so I took this photo from online.

The Great Horned Owl hooted nearby the other night — it is the most thrilling visitor of all. For years now I’ve thought of having someone build a platform up in my pine tree, to be ready by November. That way, when the owls are scouting around in advance of nesting in January or February, they can take note of it. So… maybe by next fall?

by Carl Brenders

Children are not things.

It’s a short step from the belief
that every child should be wanted
to the belief that a child exists
to satisfy our wants.

— Leon R. Kass

A PRAYER FOR THE SANCTITY OF UNBORN LIFE

O our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who in the beginning fashioned man out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life so that he became a living soul, Who knowest the time of life and name of each even from his mother’s womb, Who numberest even the hairs of our heads, and Who keepest a watchful eye over every living thing in Thy creation, do Thou now look upon Thy creation which Thou hast fashioned according to Thine own image, and grant to those who are in their mother’s wombs and to their mothers the protection that Thou gavest Thine own Virgin Mother when she carried Thee, and fill them with the Holy Spirit even as Thou once filled Elizabeth such that John the Forerunner leaped in her womb at encountering Thee.

As Thou becamest incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became true man, hidden within the veil of Thy mother’s flesh, joining Thy divinity with our humanity, join Thyself now with us and all Thy human creation through Thy grace. As Thou didst enter into the womb of Thy Mother, be present also in the wombs of all mothers, with them and with their children. Protect them from all assaults of the evil one and his foul spirits, that in due time all may come unto Thee, as Thou didst say, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come unto Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

O Thou Who at Thy birth heard the weeping of Rachel in lamentation, who would not be comforted for her children were no more, crying out at the slaughter of the innocents by the wicked Herod for Thy sake, hear also the weeping of all those who lament the deaths of Thy little children, who cry out for Thy love and peace in the midst of terror and inhumanity.

As Thou once granted true contrition of heart to David and to Manasseh and to Peter, Who sinned against Thee, grant true repentance to all who in malice or greed or desperation or hopelessness or ignorance sin against Thee and Thy creatures in the untimely taking of their lives. Receive their tears as the tears of the Publican, which flow from the depths of their hearts, as Thou didst receive David, who had taken life unjustly, and Manasseh, who had permitted the worship of idols, and Peter, who thrice denied Thee. Receive them as the Prodigal, with eagerness and rejoicing, clothing them with the robe of holiness and glory and celebrating with them the feast of faith.

Speak words of justice into the hearts of our rulers, that they may be guided by divine wisdom in protecting and nurturing life in every good way. Give strength and love to those who minister to all who suffer in desperation and need, granting through them every spiritual and earthly blessing. Protect the widows and orphans and the abandoned, be father to the fatherless and hope to the hopeless, raise the young, protect the bond of marriage in peace and concord. Remember the forgotten and bring them to mind in all of us who pray unto Thee. Grant eternal rest to the fallen, and raise them up at the last day.

O Christ our God, Who knowest all in our depths and receivest the supplications of Thy servants Who call out to Thee in our own transgressions and imperfection, hear this our humble prayer and give us all Thy divine blessing from on high, for Thou art ever glorified with Thy Father Who is from everlasting and Thine all-holy, good and life-creating Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

We prune and purge.

I had a wonderful day, though it was very odd at the beginning. Instead of my usual slow and contemplative morning pace, I had to go downstairs early to phone my auto insurance company as soon as their business hours began, in hopes of asking a simple question of A Real Person, as we say. I had begun to wonder, over the previous several days, if there were any of those on duty. It worked, and I made progress; but I’ll have to do the same thing on Monday.

The contemplative part of the day got postponed and shortened a bit, but it was rich and thought-provoking, as usual. I can’t go into detail about all of that, because most of the day was given to housework, of the purging/organizing sort that I’m making a priority this year. To top it off, the gardener came late in the afternoon, and pruned more trees and bushes. When he is here I usually also work in the garden or tidy up the garage.

It was lovely to be in the garden and not get wet. Eleven days of the last two weeks were rainy; I was reminded today that January in my area is the month with the most rainfall, and that was a blessing in several ways. When it rains, we are rarely forbidden to burn wood, so my house has been cozy from all the fires I’ve been able to keep going, and the wood stove often keeps putting out heat until the afternoon of the next day. That means that when I wake up I am not so cold I threaten to go into dormancy, and I can put my mind to ideas and projects other than going back to bed or making multiple mugs of hot cocoa.

First Alejandro leveled the fountain. I don’t know why it gets wonky so easily, causing all the water to fall off one side of the upper tier. I am not very skillful at evening it out by myself.

The lemon tree, strawberry tree, and at least one pomegranate bush got trimmed and shaped, and much more order was restored to the garage and garden. Recently I mentioned about how the lemon tree was gangly and out of control, and my helper did have confidence about what to do now, and what we’ll do a little later. It looks much better after we removed several branches. I am always surprised at how good my lemon tree smells. I brought in a few of the trimmings and put them in a vase so that every time I come into the room I will get a whiff of that delicious scent.

Wrestling and striving with his heart.

“The abode and resting-place of the Holy Spirit is humility, love, gentleness and the other holy commandments of Christ. If, therefore, a person desires to grow and to attain perfection by acquiring all these virtues, he must initially force himself to acquire and must establish himself in the first — that is to say, in prayer—wrestling and striving with his heart to make it receptive and obedient to God.”

-St. Makarios of Egypt