At Home…Still

Carolina wren with dandelion w sig
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) in my yard

Have you seen the articles about how the pandemic stay-at-home orders have had unexpected benefits for some people? I was just reading about families who have begun eating dinners together and spending more time playing games at home, enjoying each other’s company.  Freed from the need to commute to work or school, many people have more time to slow their lives down.

I’m retired and not part of a household, but there are parallel changes happening in my own life. Over the past six months or so, I’d started to feel that I had too many obligations; I wanted to figure out how to slow my life down without missing out on fun events with friends.  I was trying to get better at saying “no” to new obligations. Suddenly the Coronavirus poked its head up and fixed that problem for me. My life came to a screeching halt. Everything was cancelled. Every day was scary and confusing.

But now that I’ve adapted (somewhat) to this new pandemic-restricted life, I’m rediscovering the pleasures of staying at home. The other day someone asked me how I was doing, and I said, “You know…I’m still at home.” As the words came out of my mouth, I thought of another meaning of “still” — being quiet, peaceful, serene, not moving. And I realized that I’m really enjoying this time when my calendar has nothing on it. Most days there’s no place I have to be at any given time. Such freedom! That was disorienting at first, but I’m getting used to it now. So yes, I’m still at home, and I like it.

Carolina wren hunting for insects in grass - blog
Carolina Wren hunting March flies in my yard

In no way am I suggesting that the pandemic is a good thing, but I wonder if this period of forced slowing down might have some long-term benefits to our lives. Will we take any positive life lessons from our experience, or will we go back to our normal busy-busy ways after this is over? Will I be better at saying “no”? Will we remember what it’s been like to have more time to just sit with a cup of coffee and gaze out the window, or sit on the garden swing and watch a wren plucking March flies from the grass?

Speaking of sitting with a cup of coffee…the other morning I was on the sofa with my morning java, when this young Cooper’s hawk dropped dramatically out of the sky to land on a mole in the front yard. He was less than 20 feet away from me, separated only by two panes of glass.

Cooper's hawk with prey v2
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) standing on his prey

Realizing time was of the essence, I moved as quickly as I could toward my camera, trying not to spook him. I had an advantage because raptors seem less likely to spook easily when they’re young, and especially when they’re attempting to subdue their next meal. So while he stood there squeezing that mole to death, I managed to grab the camera and get a few shots off before my cat Sam ran at the window and caused the hawk to fly off, mole dangling below him. This was one of only a few times in my life when I’ve been able to take a bird photo from my sofa. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Cooper's hawk with prey v3
I think he knows I’m watching, but he doesn’t feel threatened enough to fly

Last summer was full of meetings, field trips, and conferences for dragonflies, moths, and native plants — I was constantly going somewhere. This summer isn’t likely to have any of those events, so I can easily imagine myself redirecting my attention to some intense nesting behaviors at home. My native garden project has been a wonderful anchor for me, leading me to spend lots of time watching the insects that come to live out their lives here. I foresee even more time spent in my own garden this year, documenting and learning about the wildlife I share this property with.

Speaking about documenting insects, don’t forget to click the big beetle icon on the sidebar to check in on Kim’s Big Bug Year. I’ve found some interesting things so far, including this beautiful tiger beetle, a subspecies of the Festive Tiger Beetle called the LeConte’s Tiger Beetle.

Festive tiger beetle - blog
LeConte’s Tiger Beetle (Cicindela scutellaris ssp. lecontei)

Having said all that about enjoying my time at home and wanting to slow down, I do miss my friends quite a lot. I don’t want to turn inward so much that I don’t see my friends at all. But maybe I’ll start inviting them to visit me and sit in my garden, one person at a time (six feet away from each other, of course). I always get more satisfaction from interacting with people one-on-one than in groups anyway, so maybe this can work out for me after all.

Do you think you’ll make any permanent changes in your behavior as a result of the pandemic? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Sora w sig
I was lucky to find this secretive Sora yesterday while on a rare birding walk with a friend, six feet apart.

11 thoughts on “At Home…Still”

  1. I have never heard of a Sora. Beautiful images, Kim! We see a lot of Cooper’s hawks, especially in winter. Nothing much has changed here. You know what a hermit I am, and most of my friends are online. I find it curious how many people are not adjusting well to the changes this virus has brought. To me, these conditions and events are just a part of life that some generations must deal with and learn to adjust to. That sounds matter-of-fact, and it is. Drama and fear have never served people well. The reality is that life HAS changed, and maybe will be forever changed. Humans, just like nature, are resilient. We learn, adjust and find a way to move on.

    1. Yes, I think you have an advantage over many people because you’re already accustomed to spending most of your time at home and finding fulfillment in caring for your animals and land. I’m glad your life hasn’t been disrupted too much.

      And you’re right about the fact that drama and fear don’t serve us well. Unfortunately that’s how the media makes money, by drumming up as much drama as they can. As they say: If it bleeds, it leads.

  2. I have bird feeders in our back yard and mostly get wrens and sparrows but yesterday one little bird was dancing on our wooden tie wooing another bird and it was so sweet. He ran sideways back and forth all puffed up moving his little feet so fast. guess he was a wren because he had two white spots and he was brown but his wings were a darker brown. So cute!

  3. My life hasn’t changed much either, but it’s changed quite a bit from almost 10 years ago. After I had breast cancer I gave myself permission to reflect on how I was spending my life. Slowly for the next 18 months I made changes until I got things pared back to where I like them. So now, all I’m missing are hugs with friends. We are a bit ahead of you with the lockdown adjustments and are now allowed to get together in small groups and things are opening up again. Thankfully, our hairdressers never closed!! (locally, that is, in the more populated areas many of them did close) That photo of the hawk is amazing, and the Sora and Carolina Wren too. I’ve never heard of either of them. Enjoy your ‘new normal’ Kim. x

  4. I have been putting flowers, notably violets, in bottled lemon or lime juice, and then rolling them in regular sugar. The sugar should be finer. Castor or powdered. from the british Isles used lime juice. You can do this with vinegar also, which used to be the cheapest. You can do it with greenery also.The bottled citrus juice was exorbitantly expensive and it had to last. None contains just citric acid. I have not dried them properly yet but I have plenty of times to waste. I did put violets in vinegar to make jeweled .vinegar, You can make flower confetti with poppies, bergamot etc.You can can can citrrus juice. If you use heavy creams on your face, you rub your face afterwards with flower vinegar on a cotton ball. If it stings you face needs more tending. memories from a lady’s maid.

  5. To tell you the truth, this pandemic hasn’t changed our lives much. My husband and I are retired and aren’t big society people. We do miss birding with our friends in that we usually ride in the same vehicle to go birding. Now we sometimes meet up at favorite birding areas and keep a distance between us. But we seem to have stopped doing that as much too. We have family and friends near by that I miss terribly being able to sit with them, give them hugs etc. I will be thrilled when that part of the pandemic is behind us. I am a hugger I guess I will have to stick to trees right now. 😉
    Love your bugs. Many years ago I thought I would draw every bug I find in my garden and then write a book about my collection. Then I found out that had been done already. I sort of lost my momentum but have a collection of bugs I have drawn. I am glad that you have adjusted to more time to yourself. I don’t know what I would do without my DB but I am sure I would get used to it. One does what one needs to do in this life.
    Your windows are a lot cleaner than mine. Great photos of the Cooper’s Hawk. Sora is one of my favorite birds.
    Cheers…

    1. Lisa, what a neat idea to draw your garden bugs! I understand your disappointment in finding that your book idea had been done already — it seems every time I have a good book idea, it’s already been done by someone else too.

      And about the hugs — my gosh, I’m a hugger too, and that’s what I miss so much. I invited a close friend over for dinner tonight, and we normally hug hello and goodbye. Tonight he had to sit six feet away from me on the patio, and it was painful to not be able to hug him, especially in this time when a hug would be so comforting. I can’t wait for this all to be over!

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