Saturday morning, I spotted animal poop outside the kitchen door and near the top of the hill that leads to the church. Sister Nettie, who’s only been at the Abbey just over two years (from the Abbey of Our Lady of the Mississippi in Iowa!), told me about the time a rattlesnake slithered and coiled in front of her on the path to the hummingbird feeders. And then about the time a mountain lion killed a deer and “consumed” it for two days in the wash below the retreat house. “But they’re nocturnal, you know.”
Yes, I understand that there are mountain lions and coyotes and open-grazing cattle and angry sheep and lizards and scorpions and killer ants (think fire ants with a lot of added Tucsonian drama) and mice and, yes, even gila monsters. I know to be careful bringing food or drink in the room and disposing of trash. I know to watch where I step. I know to listen for strange noises in tall grass. I know to carry a big stick to make anything think twice. Lucky for me, I can’t be outside for long anyway, what with my lily white skin made of all that is pure and holy. So yes, thank you, I know.
I’ve also seen jackrabbits and baby squirrels and roadrunners (try to see one of those and not hear the beep-beep in your head) and dragonflies and butterflies.
And this morning, my last morning at the Abbey for the weekend, I heard two birds having somewhat of a heated discussion outside. Upon investigation, the bird with the fancy red hairdo was in a tree just up ahead squawking at the bird with no fancy hairdo on the ground just in front of my doors. If I’m not mistaken, the fancy hairdos on birds are reserved for the males. Assuming that’s correct, apparently, he was telling her to do something, and she wasn’t having it. Slowly, so she wouldn’t notice as much, he flew to the ground and started walking haphazardly towards her. Then and only then did she start walking towards him. And I was able to see that she had two babies following close behind her. She didn’t walk straight to him; she and her babies meandered. They stopped to smell some flowers, they stopped in the taller grasses to window shop for things (I imagine back-to-school supplies), and they stopped to dig in this dirt and that dirt, most likely for snacks. And mom and dad stopped squawking at each other. YES, she was coming! And so they toddled off, he ten birds or so ahead, stopping regularly to make sure she was still relatively behind him. He stopped at the next tree, looked back for her, and waited a little more. She chirped at him to come look at something, probably new shoes for the oldest, so he hung his head and trudged back to her*, reminding me of all the dads at the mall.
*Come to find out, these were Arizona quail. I suppose they’re named Arizona quail because they’re in Arizona? As opposed to Nevada quail or New Mexico quail? All under the watchful eye of the Border Bird Patrol!