Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Good Friend Barb

My friend who joined me to watch the house wrens fledge last week looked at Paul's photos of the nestling Carolina wrens---the ones I included in the July 17 blog entry under the title of "We're Hungry!" She clicked on the bottom photo in that string to enlarge it and see more clearly.

"It looks like a penis with a beak," she said.

Barb! You should write a blog. Or at least follow mine and make comments! dkm

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Thrill of the Fledge

Today's the day. I'm sure of it. Tiny heads, two at a time, poke in and out of the doorway. A friend joins me in the watch. We can't tell how many, but by the racket they make, we guess they are more than two. The parents can no longer satisfy them, though they both bring food every few minutes. The nestling squawks have changed to more mature chips, and constant. Now whenever the parents arrive with food, a tiny head stretches out of the doorway and snatches the morsel with aggression. Then another of the nestlings actually hands ( or rather, beaks) a fecal sac, like a relay baton, to the parent, who immediately carries it off to a nearby branch and swallows it whole. That's it, methinks. When they're grown enough to hand out their own shit, they're ready to leave home. It's the house wren equivalent of becoming potty trained. Every now and again one of the parents perches on the doorway or low-hanging branch in front of it to perform an extended version of wing-flutter I earlier called "Quiver and Fluff." Is it teaching them how to fly? Or coaxing them out?

Then comes the glorious moment. Mama Small is perched on the low dogwood branch just three feet from front of birdhouse. Two heads, maybe three, compete for the doorway, each one shouldering the others out of the way, when, without fanfare, one, two three mini-wrens hop in succession, one or two minutes apart, to the nearby branch. Mama Small flew to the ivy wall across the path and the three soon followed, after a few exploratory hops and flights within the dogwood. Two more heads appear in the doorway. After ten minutes of reaching and stretching and retreating and prancing, they too, follow the same tentative route to the ivy wall. Through binoculars my friend and I watch and thrill and whisper our encouragement. We have pulled our chairs to within 20 feet of birdhouse. We check the time. 10:29 a.m. (The nuthatches departure time was 10:15am. I just missed the prior housewren fledge when I came out at 11:00am on their big day. With just three samples, I wonder at the pattern. Do first fledges always happen between 10:00 and 11:00am?)

Then surprise, surprise, one more tiny head stretches and chirps in the doorway. Baby #6. To our quiet cheers and claps, she too hops to the welcome brnch, explores the larger dogwood, and joins her siblings in the ivy wall where they flit and chip and play. Though tinier than their parents, and not yet as sure footed on the branches, they don't look like the fledglings of other bird species. They are already sleek and handsome brown like their parents, with a hint of stripe on their wings. We couldn't help noticing that all six of them pooped the instant they landed on the welcome branch.

And now, while they play noisily in the ivy wall, one of the adults---I think the mama----comes back to the nest and cleans house, exactly like last time, as recorded in June 7 blog, "Where Will They Now Sleep?" dkm

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Thing I Didn't Want to Know

I have wondered why the parent house wrens always fly away with the fecal sacs they remove from the nest---why they don't just drop them to the ground beneath the nest. I hoped the reason was to remove evidence of nest location as a protection against predators. I feared they might take them to a distant branch to consume them themselves.

Today my curiosity was satisfied. Papa Small carried the small white bundle to a bare dogwood branch across the clearing from the branch of the nest, lifted his small head, opened his small throat, and gulped down his cargo.

For once I wish my guess had been wrong, but admit to appreciating the efficiency of it all. The parents' perpetual bringing of morsels to the nestlings leaves precious little time or matter for the parents' own meals. dkm

Monday, July 20, 2009

Paul's Carolina Wrens

The mama and her growing babies!

One-eyed Fledgling and Neil Gaiman

The poor thing came to my kitchen window early this morning. I in my robe, over first cup of coffee, couldn't miss its begging for attention. From window ledge this fledgling mockingbird, with tail too long and heavy for its scruffy round body, hopped to the table on the deck, where it pranced around long enough and close enough for me to see that in place of one eye it had only a buff-colored featherless spot. He flew away with tail dragging. I fear for his future. If a silent hawk comes down on his blind side, he's history.

An hour later, I wait on the edge of my swing for the house wrens to fledge. They are louder and more demanding today than yesterday, louder yesterday than the day before. I expect them anytime. A nest of robins has fledged from the pin oak tree. Fat and speckled, they hop around the yard, practicing their head tilts. Also, a new bunch of comical blue jays, not yet very blue, flit in the trees.

The regularity and frequency with which fascinating things to write about now present themselves---since Annie Dillard first inspired these daily observations---causes me to wonder how I could have spent a half-century oblivious to the mysteries of the natural world that are ever present in my own backyard---free for the asking---for the simple act of slowing down and paying attention.

I used to think such spectacles were available only to people like National Geographic photographers or academic scholars who devoted themselves to lifelong study in wilderness areas. It's not that the mysteries of nature haven't always dazzled me---but that I thought they could only be known through second hand experience---like nature magazines, books, films, TV. Now I'm beginning to feel like Danny and the Donuts---they come too fast to process. The urge to write about all of them becomes overwhelming. Better to choose one, and merely appreciate the others. The better to understand what John Muir meant when he wrote, "One day's exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books," though today's book was pretty damn good. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. dkm

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Yesterday I watched a small striped black & yellow bee chewing away at the skin of a dead earthworm on the ground under the swing at my feet. A magnifying glass helped. The most surprising thing was that after only a few minutes the bee had eaten away a gaping hole along the side of the worm through which I could see what looked like pure black finely ground compost. Worm castings not yet cast. Window to the worm.

The sun shines through my overhead window to outer space, revealing fresh blue cloudless sky in a circular frame of bright green leaves and needles. The breezes come in waves to rattle the leaves---brilliant and fluid green against blue---aahh---the breath of the universe.

It's a beautiful morning @ 65 degrees and low humidity. The kind of day that would make me want to fledge from my nest were I a baby house wren. Here's hoping my babies hold out at least two more days, as I can't stay past 9:00 today and must attend a memorial service tomorrow morning. Matters of life and death. dkm

Friday, July 17, 2009

Crooked Crests, Hawk, and Dove

The cardinals from the Carolina Jessamine have fledged. Two of the fluffy things are practicing their hops in the grass in front of the fallen jessamine inside which their nest is hidden. They look startled and unkempt, with disheveled brown feathers, short tails,and crooked crests. Only their bright red beaks are fully developed, not unlike adolescent boys whose front teeth are too big for their heads. The sleek-headed mother stands by, watching, protecting. I think I can see pride in her posture. She hops over to the impatiens under the birdbath and shows them how to snatch and eat the blossoms. Sure enough, both fledgelings follow suit. Velvety red petals dangling from giant red beaks are a stark contrast to the otherwise scruffy brown picture these fledglings make.

High overhead another fledgling, a mourning dove, flies to a pine bough. Through binoculars I can see its pale pink feathers, its long neck and heavy head, reminding me again of that long ago encounter with the hawk in the driveway, tearing and eating the flesh of a live dove nestling, still struggling for its life, caught in the talons of the hawk. I cannot eradicate the horrid snapshot memory of that heavy bobbing head gasping for life at the hawk's mercy, and losing. dkm

We're Hungry!!!!!

Are these photos of nestling Carolina wrens not remarkable? Good friend and blog reader, Paul Beuchele, sent them yesterday. I share them with his permission. The story about how he got the shots is as remarkable as the photos themselves.

His daughter, Cayte, heard the chirping in a hanging planter outside their window. They got a ladder and a camera to have a better look. The mother wren, of course, would not come to the nest with perceived danger standing by, so Paul mimicked her by making a soft whistle sound of his own to wake the sleeping babies. Sure enough, in response to his whistle, three wide yellow mouths clamored to the nest opening, which is a round hole on the side of the nest.

Click on any one of the photos to enlarge it for closer inspection. Don't miss the scrawny wing, the eyes, the power of those spectacular beaks, and that precious sleeping babe. Thanks, Paul and Cayte! dkm

Quiver and Fluff

House wren fledglings seem alive and well today, after yesterday's worry about the flies. They get noisy with every arrival and continue to chirp between feedings. No more flies, and it's a prettier day. Sunny, less humid, high in the low 80's. My guess: The fecal sacs attracted yesterday's flies on a hot humid day. The parents carry them off today after nearly every delivery, a pattern that started yesterday. Maybe they just got behind in their housekeeping. I know that same problem. A further guess: Maybe that long stay inside the house yesterday on the part of the mother meant she was gathering and stacking the fecal sacs by the doorway, the easier to carry them off today. They barely duck their heads through the door to get the sacs after each feeding. Logic says they would have to dig deeper had the sacs not been moved to the door.

A new wondering: Why do the adults sometimes quiver and fluff at the doorway and on the dogwood branch before and after deliveries? dkm

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I saw it coming toward me through the air, too fast for me to duck. I heard and felt it whiz past my ear. Was it as surprised as I? Pondering the flies around the birdhouse, I had been sitting still on the swing for a long time. I followed it with binoculars to the cherry tree branch where it perched behind and above me after its terrifying whir past my neck. It was a chubby fuzzy fledgling mockingbird, with tail not yet fully long but already distinctively enough marked for positive ID.

I love fledglings b/c they don't know yet to be wary of me, that is, of humans. They need not be afraid of me, but they don't know that either. This one allowed close approach, eliminating the need for binoculars. We looked each other in the eye. I tired of the game before he did and returned to the swing to wonder.

As young animals mature and develop caution of creatures like me, is it because they have memory, or is it instinct? Will this mockingbird remember our stare-down? Will his mother warn him to be more careful? Did that centipede remember the towel in the bathroom, or did he avoid it by instinct?

A pale thin crescent moon lingers in an eerie pastel sky at 11:00 a.m. The sun has burned off the clouds, the day is already uncomfortably warm. Be safe, scrawny house wrens with flies buzzing around your house. Until tomorrow. dkm

What Mean the Flies?

I'm worried about my nestling house wrens. The parents still come and go, ducking inside to carry off fecal sacs after almost every morsel delivery, but several changes in today's observation are cause for concern, whether real or imagined: 1) The time between deliveries seems longer, 2) The cries of the nestlings sound thinner, 3) The skinny adult (the mother?) entered the house at one point and stayed long with no squawking from the babies, and 4) Flies are buzzing around the house.

I've grown fond of these infants, and fear for their good health.

The mugginess of the morning, the pastel of the sky, the weakness of the clouds, the heaviness of the air, the forecast of heat for the day---the whole of the picture contributes to a prevailing sense of doom for my young family. dkm

Blind Perseverance

A many-legged caterpillar-like creature (dark brown, one-inch long, as thick as a coat-hanger wire, but ribbed and bendy) crawled across the bathroom tile with tiny feet rippling, miniature cattail-like antennae waving in wild frenzy. When presented with a towel laid in its path it eagerly climbed aboard. I carried it outside to examine during today's nestwatch before letting it go. With the towel spread flat on the slatted seat of the swing, the centipede made a beeline for the unfinished wood. Once off the towel, it refused to climb back on, no matter how thoroughly I blocked its path with the edges of the towel. It must not smell or see, b/c it didn't veer from its path on the swing until its tiny antennae came into actual contact with the towel. But try as I might, I could not get it to accept the towel in this setting, likely more preferable than the bathroom, which must have seemed disastrous to "him."

I can only imagine the discouragement of such a creature, with nothing to guide it but feelers, finding itself on an endless trek across a wall of ceramic tile. In that circumstance, the towel must have seemed an oasis in the desert. But not here, with hope of live greenery nearby. At one point, crawling deep in the groove between the slats of the swing with no forward route other than the corner of the towel, it rippled its feet in the opposite direction and reversed into a remarkable straight backward path along the groove as I nudged it from the front with towel corner.

Eventually I let it crawl away, not wanting to further torture it, and feeling a little like J.J.Audubon who, for the sake of study, killed and wired his birds---but not without new respect for the coordination and relative intelligence of that poor blind deaf but not senseless centipede. dkm

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Male or Female?

Hooray---a morning for reading, nest-watching, not house-cleaning, and writing.

Singularly focused, both house wren adults are feeding their nestlings as fast as birdly possible, arousing much newbird clamor with every delivery. Sometimes one parent arrives while the other is still at the door. When this happens, the newer arrival shoves the other away with much flutter and determination. I can't discern Mother from Father, unless the female is the slightly thinner one, emaciated from egg-laying and nest-sitting. Neither of them sing now. Too busy. I miss the bubbly musical song that was everpresent in the wait for the hatch.

Moe joins me in the watch for a few minutes before leaving on a golf excursion. We observe one of the adults duck into the house, emerge with a white capsule in its beak, and fly away with it.

"Fecal sac removal," I say, to which Moe responds, "Cleaning the bathroom. It must be the male."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bastille Day, Montaigne, & Evolutionary Biology

Today I begin to re-read the 26 essays of Michel de Montaigne translated by J.M.Cohen, that I first read in the early 80's---that time in my life when I began to profess the questions that had germinated in a college course---that course in which I so embarrassed myself by my own naivete/ignorance/innocence/and acceptance of the literal understandings of childhood. It's not that I was taught to take things literally, but that I so took them, in the innocence of youth---from the way the stories were presented and simplified in childrens' Sunday school classes---Mennonite SS classes, I might add, to compound the nature and simplicity and purity of my childish adherence to the stories. I do not blame either my parents or my teachers for my own innocence. I get quite impatient with so-called intellectuals who think they are so brilliant as to shed light on the ignorance of their forebears---when what they really are doing is coming naturally to a more mature understanding of their own. In their writings they sound like they are the first ever to think in such an enlightened way. How dare they presume to interpret their parents' belief systems by the simplified versions presented to them as children. (I'm currently reading Julian Barnes's Nothing To Be Frightened Of, and he is a perfect example). I hope my children will give me more credit than that.

All of that to say, as I re-read the Montaigne essays, I am struck by the extent to which my prior reading of them has shaped my active questions of the past 25+ years about religion and the existence vs. non-existence of a higher power---about coming to a more metaphoric and evolutionary way of thinking. At age 20, I began to formulate the questions, at 30 to read in pursuit of more questions, at 40 to ask them publicly, and now, at nearly 60, I begin to think most of them unanswerable.

So I am taken with Montaigne's humility in his relentless quest for the truth---and when finished with this edition, hope to embark on The Complete Essays, tr. by M.A.Screech.

In the meantime, the parents housewren are working themselves thin trying to keep the loudmouths in the rhombus house quiet. As one parent leaves, the other returns. Today they enter the house only half-way with each delivery, neither disappearing all the way inside, nor stopping fully at the door. By the rapid progression of the feeding patterns, I'm guessing tomorrow may be the day of fledge. dkm

Monday, July 13, 2009

Newbird Clamor

The voices of the nestling housewrens are much louder today than yesterday, just days before first fledge. Now they cry even while parents are out foraging for their food, not just when they bring it to the nest. I missed the moment of take-off with the last family by a few hours---and hereby resolve to be here to see it for these little ones---to see how big they are, to count them, and to thrill with them over that first astonishing flight. Both prior families fledged mid-morning, so will try to spend my next few mornings here. Retirement is good.

We are a few days away, I think, because the parents are still entering the house when they bring food. On the last day before the fledge, I've observed for both nuthatches and housewrens, the parents only come to the door, where they are met by hungry mouths. It may be as much a matter of no-more-room-in-the-nest as that of assertive-babies-competing-at-the-door-for-receipt-of-delivery. Whichever, it is a fair predictor of the immanence of the first flight. dkm

Sunday, July 12, 2009

And the Jays Go Wild

I never cease to be astonished at the mesmerizing rewards for nothing more than sitting still outside at length. Today's hour has presented such an array of avian spectacles about which to wonder, I'm hard pressed to focus on only one. Will it be the newly audible house wren nestlings, the pair of whee-he-ing white breasted nuthatches, the adolescent bluebird (small and dull in color/maybe adult female),the red-bellied woodpecker spiraling the pine trunk, the red-tailed hawk soaring overhead, whatever that large silent swooping black & white striped bird of prey was that so elevated the blue jays' ire, or the overlapping activity of all of them within a ten minute span, after 45 minutes of less notable observations? I've not even mentioned the trio of cardinals at the birdbath.

A bluebird and two nuthatches spark the most curiosity. The three of them arrived in the center grass together, as if play or travel mates, but I think now it was chance. They've ignored each other the rest of the hour. The nuthatches flirted with each other around the yard while the bluebird came back and back to the same dead dogwood branch by the housewren box to watch for lunch in the grass beneath. Every now and then it fluttered to the ground to go after something delectable. Right now it sits atop Moe's tomato stake with---surprise, surprise---a second blue bird on adjacent stake. There they perch for the longest, not taking their eyes off each other. Thrilling---but not so mystifying as the nuthatch that investigated the baby wrens in the rhombus house by climbing all over the top and sides, poking its head inside several times, and eventually flying away---all without so much as a chirp from the parent wrens. By their cavorting I'm guessing the nuthatches are mating and searching for a nesting site. But how did the tiny nestlings know to be silent for the nuthatch when they've been cheep-cheep-cheeping at the regular arrivals of their parents? And why did the parents not attempt to chase off the intruder? One of them was perched nearby in the flowering quince, and appeared to watch the proceedings, as did the bluebird from the dogwood branch.

Now, half an hour later, no sign of the nuthatches, bluebirds on tomato stakes, and the regular feeding activity of housewren family has resumed. The yard returns to the peace of a summer Sunday, but not for long. Ambles Calicat up the path---creating sudden havoc at every silent step. The frenzy of avian flutter and screech surrounding her slow progress cannot be described. Jays, titmice, house wrens, bluebirds, cardinals, and nuthatches alike coordinate forces. Do they all have nests in the vicinity, or is it professional courtesy? The usually secretive titmice come out in furious number. Have none of them discovered Calicat's incompetence as a hunter? She can't catch a blind mole.

Roger Tory suggests the mysterious bird of prey seen earlier was a short tailed hawk in dark phase---but that it would not be found north of Florida. By its markings, however, it could be nothing else. It was the size and color of a large crow, with distinctively black and white striped tail, observed in a silent near-vertical diving swoop out of pinetree, at first with wings and tail spread, then streamlining into a bullet shape as it disappeared into the lower canopy of green---and the jays went wild. dkm

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Good Mother

Frantic new bird cries in the front yard pear tree caught my attention as I arrived home from a walking errand, indicating feeding time on the nest front. Until now I had been unaware of a nest in the pear tree. As I approached, one large adult robin flew out of the tree and another thinner one arrived to perch on a nearby interior limb with a floppy worm dangling from its beak. The babies went silent when the first adult flew away. The second just-arrived adult waited to see if I posed a danger. For all my peering, I could not find the nest, so I stood still to wait for her to show me the way(a line from The Secret Garden). I assume by her gaunt appearance she was the mama.

Mama Robin was wary of me and not about to divulge the location of her offspring. We eyed each other like two statues connected by a lazer beam. Occasionaly she uttered a muffled chirp, with worm still dangling, and finally few away. I sat low on the sidewalk to take my chances that the father would return soon with a pizza delivery. Within seconds he did and perched first on a distant limb before following an indirect path to the nest. I was surprised to discover it was low in an endbranch of the pear tree almost immediately over my head. No wonder the mother would not go to the nest---with me so near. The father didn't appear to notice me. Maybe it's a guy thing.

The squawking began again in earnest when he arrived at the edge of the nest. I could see the gape-mouthed sparsely feathered babies bobbing their heads over the side of the next in competition for the worm. dkm

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Self-published Black-eyed Susans

A new patch of rudbeckia I did not plant is blooming beneath the dogwood branch where Mr & Mrs. Housewren perch outside their front door.

In years past I would have wondered how such a healthy patch could have grown there without my initiating it. More likely I would have considered them weeds not part of my garden design, and pulled them long before they could have bloomed. Now, after almost two years of backyard observation, and a dawning awareness of my miniscule effect on this tiny part of the earth we call "ours," I am grateful to the housewrens for planting them thus. They are brown-eyed beauties, doing their work of regeneration with or without me, in cooperation with the wrens.

Remains my question---why the beauty? That is to say---I recognize that the beauty of the black-eyed susan is not for the purpose of dazzling me. I'm quite happy to be dazzled by her, but she would look like she looks whether or not I or any of my fellow homo sapiens were here to appreciate her. Why is that? It's a question that begs the bigger ones. dkm

Recycled Nest

A new pair of housewrens frequents the rhombus house. I wonder if it is the same pair I watched from late April through early June--- from the building of the nest through the day of the fledge. Could be same pair, or same male w/new female, or same female w/ new male---OR---could it be a pair from the sixsome I watched grow up? Don't know if birds are incestuous, or how soon after hatching they breed. Once again, a degree in ornithology would be useful. Do they keep breeding through the summer? I would have thought it too hot by now.

Before internet access, I was willing to let my curious wonderings go unsatisfied. No more. Now, because so many questions can be answered for the simple act of typing them, I'm impatient with not knowing what I want to. Must go in search of the answers to how soon they breed, if they keep it in the family, and how many broods they have per season.

Have lost track of the residential activity in the rhombus house. Judging from the sequence I observed in last cycle, this new pair is in the stage of feeding new hatchlings not yet vocal enough to be heard. Papa and Mama Small come and go with regularity and without a lot of caution.

I've missed my daily outsitting and am glad to be back. Losing the hornets nest was a punch in the stomach from which I am not fully recovered. Have had little spirit for energetic observation, but accomplished much indoors in the respite---most notably, the building of my website and making it active. Check it out at

Finished and mailed the 7th draft of WL to three publishers. While I wait for the rejection letters, I must get to work on another manuscript, so as not to let the creep set in---or the anxiety. Will revive Madame Swallow, a picture book ms, though for this round I know how much I don't know. These revisions will require much research. Too bad about not having that degree in ornithology . . .

Don't want to turn this into a blog about writing, though it will be tempting with a manuscript about birds. dkm

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sky of Stone

It's about the sky today---the slow moving slab of heavy marble---shades of gray and white---neck-ache patterns that draw me up. At ground level all is silent, still, and dim---under solid cloud shadow. Not a breath of moving air. A deathly pall veils the morning. Single calls of bird and squirrel season the broth, but no other stirring. The leaves on the trees are like the human statues in Jackson Square (New Orleans) and Fisherman's Wharf (SanFrancisco)---eerie and still---waiting for a chance to move.

Now and again a chimney swift flies across the stone sky.

All at once, panicked birdcries saturate the back right corner of the yard. I know from past observations it is not without cause. Sure enough---emerges a slow cat, ambling up the path from The Wayback. A new cat I've not seen before---a calico with tiger gray striped tail, white feet, patchy face, and mottled orange and black back---like marble. She answers the sky. dkm

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Mystery Tops

The first ones were round and brown and speckled on top, shiny domes of many sizes, ranging from half-apple to half-cherry, but always a shade of brown. Then the domes flattened and lightened, and turned up at the edges to reveal provocative ruffly petticoats underneath, like the starched net can-cans of my childhood, or the skirts of flamenco dancers. Today, more have emerged from different places on the pile, each outcrop a different variety, color, shape, and size. One species has bright red caps that look straight out of a fairy story---one, tall thin furry fingers---another, flat yellow table tops set with wart-like tea cups. From where doth the energy come that maketh them to grow---these startling mushrooms on the woodchip pile? And how do they come by their unique designs? I assume by natural selection, but wonder for what purpose. If it is only to decompose the woodchips, why the lovely tops? The birds and squirrels touch them not, and nobody nocturnal has eaten them, even those born days ago. If not for food, what worth their beauty? It is likely relevant to regenerating their own kind, but even that would not require gorgeous array. Sometimes it causes me to wonder . . . . dkm

Friday, July 3, 2009

Mad as a Hornet

I can't get over being angry that the hornets' nest was destroyed. It makes me realize how out of sync I am with the rest of the world---how out of contact with the way other people think. When I tell them why I'm mad, they say things like, Ma, be reasonable!

It's 7:30 a.m. There is no breeze on the swing. The air feels heavy. No birdsong. No leaf rustle. No rattle of squirrel. Where is the life? The pine trees are tall and straight and quiet this morning. This morning after death.

Not a death of significance to anyone who wasn't paying attention. Still, I don't know what do with this angry energy. They are gone---just gone---which is loss enough---but knowing they came to a vicious and horrible end after I had preserved and protected their habitat for them is a betrayal of the worst kind. As if I had set them up for a pre-mature and violent death. It is no consolation that they would have died naturally at season's end---with the first freeze---according to genetic code. They were poisoned in my absence, when I had no way of defense against it, after a promise to let them stay until winter. Double betrayal.

I wanted to know how big the nest would have gotten, how the architecture progressed, how the hornets lived. I had hoped, after first freeze, to take the nest down gently, respectfully . . . to learn about hornet life inside the paper chambers. They will not come again. It's a small thing in the grand scheme. Others tell me I'm being irrational, that it was a dangerous situation. So I don't tell them of my grief.

Instead I think of my brother's grief for the loss of his son---of his unending grief and anger beyond measure---of his rational yet unbearable pain---and I send him love. dkm