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Out of the blue (02/06/2006)
By Janet Lewis Burns
"Look at me now! Say chirp, chirp! Oh, darn!" I can tell you exactly how long it takes a songbird to flee its perch when it hears the stealth of a human invading its territory.

I can do you one better. How much time does it take a big buck deer to rise from wallowing in Whitewater River marshes and disappear in a blur into the nearby forest?

I was startled breathless. I had him in my sights, had lifted my piece, and was ready with my trigger finger. For a snoozing buck to disappear from sight, it takes no longer than it does to lift one's camera (had you fooled), zoom in and focus, while sighing in familiar disappointment.

I learned firsthand how rude a fox can be out in his stomping grounds. This one didn't so much as grant me time to lift my Samsung, as it rested next to me on my writing pad, while sitting in country grass between two bulging corn fields eating my lunch. That red fox came within inches of me in the clearing as it bounded through the rows of corn.

Interludes of a hummingbird's whizzing wings in a brief frenzy of iridescent color never seem to develop. The distant heron, still as a reed protruding from shallow, algae green lake water, spitefully spreads her swooping appendages and takes to the air in a slow motion ballet, ever determined to deny the intrusive stalker that prized trophy to frame.

It was the biggest belly laugh I had all summer! Pine squirrels are vicious, no pictures desired! Though small, one could swiftly raise havoc inside a camper. When these pests appear, residents up north are careful not to leave their screen doors open, even momentarily.

Last July, Pat decided he would no longer tolerate the varmint scavenging our bird feeders. He took a large shovel and crept slowly over to the pole where the feeders hang. Like a statue he waited, shovel raised, as I watched from the deck. My hero!

It wasn't long before his would-be victim scampered up the opposite side of the pole. With a hearty bang the shovel packed a wallop to the wood just missing the target. That squirrel literally flew to a nearby oak.

Watching the great white hunter, standing stone still by the tree with his mighty weapon at the ready, stiffly and dutifully anticipating his chance to strike, my laughter became uncontrollable!

Another foiled attempt! A few hours later the beast returned, and it just beats all! That scrawny pine squirrel actually scampered up the steps of our deck where Pat was sitting, snarling and barking at him in bold vengeance.

I won't say that the pine squirrel won, but he and his buddies were spotted at other campers' bird feeders in the weeks to follow.

Then there was "Bubba," a gray squirrel who joined avian diners to fill up on seeds. He kept getting plumper and plumper. By fall, when his kind began gathering nuts, Bubba could be found gorging with the birds, without a care in his animal world.

Out of the blackness one night, as couples sat around Pat's campfire, several deer came running, so close that blazing flames glowed against their brown hides. They swiftly turned aside leaving lawn chairs and the alarmed folks in them unscathed.

Out of the blue, there have been those moments when I've captured on film brilliant sunsets, colorful lichen and other unique fungi, feeding butterflies, and the ebb and flow of a field of dancing wildflowers.

As Robert Frost wrote, "Heaven gives its glimpses only to those not in position to look too close."

Seek and you shall find! 


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