QUAIL MUTTERINGS #7. Slow Meanderings – April 29, 2011

QUAIL MUTTERINGS #7. Slow Meanderings – April 29, 2011


Having the stomach flue blows, both literally and figuratively. I won’t go into the literal details since we all know them so well. But because of these aspects we also don’t feel up to doing anything – routine or fun, and that is a bummer too. I spent all day yesterday inside or on the porch moving from bed, to couch, to recliner, to adirondak chair… In spite of the turmoil going on inside my body the natural world outside went on as usual.

Plopping down in the chair today on the east side of the porch the morning sun warmed my feet and legs while the roof overhang shaded my face and upper body. I looked out to a rock by the mulberry tree where there sits the top bowl section of a cement bird bath. I’d scavenged it after the Cedar Fire and it now functions as a small watering hole for the critters. A large quail, with a darkened head, stood on the rock beside it. He looked so serene there. He’d come yesterday as well.

After my friend disappeared behind the rock my eyes glazed over until movement in the nearer vicinity re-focused them. Lizards. On the old Torrey Pine tree stump, what’s left of it after the fire, a large bluish-black alligator lizard lay sprawled, soaking the sun’s warmth into its core. It must feel so good to him. Then a smaller grey lizard scrambled up from below and stopped near the top to do his morning push-ups. A tiny little one ran along the rock wall to meet up with another before disappearing into the periwinkle.

The cacophony of bird songs here, in my opinion, is unrivaled anywhere. The canyon seems to be their haven of refuge. Their voices fill the air from before dawn until nightfall, at which time the porwil and owls take over, and of course the frogs. I love listening to them all. The canyon wrens with their descending calls, the muted mutterings and fervent blasts of the quail, the hawks, ravens, and everybody else. It’s music to my ears.

Earlier this week friends of mine, Dorothy Mushet and her daughter, Cindy, and her two boys, came to visit. Dorothy had come to see the canyon with her own eyes instead of relying solely on photographs. We’re collaborating on a children’s book about my mom’s experience raising a family of orphaned baby squirrels with the assistance of my daughter, Kali, when she was about ten-years-old. I’ve written the text and Dorothy is painting the watercolor images. She is a wildlife and children’s artist. Her gallery is the Banner Queen Ranch Trading Post, and she lives in Julian.

Walking up the trail with camera in hand she’s surprised how lush and green everything is here.

“I think I’ll need to add more oak trees to the illustrations and make them a darker green,” she says. “Also more quail. There sure are a lot of them here.”

The boys are excited by all the huge boulders and climb one of them, sliding on their rear ends down the long, sloped side. They’re also intrigued by the four burnt Model-A carcasses slumping in the canyon.

Coming into the house Dorothy sits on the couch and opens her sketch pad.

Cindy says, “On the drive down here she said you might fire her after seeing what she’s done.”

I look down at the pages as she turns them explaining her presentation on each one and fight back tears.

“Yeah, right. Fire you? Maybe I should be fired. These are absolutely beautiful. They’re perfect,” I say.

“So I’m on the right track?” she asks.

“Yes. Most definitely. These are fabulous.”

I feel grateful for choosing her for the illustrations. I felt from the get-go of starting to write this book that she was the one. When I’d called to ask her about it she confessed that my mom had asked her to paint two pictures: one of a ground squirrel and the other a wolf. She hadn’t gotten to them before my mom’s passing and had felt a little guilty. Perhaps this was meant to be, a collaborative effort for all our sakes. Personal things had transpired for both Dorothy and me making it clear to us we were on the right path. Hokey or not as all this may sound, sometimes it’s what gets the job done.