We seem to get lots of visits from family and friends who are no longer here. It takes an active imagination to think about coming back as a critter.
This is the time of year animals are on the move, from mice seeking warm spots to whitetails. It’s fall, after all. The other morning, I saw a young deer couple wind their way though the backyard, grazing as they went, stopping under the neighbor’s apple tree and standing on rear legs to reach for fruit. Satisfied, they continued on their way and crossed Piedmont before another cement truck came through. I don’t know if I’d want to come back as a deer, given that I might be fair game for a venison burger.
Monarch butterflies are big favorites of ours. My mother-in-law, who would be 101 today if she were still around, was a big fan. Several years ago, I was busy doing some yard work when she paid a visit. It was a warm day, and there were little droplets of perspiration on my arm where she landed. Out came the drinking tube, and before too long, she was sipping the dampness on the surface. When she’d had enough, off she went to some flowers nearby. On warm days, she still shows up, and we say, “Hi Mom.”
Another family member was partial to loons. Their presence, especially during sailing, was always acknowledged. On a day when the wind was slack or unpredictable, many times these graceful divers would approach the boat with a curiosity that was easy to like, swimming underneath and surfacing on the opposite side as the vessel lumbered along. They’d finally leave, I imagine, concluding, no food? No fun here! To this day, when I’m out fishing and an inquisitive loon approaches, I’ll send out a greeting, grateful for its presence, knowing it’s someone I valued.
There are other animals, however, that I have a hard time liking. Some are just plain annoying. Maybe they remind me of things I find aggravating when there’s too many of them, kind of like a visitor who doesn’t know when to leave, and who brings along his whole family, including extended relatives, for lunch. Consider the Canada goose. I find it difficult to enjoy them, although I do admire their migrations and calls higher in the sky. Perhaps distance makes the heart grow fonder. The comment made by a colleague years ago seems relevant here: “Love to see them come, and love to see them go.”
I’ve decided to come back as a purple martin (as if I get to choose). Either that or a lake trout. But then I suppose, I couldn’t bring myself to fish for them now.
We used to have a sturdy martin house on a 20-foot pole out in the yard in Bemidji. There was always a battle to keep out other birds in the spring who were looking for lodging. After it warmed up a bit, scouts would fly in to check out the accommodations. Once the rest of the crew moved in, the birds could gang up on any invaders.
These amazing acrobats would spend the early days of spring rebuilding nests in the house and then hatch and raise their offspring. Their chortling and chirping was most notable at sunrise and sunset. When the young birds fledged early in August, all of them left town. The yard would grow quiet in expectation of leaves turning color, and the midges would swarm and buzz all night long.
Next year, I’m going to put up a martin house in our front yard. I miss them. There is certainly enough food and room for them whenever summer arrives. Until that time, I’ll get them lunch when they show up in May. Maybe if I do that, there will be a good chance someday I can join them, chattering and diving in the sun.
Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.