When the evening sun slants across our front yard, Wes and I place two chairs by two pines in the eastern corner. Our black lab Pepper curls up on the pine needles by our side. I wear sunglasses to gaze into the beam of light from above the high Cascades. We toast another day of this strange time of the pandemic. Take a sip of a preferred beverage. Lean back to feel the glow upon skin. Chat a bit.

sun beam on yard evening

We listen to the descending Teee…eer call of the Lesser Goldfinch, a yellow chip of a sunray with a saucy black cap. Feel our skin cool. Pick up our lightweight chairs and scoot them over into the light that’s shifted to the southeast corner.

lesser goldfinch
Lesser Goldfinch male (black cap not visible)

Bathe in the bright shaft that filters through emerald needles sprouting from a larch sapling,  the one I transplanted from our friend’s ranch on the slopes of the Elkhorn mountains. Time to move the chairs again for one last gasp, until the entire yard is cast in shadow.

larch light
Larch in the light

I’ve always loved this ritual of chasing the fleeting rays at day’s end.  Now? Moving into the sunlight is a dance step to practice throughout our day.  I cannot ignore the severity beyond our one-acre sanctum in the pines.

Wes and I tune to Oregon Public Radio. Read The New York Times online. Subscribe to our local Bend Bulletin. Keep tabs on the grim environmental news and take action with emails to Congressional representatives and our governor. Focus on the importance of the November election. Be thankful for brave, trained journalists reporting on the truth, investigating the mishaps, the corporate greed, and also the many acts of goodness, even as the Covid-19 death toll climbs and people suffer.

Pause. Pivot. Move that chair into the sunshine. Pat our dog Pepper. Find her puppy picture and know the definition of adorable.

Pepper as Puppy
Our dog Pepper’s puppy picture!

Breathe in the flocks of Pine Siskins that have converged upon our yard in the past few days–stripy little finches with a hint of yellow on wings and tails. Unlike us, these Oregon residents are free to flock and live their nomadic lives, exploring the tiptops of conifers.  Their zreeeEEEET calls zip up the clouds that stroll the lazuli sky.

We fill our feeders and quench our desires in birdsong and whirring wings. I keep a bird list that I submit to eBird most days, a small contribution to citizen science. The notebook rests by my laptop, positioned in front of  a window overlooking feeders, birdbath, greening bunchgrasses, wildflowers, pesky weeds, blossoming fruit trees, and Wes’s vegetable garden beds– our haven that’s ringed in manzanitas and ponderosas, and grounded in lava rocks.

yard in morning light
Front yard in morning light

By attending, I’ve noticed the waves of bird arrivals throughout April, like the stunning flocks of White-crowned Sparrows, their tinkling songs awakening desire for mountains and coasts. The sparrows have mostly departed. Now, Cassin’s Finches fluster to feast on seeds. Yellow-rumped Warblers roll waves of melody.  Three species of hummingbirds whir into feeders–Anna’s, Rufous, and Calliope–each one a flashing miracle.  I welcome the gift of occasional Red Crossbills, with bills that cross right or left, precise tools for extracting seeds from cones.

red crossbill with tongue showing
Red Crossbill male snacks on sunflower seeds (photo taken through my window). Look at that cool tongue, too. The bill cross is hard to see here.

Twice, I’ve seen a leucistic mourning dove (resulting from a genetic condition that prevents certain pigments from reaching some of the feathers). Unlike its fellow doves attired in uniform hues of peach and gray, this splotchy brethren looks like it flew through white paint spray. The other doves spurn the outlier, and the soft Cooo-ooo call seems even sadder. I want to admonish them–as if to speak to the human condition–“Love each other for who you are, not for appearances.”

leucistic mourning dove
Leucistic Mourning Dove (Contrast with typical dove)

Scamper into a patch of sun. Notice what’s coming up in our pollinator yard. Lupines balance droplets of water on starburst leaves. Sunflower seedlings pop up like clapping hands. Milkweed thrusts spears from soil–offerings to endangered monarch butterflies that we dare hope will find them in summer.

Close the distance between ourselves and nature. Attend to details. Be curious. Drink in birds. Feast on this glorious spring renewal. Chase the rays of light.

milkweed coming up April
Milkweed bursts from the soil, with a promise for monarch butterflies. Lay an egg here, and your caterpillars will munch on the one kind of plant that sustains them. 
lupine in April
Lupine in our yard. Do you see the diamond water drop in the center of a leaf?
The practice of attending–when a flicker isn’t just a flicker. This bird in our yard is called an “intergrade” between a Red-Shafted and Yellow-shafted Flicker.
hairy woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker (through the window photo)


Lincoln's sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow. We walked right up to this April visitor that will nest higher in the mountains.
sunflower seedling
Sunflower seedling–tiny today and towering by summer’s end.
Reveries in the lingering light