Thursday, May 3, 2012
Day 29: Pobject's honeysuckle
Our back yard wasn’t big, I know now. Each visit back made it smaller, and I wonder how we ever played ball back there. The clotheslines cut the porch off from the patio, which was nothing but a covered concrete slab slapped onto the back of the garage. The patio faced north. To the west were the compost bins and woodpiles, stacked against our neighbor’s fence.
The north fence, ten feet from the patio’s far edge, was covered with honeysuckle vines, tangles of green with bright white flowers and bulbous red berries. The berries drew the birds in bunches: there was no shortage of sparrows and finches of all sizes, from tiny pine siskins to chunky evening grosbeaks.
One particular summer the grass was littered with the latter for several weeks, chattering clumps of plump gold-blazed, brown-yellow birds. I’d seen small sparrows flock our lawn like that before, falling in in swirling clouds, but never birds so big as the grosbeaks. Their descent would have been apocalyptic, had they not been so beautiful.
The birds in turn drew the neighborhood’s outdoor cats. My father, Audubon member and wild bird aficionado, took the birds’ side. He bought a large catch-and-release trap and baited it with tuna. Whatever cats he caught got a thorough hosing-down before being let go. Few tangled twice with his trap.