When I first started gardening I was all "plants plants plants." Completely insane with plants. I overdosed many times a day. I have the medical records to prove it.
Obviously, gardeners eventually garden just as much for the plants and themselves as for wildlife. Having insects and animals in the garden extends it into a new physical dimension, a "Z" axis if you will (remember your high school algebra?). Sculptural plants that were kinetic only in the wind are now kinetic as they play a part in the lives of other organisms. Of course, we don't see the vast majority of these organisms, but the ones we do see give this gardener quite a high--especially in winter--and a deeper, more lush and meaningful high than just plants plants plants.
This last week or so a red-tailed hawk has been buzzing the yard. Two days ago in high north winds the hawk was floating above the garden, hovering like a helicopter, hopefully at work on clearing me of my rabbit problem (nota bene: I've not seen a rabbit in quite some time--but maybe the snow melt has something to do with this as other food sources open up). But the hawk was gone before I could move to get the camera.
Later that day I was sitting on the couch grading student blank verse poems. I saw the hawk crest the tree line 200 feet away. I knew it'd simply pass over the house as it always does. It flew quick and low and out of sight. After 10 seconds I made myself grab my camera, debating the possibility of getting a shot if it came around again. It flew by probably no more than 30' off the ground, but I knew it was long gone.
Standing at the sliding glass door there it was, perched like a giant football atop a neighbor's eastern red cedar. I couldn't believe it was balanced there. It reminded me of a Christmas tree angel hung off to the side because, if placed on the very top, the tree would bend over.
I missed the shot. As soon as I snapped off my SLR cover the hawk was leaping into flight. Below is what I got.
In the dead of winter I get the fullest, bare-bone understanding of where I am, and how I and my garden and little 1/4 acre homestead are connected to the larger world. A hawk passes over my yard in a second. In one minute how much more has it experienced than me? Whose perspective is deeper and richer? Whose life would suffer more for the lack of the other? The answer to that last question should be obvious.
(And does anyone want to start the conversation about how we must take photos of objects and events we value? How that is an act of ownership and appropriation? How once we have that image safe and secure in our clutches another experience with that object or event seems less meaningful?)