Veiled Treasures of Spring

Rural East Texas and all her inhabitants seem to awaken from barren winter all at once. Small buds arise from naked branches. Green grass carpets begin to form and wildflowers start to line the winding back roads of country dwellings.

The nature lover in me starts to stir and my brain becomes filled with plans of vegetable gardens and flower beds. My husband and I make our annual trip to a local plant farm for tomato plants, pole beans, peppers, cucumbers and squash as well as floral annuals. Soon the seeds and transplants are strategically placed in the tilled and fertilized soil on our humble one acre homestead. Soon our table will host the bounty.

On Lake Palestine, where we live, drake mallards defend their mates from unwanted aggressors seeking to disrupt their nuptials. The same is true of blue birds, mockingbirds, blue jays, cardinals, humming birds and many more species. Most bird lovers know they are the last living examples of dinosaurs. At one time I raised five different breeds of ducks and more than a dozen chickens. I downsized last year to just one pair of mandarin ducks. I’m patiently waiting for their descendants.

It is easy to witness newborn mammals. A simple drive down our country roads gives us an awe-inspiring view of calves, foals, and baby goats. But it is not as easy to witness the eggs or fledglings of birds. I’ve lived here for 16 years, and only twice watched as a pair of cardinals built their nest and laid their eggs where they thought they were disguised. The first time a bamboo shade rolled up on our back deck became home to the nest of  expectant parents who took turns sitting on the eggs. Once they hatched it was not long before they learned to fly away. Not long ago I found another nest in one of the rose bushes that line the black chain link fence around our front yard. There were three speckled cardinal eggs. No, I don’t know if it is the same pair of parents but they were busy for quite some time tending faithfully to their duties to their soon-to-be offspring. I was rewarded last week when they both were away from the nest again. With the anticipation of finding new babies, I had my iPhone in hand and when I walked up to the bush three little mouths flew open expecting to be fed. I quickly took a picture after parting the branches and softly withdrew and walked away. Today I returned to see their progress. I was surprised to see that they were fully feathered and not in the nest but two were sitting on the brim of the nest and one on a branch just below. I was able to get a picture, obscured a bit, through the fence. It would be the last time I would see them.

Later in the day, my husband called me to look out into one of my flower beds through the bathroom window. He wanted to know what animal was there because he wasn’t able to tell. I looked and it was a cat and it was eating prey. I was suddenly very heavy-hearted. I went to check on the nest and it was empty. I still don’t know if they were his meal. But I’ve learned in this life that nature is natural. Still I cherish the moments when I’m blessed to witness the veiled treasures of spring.

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