One day the beautiful blue eggs were just gone. The day before Jason discovered this I saw the mother bird fly in and out of the hole under the bumper of the Tin Can. She sat on the fence looking toward the place where the nest was for awhile. I was thinking of that when I woke the next day and planned to watch for her to leave so I could take a look at the little birds. They should have hatched and I had been listening for their chirps in the back room of the trailer, but I hadn’t heard anything. Mountain Bluebird babies stay in the nest for 18 to 21 days. Our little birds certainly weren’t old enough to have left the nest on their own, but their nest was empty. There were no broken shells, only two tiny feathers.
I was unreasonably sad. I went to bed for the day. I kept thinking of the mother bird flying to the nest and finding it empty. I wondered if birds grieve and typed the question into Google. There’s no definitive answer, but the question is certainly of interest to scientists. [http://www.audubon.org/news/do-birds-grieve] I also researched the possible culprits. The weasel we saw could have eaten the bird eggs, but I think it was too big to fit into the hole under the bumper. Snakes eat bird eggs and a snake could fit into the hole, but it’s pretty high off the ground for a snake. I suspect it was a wren or a sparrow. Just another creature trying to survive. (But would a bird eat the shells too?!)
While I was in bed mourning the loss of our bluebird eggs I realized that I had been in bed a lot lately. I wasn’t depressed in any serious or dramatic way. Every day there was some fun and activity, but more and more I was skipping out on work. I often made excuses and stayed in the Tin Can all day eating chips and reading celebrity gossip. I spent a lot of time looking at photos of people going out to lunch in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. I had been distracting myself from my feelings, but after we lost the eggs I had to admit that I was bored and starting to feel trapped.
I wasn’t completely unprepared for these emotions. I had actually expected to feel this way sooner. I know that I’ll have to find something meaningful to do here eventually. Building the house is interesting, but it’s not endlessly fascinating to me. It’s also very much Jason’s thing. Ages ago I asked him to stop discussing the septic system at dinner. I mean we have to talk about something else sometime! I miss the way we used to stand in our old kitchen talking about everything that happened during the day. You don’t do that when you’re together all the time. That’s a small thing though. Most of my concerns were small things and a lot of them I could do something about. I pulled myself together. It’s the same here as it is everywhere – you have to put something into an experience to get something out of it. That evening I went for the walk with Lucky and the next day I went back to work.
I actually did help a little that day, and the next day I helped a lot. I put most of the gravel into the trench for the leach line.
It was a lot of work, but pretty fun. At least it was fun until one of the neighbors decided to start shooting. This neighbor goes back and forth between here and Texas. He’s about 80 and his wife has apparently started to have some health problems that make it difficult for her to travel. They were here when we arrived in March, but left a couple of days later. This time the man has come with his daughter and grandson. I heard that they plan to sell the place.
The sound of gunfire, in addition to just being plain irritating, is a bit unnerving for me. I imagine a lot of urban people are like me – we hear a gun go off and start looking for something to hide behind. Here, of course, it’s different. People shoot at all kinds of stuff – chuchos, coyotes, mice. It was annoying enough when I was out working on Saturday afternoon, but when it started up at 9:30 on Sunday morning it got on my last nerve. I mean what needs killing bad enough that you have to go out and start popping off rounds at 9:30 on a Sunday morning? Of course, they could just be shooting at targets. Still, it seemed awfully close to the fence line and the shots were echoing through the canyon.
Jason loves to complain about people who junk out their property. At first I muttered my agreement, but after awhile I couldn’t take it anymore. It was one of those long-married couples things where you knowing exactly what the other person is going to say and you’re just waiting for them to say it ~ again. We’d come around a corner or over a hill and a lovely vista would appear, except right in the middle there would be a house in bad repair surrounded by about 100 broken cars and 1,000 appliances all in various states of decay. Then Jason would say, “What are they planning to do with all that stuff? How can they walk past it every day.” etc. etc. etc. Finally I said, “Look. This is New Mexico, not Disneyland. No one is driving around making sure everything looks pretty for you.” I mentioned that people are free to do what they want to do on their own land. That’s part of the attraction of being here. I pointed out that we have been using a portable as our only bathroom for over two months and no one has told us we can’t do this.
This all made perfect sense right up until the bluebird eggs were stolen and the neighbor started shooting. The shooting, and the likelihood of that property being up for sale, made me realize how little control you have over what happens on the next property in a rural setting. What if the shooting went on for hours every day? What if whoever buys the land next to us decides to put in a pig farm? Maybe people are tired of taking their cows to Raton to have them killed. Maybe someone would like to put a slaughterhouse on that land.
That Sunday Jason and I went to Taos. On the way there we talked for the first time about leaving Mora. It was an irritable and anxious conversation. There was no one to blame, yet we both seemed angry. When we got to town Jason took Lucky for a walk. I did the wash alone at the laundromat and in between loads looked up rental properties in the Bay Area on my phone.
On the way home we both became more rational. Pema Chödrön talks in one of her books about keeping one hand on the rock of reality when you’re freaking out. I touched that rock and knew I didn’t want to leave Mora. After all the bother to get out here we’d be nuts to let a bit of gunfire and a little uncertainty run us off.
In the two months that we’ve lived here the shooting has gone on for less than one hour on two days. That leaves about 58 days of quiet. If it continues at that rate I can stand it. As for the property being sold, it will probably languish on the market for years. There are a lot of properties for sale around here. The family may visit, and shoot guns, now and then, but it’s unlikely there’s going to be a slaughterhouse on the land. There really aren’t enough cows here for that to be a good investment and, even if someone did want to build one, why would they buy a lovely 80 acre, tree-filled property with a two story house on it for the project? No one can subdivide around here, which is good, except that I’d love to buy some of the land next door myself. After all this angst our sixteen acres doesn’t seem as big as it once did. Building a lovely stone wall between our property and the next place might be just the special project I need!
By the time we got home Jason and I were both happy again. We were laughing about how you never know what’s going to happen in life. At one point we had talked about winterizing the Tin Can and waiting a year before we spent anymore of our savings on building the house, but then we thought about all the bad things that could happen on Day 366. That night was one of the beautiful nights we’ve had here.
Since Sunday we’ve only heard shooting once. It sounded farther away and it didn’t last long. In the end all that came out of this was that we love and appreciate this place even more. It’s not perfect, it’s not a resort, it’s just New Mexico.
Most of the time on our land it’s lovely and quiet. Most of the time I love it here. Sometimes though I dream of San Francisco and sometimes I do wish I was eating lunch in Santa Monica or Beverly Hills…
I still feel bad that we weren’t able to protect the eggs. I wish the baby birds had hatched, but now every bird seems precious to me.
A hummingbird came to our feeder, but it flew away when I tried to take a picture.
The inspector came out yesterday to look at our leach line. She passed it with flying colors. Jason offered to get a level to show her that the gravel was even, but she said, “That’s OK. I know level when I see it.” You can have a three inch variance for every 100 feet of rock. Ours was flatter than that of course!
Jason’s cardiac ablation has been scheduled for June 27th. So he’ll be released on the 28th – our 57th birthday! All good wishes, candles, prayers etc. will be greatly appreciated. He’s been building a house for the hot water heater while I wrote this. He didn’t stop when it started to rain ~ only when the rain turned to hail. (Jason: I was excited to move to a place with four seasons, but I didn’t know we’d get them all in one day.)